10 Jewish Homelands Outside Palestine

A Jewish state in Alaska?

A Jewish state? Sure: in Australia, Libya or Guyana. Or half a dozen other remote places, on just about any continent. But… not in Palestine. This map is the brainchild of Joseph Otmar Hefter, a figure as forgotten today as the politics he espoused in the 1930s – non-Zionist Jewish territorialism. 

Little evidence remains of Hefter's dream of Nai Juda ("New Judea") except 'Room for the Jew!', a pamphlet he produced in New York in 1938. It contains his answer to the Jewish question: a sovereign homeland with all the trappings of statehood - a flag, laws, and a national language (Yiddish) and even a national hymn.

Marsh, Nai Juda

fun di fremde lender

shaff a naie haim far zich

faktories und felder


Marsh, marsh shnell

kling di fraihaitsgloken

waiz der welt az di bist shtark

shtolz und unershroken

(“March, Nai Juda / from the lands of strangers / build anew a home for yourself / and industries and farms // March, march stoutly / ring the bells of freedom / show the world that you are strong / proud and undefeated”)

In the nineteenth century, a significant portion of the Jewish people opted for Zionism as a way out of what they saw as the Jewish problem. That problem was that they were a nation without a country. Zionism's answer was a Jewish state in Palestine, the historic homeland of the Jews. In 1948, propelled by the Nazis’ own, more sinister attempt to solve the Jewish problem, Israel was founded and Zionism achieved its goal. 

Yet this Palestine-focused version of Zionism was but one of many Jewish territorialist projects – there were about 30 such proposals throughout the 19th and early 20th century, historians reckon, although most were never more than utopian slogans.

One of the best-known Jewish territorialist projects not focused on Palestine was the Uganda Plan. Presented by Theodor Herzl at the Sixth Zionist Congress of 1903, it fell only six votes short of a majority. Another was/is Birobidzhan, established by Stalin in Siberia as a socialist haven for the Jewish people in the Soviet Union (see #333). The faint echoes of a third proposal, for a Jewish homeland in Alaska, provided the setting for Michael Chabon’s 2007 alternate-history noir detective novel, 'The Yiddish Policemen’s Union'.

Hefter's Nai Juda movement was to be the nucleus of a Jewish state, to be established somewhere in the Americas. At least according to a pamphlet distributed by Nai Juda, from its 'National Headquarters':


The NAI JUDA movement is now signing up able-bodied young men and women willing to join a JEWISH ARMY of SOLDIER-SETTLERS for service in a new Independent Jewish State within the American Hemisphere. Service will include opening up a large unoccupied territory to settlement and civilization, police and border patrol duty, farming, construction, roadbuilding. Volunteers who pass physical fitness requirements will receive free training in agriculture, engineering, transportation, aviation, seamanship and military defense. In the new Jewish State each soldier-settler will be given a house and four acres of land for live in accordance with the NAI JUDA program. 

Further information and application forms may be obtained in person or by mail from Joseph Otmar Hefter, National Leader, New York. 

Hefter’s call to arms had virtually no effect; even so, he was singled out for criticism in the November 1938 issue of The Jewish Veteran. In it, J. David Delman, National Adjutant of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States wrote:

From time to time, we have informed our readers about proposed new state for Jews. Last month one Oscar Hefter (sic) opened up headquarters, appointed himself “National Leader” and has proceeded to give interviews to the press. He stated that the locale of the new state is in Central America, that the financing thus far has been private and that he is recruiting young Jews as soldier pioneers to the new state which will be named Nai Juda. He claims to have 100 recruits but expects to have a nucleus of at least 1,000 trained and equipped recruits to start life in his Utopia. He hopes to absorb at least a third of the Jews in the world. Such is the chaos in Jewish life, that an unknown personage, not backed by any responsible organization, can negotiate and make deals – all in behalf of the Jewish people. 

A year later, Hefter seems to have shifted his sights from Central America to the northern reaches of the continent. On September 11, 1939 – ten days after the Nazi invasion of Poland, but well before U.S. entry into the war – the 'National Leader' addressed a letter to president Roosevelt:

On behalf of the NAI JUDA MOVEMENT (to train American Jews for pioneering and frontier service in undeveloped regions of the Western Hemisphere) of which he is founder, requests permission to recruit, organize, train and equip for immediate active service an American-Jewish Border Regiment under the U.S. Army command, to be stationed preferably in a strategic location along the frontier of Alaska. 

