Ben Gurion once reproached me with being a wandering Jew, I answered that some people have their roots in themselves and have no need to put them down in any particular soil.... I once told Ben-Gurion that he considered problems from the viewpoint of Sde Boker, his little kibbutz, whereas I saw them from a plane flying twelve thousand metres high. It is a different approach.  (NG)

Dr. Nahum Goldmann was one of the most prominent leaders of the Jewish people and the Zionist movement during the twentieth century. Among his many accomplishments, he was one of the founders of the World Jewish Congress, which he served as president for many years, president of the World Zionist Organization, and one of the architects of the reparations agreement with Germany. The story of his life is an integral part of the history of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel.

Goldmann was an unusual figure in the world of international Jewish politics and the Zionist movement — a Jew and a Zionist with a profound awareness of Jewish culture and history, yet at the same time a "citizen of the world." Though he was familiar with and esteemed both the Jewish classics and modern Hebrew culture, he was most at home in Western culture, well-versed in philosophy and history, and a lover of the arts. In addition, he was blessed with a gift for storytelling, a sense of humor, a self-deprecating irony, openness and tolerance for the opinions of others. These qualities won him the friendship of many world leaders and made him an effective ambassador of his people, despite the fact that he lacked any significant political backing.

Nahum Goldmann with Henry Kissinger

Goldmann always zealously defended his political and ideological independence. During his public career he frequently found himself at the center of ideological and political confrontations. Many of his views, which provoked fierce dissent and harsh criticism at the time, remain relevant today. As a statesman, he was a master of the art of persuasion and personal contact, maintaining close ties with senior figures in both the Zionist and Jewish leadership and the top ranks of world statesmen. Many of them became his personal friends; others, his sworn opponents.

Nahum Goldmann has been called "cosmopolitan," "a man without roots," "the wandering Jew," — labels he did not reject. During his long life, Goldmann held eight different passports. As a diplomat representing the Zionist movement and the Jewish people, he spent most of his time traveling around the world. Even after he officially settled in Israel, he preferred to spend time in Paris and Geneva, an expression of his political and ideological independence.

After living in Germany, Switzerland, France, United States and Israel, Nahum Goldmann died on August 29, 1982. He was buried in Jerusalem's Har Herzl National Cemetery in the plot of presidents of the World Zionist Organization.

excerpted Texts and photos from Beth Hatefutsoth exhibition, Statesman without a State: Nahum Goldmann 1894 -1982, which opened on January 5, 2003. The exhibition (curated by Rahel Arbel) accompanies an international conference on Goldmann, marking the twentieth anniversary of his passing, under the auspices of the Zionist Research Institute at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with Brandeis University and with the support of the Claims Conference and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Goldmann was one of the founders of Beth Hatefutsoth (the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora) and of the Memorial Foundation.



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