Israel Zangwill was born in 1864 in London to Jewish emigres from the Russian empire. He attended a school for Jewish immigrants in London, which was not only free but also supplies housing, food and clothing to its students. Today, one of the schools' houses bears his name.
Zangwill began his career as a teacher, but he was much too passionate and ended his teaching career due to "differences with management". Zangwill first rose to fame when he published the novel "Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People" in 1892 in which he explored the lives of Jewish children in the ghettos of London. The novel gave an inside look into the lives of immigrants and the Jews of London, which was largely unexplored before Zangwill.
Though he was a champion of the underrepresented and oppressed before, "Children of the Ghetto" lead Zangwill to focus his writings on the Zionist themes. When a few years later, Theodor Hertzl visited the UK in 1895, he was introduced to Zangwill. The two became close, and Zangwill became very involved in the Zionist movement in Great Britain. For many years, Zangwill was a firm believer that Palestine "remains at this moment an almost uninhabited, forsaken and ruined Turkish territory". However, his politics shifted towards the Uganda theme and eventually, in 1905, he fully split from the Zionist movement and founded the ITO or, Jewish Territorialist Organization, whose goal was to establish a nation for the Jewish people wherever possible in the world and not necessarily in densely populated Palestine.
Ever concerned and interested in the fate of Jews all over the world. Zangwill was infatuated with the integration of immigrants into American society. In 1908 he debuted his play "The Melting Pot" in Washington D.C. to great reviews. The play centers around the character of David, who immigrates to America after his family is killed in pogrom. David meets a fellow émigré - Vera, a Christian and the two fall in love. When he goes to meet Vera's father, to ask for her hand in marriage, it is revealed that Vera's father is the man responsible for orchestrating the pogrom in which David's family is killed. Vera's father apologizes profusely, and the young émigré's decide to continue to build a life together in America. The play was well received by American audiences, and is widely regarded to have coined the term "melting pot" as a description of the United States. Former president Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Zangwill, saying "That particular play I shall always count among the very strong and real influences upon my thought and my life."
Zangwill was also a feminist, and was married to feminist write Edith Zangwill, nee Ayrton, with whom he had three children. Zangwill passed away due to complications from pneumonia in 1926.