Campus News

New research by Brandeis professor reveals historic U.S.-Israeli ties

Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Consul General of Israel to New England Yehuda Yaakov hold a replica of an 1890s flag from Boston that, according to Brandeis research, influenced the design of today’s Israeli flag.
New research released by Brandeis Professor Jonathan D. Sarna '75, MA'75, shows that as early as 1891, 57 years before the founding of the modern state of Israel, a prototype of the Israeli flag was created and displayed in Boston’s North End that would eventually be one of several significant influences on the present-day flag of Israel. His groundbreaking study, "American Jews and the Flag of Israel," reveals a rich new chapter in the long history of deep bonds between the United States and Israel that had previously gone largely untold. The research underscores the depth, role and influence the United States played in the earliest days of the Zionist movement.

The research by Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, was released during Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s economic mission to Israel with more than 50 Massachusetts CEOs and academic leaders. It was presented to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Brandeis University President Ron Liebowitz in a meeting with the governor and prime minister in Jerusalem on Monday. Liebowitz also presented Netanyahu with a replica of the 1892 version of the flag that was hung more than a century ago at Zion Hall in Boston.

Specifically, Sarna’s research found that Rabbi Jacob Baruch Askowith, a prominent member of Boston’s vibrant Lithuanian Jewish community in the late 1800s, developed a design of the Israeli flag that was displayed as early as 1892 inside Zion Hall on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End. Flags of the same design would later be displayed at the 2nd Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, and then again at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Its design is believed to have played an influential role and contributed -- among other designs from elsewhere in the diaspora and within pre-independence Israel -- to the design that was ultimately adopted by the State of Israel.

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Date: December 13, 2016