Israel Zangwill (1864-1926), Anglo-Jewish writer and political activist, was born in London on January 21, 1864 to parents who had immigrated from Eastern Europe. Zangwill began his career as a journalist and humor writer, contributing to Jerome K. Jerome’s periodical The Idler. His novel Children of the Ghetto, first published in 1892, made him a literary celebrity. It was followed by the collections Ghetto Tragedies (1893 and 1899), Dreamers of the Ghetto (1898), and Ghetto Comedies (1907), and the comic novel The King of Schnorrers (1894), as well as several novels and many stories. Throughout the 1890s, too, Zangwill was a literary and social critic for British and American magazines and a frequent writer and speaker on Jewish issues. He was a member of “wanderers of Kilburn,” a group of London Jewish intellectuals that also included Solomon Schechter, Joseph Jacobs, and Solomon J. Solomon, among others.
In the twentieth century, Israel Zangwill turned to drama and to direct involvement in the social movements of his day. He also participated in a translation of the Mahzor with Arthur Davis, Nina Davis Salaman, and others, and published a translation of the religious poetry of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1923). Of his many plays on social mores and the world situation, his most enduring has been The Melting Pot, first performed in 1908.
Zangwill was also an activist in the Zionist, pacifist, and women’s suffrage movements of the early twentieth century.