Though it is the most well-known, Israel was not the first attempt to create a Jewish state since the diaspora in the wake of the destruction of the Second Temple. None of these were particularly well received by Jews of the day, but that did not stop those in power from considering them nonetheless.
- The Uganda Scheme (1903)
The British Empire offered some of its territory in modern-day Kenya to Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia (are you beginning to notice a pattern?). Even though the plan was promoted during the Sixth World Zionist Congress by Theodore Herzl himself, it never got widespread support from Jews and the offer was eventually rescinded.
- The Fugu Plan (1920s)
What happens when you cross “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” with Japanese Empire, a dash of antisemitism, and hint a desperate Jews fleeing persecution? What you’re left with is a Japanese attempt at Jewish settlement in Manchukuo – modern-day Shanghai. It remains unclear how close this plan ever actually came to being approved by Japanese leadership.
- The Jewish Autonomous Oblast (1928)
The Slattery Report was not the only time governments tried to send Jews to an icebox. The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is in Siberia and founded around the settlement of Birobidzhan. The settlement (and eventually oblast) was meant to serve as a Jewish homeland. Even though the population of Jews continues to decline year after year, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast officially remains a Jewish entity, and is the only autonomous administrative region in Russia.
- Plans involving Madagascar (late 1930s)
In 1937, the Polish government considered resettling Jews to the island, and a few years later, Nazi Germany made similar plans. Neither plan ever came to fruition.
- The Slattery Report (1938-1940)
Undersecretary of the Interior Harry A. Slattery suggested that the U.S. resettle Jews fleeing oppression in Nazi Germany, to Alaska, two weeks after Kristallnacht. Because Alaska did not become a state until 20 years later, it was not restricted by the mainland’s immigration quotas. Though the plan did not garner support from American Jewish leaders, it did serve as the inspiration for Michael Chabon’s novel “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.”