He strategically omits the ultimate goal of his movement – a Jewish state – but to no avail: the letter was “respectfully referred to the Secretary of War” and Hefter’s spontaneous offer was not acted upon.

After the war – and after the foundation of Israel, which rendered moot Hefter’s struggle for a Jewish home outside Palestine – he abandoned politics and focused on graphic design. He married a Mexican woman and moved south of the border, where he went on to produce a series of authoritative renderings of historical uniforms, collected in The Mexican Rurales 1830-1930 (1960),  El soldado de Juárez, de Napoleón y de Maximiliano (1962), Cronica del traje militar en Mexico del siglo XVI al XX (1968), The army of the Republic of Texas (1971-‘74), and other works of reference. 

He died in 1974 in Cuernavaca, two hours south of Mexico City – by some accounts, after having been abandoned by his wife in hospital – his dreams of alternate Jewish nationhood obsolete and forgotten. 

In 2011, Where To?, an exhibition at the Israeli Center for Digital Art on forgotten ideological currents in modern Jewish thought included Hefter and his work – but it merely managed to demonstrate how little evidence remains of Hefter's 'lost option' of Jewish territorialism, and of its inspirer himself. 

Only the broadest outlines of Joseph Otmar Hefter's life can be described with any certainty. He was born at the end of the nineteenth century in Austro-Hungary, emigrated to the U.S. and spent the last decades of his life in Mexico, working as a graphic designer. A documentary about Hefter, titled Faktories und Felder and produced for the aforementioned 2011 Israeli exhibition, eventually had to change course and turn into a speculative biography, for lack of hard evidence.

Claims that he studied art in Vienna and served in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I could not be verified. The same goes for even wilder claims – that he at some point was a settler in the North American wilderness, a CIA spy, an engineer in French Indochina, a target for right-wing groups in the U.S.

What little remains of his grand scheme is contained within his 1938 pamphlet, the full title of which is: 'Room for the Jew! A demand for a free and sovereign Jewish state - A permanent way out of Jewish dispersion & distress'. In it, Hefter explains his opposition to mainstream Zionism, which sought to establish a Jewish state in the ancestral homeland of the Jews, Palestine. He found that goal

"(…) anachronistic, insincere, unjustified, politically and economically untenable and unfair. Physically, the Jews have outgrown Palestine. What may have once been a land of milk and honey to a hundred thousand liberated Egyptian slaves is but a slippery toehold to the teeming millions of 20th-century Jews. Politically and economically, a Jewish Palestine would mean subjugating a native Arab majority to the rule of a minority imported from abroad".

This map seems to be from a later date, some time between 1939 and 1945, as Hefter – now based in Los Angeles - refers to the 'present catastrophic war'. He writes:

Recent history-making conferences disclosed no thought and made no open attempt to find a way out of one of the most persistent and most grievous international issues: the Jewish Problem. Failure to bring to a bold and permanent solution the explosive abnormality of the nameless, homeless, roaming Jewish nation will aggrevate (sic) the New Peace even more than it aggrevated the tragic period before the outbreak of the present catastrophic war. 

This map presents a selection of ten territories. Any one of them can be sold or assigned by the land-holding Powers to the Jews. On any one of these, or on similar territories elsewhere, the Jews can establish an independent, sovereign, democratic Jewish Nation and a Jewish State of their own. Many precedents exist. 

The resurrected Jewish Nation and State, this NEW JUDEA, is by no means intended as a mere refuge or shelter for persecuted or exiled individual Jews. It is to be a politically recognized country for all those Jews who have the courage to stand up and identify themselves as members of the Jewish Nation; for Jews who are ready to throw off the sordid comforts and the treacherous security of “minority rights” and to exchange them for the hard-won dignity and the solid shield of national independence. 

Seven of the outlined territories have, at one time or another, been under discussions and negotiations for Jewish settlement. The fate and future of the Jewish Nation is not chained to any specific piece of real-estate. The Jewish Nation will live and grow and march to new greatness on any territory it can win or acquire for this historic purpose from the World. 


* INDEPENDENCE instead of Tolerance

* SOVEREIGNTY instead of Minority Rights

* SELF-RELIANCE instead of Protection

* DIGNITY instead of Sympathy

The Ten Territories here indicated, are suggestions made toward the earliest establishment of AN INDEPENDENT JEWISH NATION IN A SOVEREIGN JEWISH STATE in accordance with the proposals as outlined in the JEWISH INDEPENDENCE MANIFESTO. 

