Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Zachary Scarlett

Second Advisor

Fait Muedini


This paper explores the history of humanitarian Zionism as espoused by Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Vaad Hatzalah -- an Orthodox Jewish organization operating in the United States during the Holocaust. Both Heschel and the Vaad saw the priority of Zionism, or Jewish nation-building, as the preservation of Torah scholarship and the saving of human life. The importance of this: Zionism during the era of Heschel and the Vaad should be understood with greater detail. Zionism, in its complete history, was not uniquely driven by nationalism or the need for statehood, but a humanitarian message as well. This understanding can 1) dispel the myth that Zionism in its complete history has been a story of militancy and nationalist expansion and 2) create a greater appreciation for the work of Jewish organizations like the Vaad which saved thousands of lives through settlement in Palestine and the social justice ideals of mindful Jewish thinkers like Abraham Joshua Heschel.