Nones, Benjamin

(1757–1826)
   US soldier. Nones was born in Bordeaux, France, and came to the United States during the revolutionary period. He served as an aide to General Washington, with the rank of major, and was cited for bravery in battle. After independence, he settled in Philadelphia and became a leader of the local Jewish community. He supported the abolitionist movement and voluntarily freed his own slaves.
   His son Joseph (1797–1887) had a colourful career in the United States navy, and on his retirement became a pioneer of the concentrated foods industry. NORDAU, Max (Simon Maximilian Suedfeld) 1849–1923. Zionist leader. The son of a Sephardi rabbi in Budapest, Nordau settled down to a successful medical practice in Paris from 1880 onwards (Max Nordau was a pseudonym he adopted as his legal name). From his early youth he developed intellectual and literary talents. He became a regular correspondent for several leading newspapers. In 1883, he published The Conventional Lies of Our Civilization (Eng. 1884), a challenging work that established him as an analyst of Western society and its moral foundations. Nordau’s criticisms of the established order were elaborated in subsequent works: Degeneration (German 1892; Eng. 1895); Paradoxes (German 1885; Eng. 1896); The Interpretation of History (German 1909; Eng. 1910); and Morals and the Evolution of Man (German 1921; Eng. 1922). In addition, he produced novels, dramas, volumes of stories, literary essays and books of travel.
   Nordau was conscious of the prevailing anti-Semitism and must have been affected by the DREYFUS Affair that began in 1894. The following year he met Dr HERZL, who showed him a memorandum on ideas for a Jewish state. This encounter crystallized feelings already present in Nordau’s mind, and gave his life, in his own words, ‘a purpose and a content’. Nordau was the senior of the two men by eleven years, more distinguished, and a more powerful orator. Yet he did not vie with Herzl for the leadership of the nascent Zionist Movement, and accepted a secondary role. He lacked Herzl’s burning conviction, audacity of thought and action, and charismatic personality. At the First Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, Nordau was elected vice- president. At the opening session he followed Herzl with a brilliant address in which he surveyed the Jewish situation in various parts of the world. (Such surveys by Nordau were to be a regular feature of subsequent congresses.) He was active on the committee that drafted the ‘Basle Programme’, and presented it to the plenary session. At the Sixth Congress in 1903, the movement was split wide open by the Uganda Project. Nordau loyally supported Herzl, explaining that an East African colony would be no more than a Nachtasyl (‘nightshelter’) for the refugees of the Russian pogroms. Feeling ran so high that a young Jew tried to assassinate Nordau at a ball in Paris, and wounded him with a pistol shot. When Herzl died in 1904, Nordau was unwilling to succeed him as presi-dent, and remained an ‘elder statesman’ presiding over the congresses. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Nordau was deported from France to Spain as an alien, and remained there during the hostilities. After the war, he put forward a crash programme for the mass transfer to Palestine of at least 600, 000 Jews from the pogrom-torn Ukraine, leading to a Jewish majority in Palestine and to eventual statehood. When the Nordau plan was dismissed as hopelessly unrealistic, he withdrew from active Zionist work. He died soon afterwards, and was later re-interred in Tel Aviv.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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