Each one of these regions comprises about 50,000 square miles. The above projects, as such, are not official, nor were they, in this presentation, formally submitted to the governments of the described areas. But they present clear, tangible proof that there is an abundance of uncontested, undeveloped, unpopulated land on which a Jewish Nation and State can be established without alienating, crowding, imposing or displacing other populations and without injuring the integrity, wealth, stability or future of the affected nations, governments, states or regions.

The regions listed on the map are described as follows in the legend:

1. BIRO-BIDJAN: Jewish Autonomous Region in Far East on Amur River, 250 miles from Pacific near Vladivostok & Komsomolsk; area 20.000 sq. mi. Nearest approach to Jewish political independence today. Augmented by Soviet & Manchurian land to 50.000 sq. miles. Rich virgin region. Agriculture, coal, timber, gold. Potential industrial & trade center. 

2. AUSTRALIA: Section of Eastern Inland Lowlands and of Murray River Basin. Gateway to East Indies & India. Rich soil & grazing. Ample rain. Artesian water. Good all year climate. Can absorb 5 million settlers without, 10 million with irrigation. ALTERNATE: Kimberley, west of Northern Territory. Huge, empty, tropical. Ample rains. Good soil. Potential industrial and trade center for India and China. 

3. ALASKA: Section of Kenai Peninsula and of So. Central Alaska on both sides of Cook Inlet. Largely uninhabited & wasted. Fair climate. West Kenai plateau good for farming & grazing. Coal, minerals, timber, game. Fur, sheep, cattle country. Potential wood industry & woodpulp center for Asia export. Good accessibility for tourism. Need for pioneering. 

4. CANADA: Area west of Aklavik in lower Mackenzie River valley & small segment of north Alaska. Air & sea outpost astride Arctic Circle. Tough pioneering country. 24-hour sunlight in summer; long, dark, cold winter. Rich, jungle-like plant & vegetable life, huge animal herds, giant timber. Uninhabited. ALTERNATE: Peace River Block, landlocked in Br. Columbia. Pleasant, livable, empty. Rich soil. Many natural resources. 

5. SOUTH AMERICA: West & south section of British Guiana, plus a small section of the Sierra Pacaraima region in Venezuela, plus a segment of Brazil's Catinga River borderland. Part jungle, uninhabited but habitable, with outlet to Atlantic Ocean. Extensive deposits of mica, manganese, beauxite (sic), gold, diamonds. Much timber. Copra, sugar, rice. 

6. BRAZIL: A section of the Matto (sic) Grosso region north of the Parana River, bordering on Paraguay. Landlocked, unexplored, unexploited, barely inhabited. Tough, dangerous but habitable jungle country. Rich in resources. Rubber, gold, diamonds. Potential industrial empire. Could neutralize large Japanese & German colonies entrenched toward coast.

7. CYRENAICA: Part west of Egypt, south to Tr. of Cancer. Mediterranean outlet at EsSollum & Tobruk. Colonized by Jews under Romans, offered to Jews by Turkey in 1907. Poor in soil & resources, but habitable & sparsely populated. Temperate climate. Adequate rain, spring water, fertile coast region to 80 miles inland. Barren desert in south can be developed to industrial, strategic and communication importance.

8. EAST CENTRAL AFRICA: Composite sections of Kenya, Uganda, Italian Somaliland & Sudan. Bordering on Ethiopia. Astride Equator. Offered by Britain to Jews for an independent state in 1898. Climate like South California. Outlet to Indian Ocean. Unexploited, empty. Vast plains, rivers, lakes. Ample water. Healthiest African region for whites. Wild game, cattle, sheep, skins. Rubber, cotton, resins. Trade and tourism. 

9. SOUTH EAST AFRICA: Composite sections of Tanganyika (former German colony), Mozambique, Nyasaland, North Rhodesia, and strip of Belgian Congo. Opposite Madagascar. Empty, virgin territory. Temperate climate. Can grow grain, tobacco, citrus fruits, nut trees, cotton and coffee. Has coal, chrome, asbestos, gold, big game and ivory. Coastal trade.

10. SOUTHEAST ASIA: Composite section of China's Sinkiang, Soviet Union (Turkestan), Tibet & India.  Located between Kashgar, Samarkand and Peshawar, on Tarim River. Promising as a cultural, industrial, trade & communications bridge between the new China & the European east.

Map found here on Reddit. More here on the exhibition in the Israeli Center of Digital Art. Watch the Faktories und Felder here

Strange Maps #804 

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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GoFundMe/Steve Munt
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  • Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
  • If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
  • It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
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