Ze’ev Jabotinsky never attained the position of prime minister in Israel – but despite this he is one of the most influential (and controversial) people in Israeli history. Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Shamir and Benjamin Netanyahu – all men who might be considered disciples or followers of revisionist Zionism (the political movement Jabotinsky founded) did become prime minister of Israel and have attempted to implement some of Jabotinsky’s ideas in one way or another. It could also be argued that David Ben-Gurion, who was Jabotinksy’s main political rival, ended up largely adopting and implementing Jabotinsky’s policy of “the Iron Wall” (see also here) – though he never would have conceded being influenced by Jabotinsky’s ideas.
Years ago, in the process of learning what I could about the various movements of political Zionism, I was reading Joseph B. Schechtman’s two-volume Jabotinsky biography and came across a brief but very interesting reference to an interaction Jabotinsky had with Mormons:
Strangely enough, Jabotinsky remained unimpressed by the United States. In a letter to Mrs. Vera Weizmann, he wrote on January 16, 1922: “America is a dull country. Thus far, I haven’t seen here anything, for the sake of which it would be worth while to cross the ocean. It is true that Zionists and meetings prevent one from seeing the entire perspective, so that there are perhaps wonders which have not been shown to me. But I am somewhat bored and beginning to get tired.” It was only on his subsequent visits to the United States (in 1926, 1935, and 1940) that he learned to see and to appreciate ‘the entire perspective,’ which had remained hidden from him during his first visit. But even in 1921-22 he had learned much from his American experience.
This experience included a first-hand study of the Keren ha-Yesod principle of Ma-aser (tithe) as applied by the Mormons. One of the Poalei Zion leaders, Meyer L. Brown, visited Mormon settlements in the state of Utah and talked with their apostle who demonstrated and explained to him their machinery of enforcing the biblical tithe. “You Jews preach the Ma’aser, and we, Mormons, implement it,” he proudly stated. Brown published in the Poalei Zion paper Di Zeit an article describing what he had learned from the Mormons. Apparently impressed by this description, Jabotinsky approached Brown for additional information, and they agreed that Jabotinsky should make a study trip to Salt Lake City, which he did; he also secured abundant literature on Mormon life and organization. It was not an easy task to introduce the exacting tithe taxation to the American Jews, who at that time were far from realizing the scope of Palestine’s needs and demands. But Jabotinsky unrelentingly pressed for it. Dr. Mordecai Soltes, who in 1921 was Chairmen of the Keren ha’Yesod in Arverne, Long Island, recalls that when Jabotinsky met with the Chairmen of the various Keren ha’Yesod sections, he strongly emphasized that they “should not accept ordinary contributions, but think in terms of Ma’aser.” One of the immediate results of this approach, relates Dr. Soltes, was that when he explained Jabotinsky’s stand to a man who originally offered five dollars, the latter contributed five hundred dollars.
Page 388-389 of “the Life and Times of Vladimir Jabotinsky: Rebel and Statesman” by Joseph B. Schechtman
I cannot find the reference now – it may or may not be in one of the Jabotinsky biographies – but during that same time period I also came across some information that indicated Jabotinsky came to have a correspondence with Susa Young Gates. I have always wanted to learn more about those letters and what they contained. I remember stopping in at the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv and learning that they were working on gathering up copies of all his letters and they too seemed interested. If anyone has ideas about how to discover these letters, it might be interesting to see what these two figures had to say to each other.