BEN-ADIR (AVROM ROZIN) (January 26, 1878-November 14, 1942)
He was born in Krucha, Mogilev district (Byelorussia). His father was a scholar and a grain merchant who was later impoverished; his mother was the daughter of the Krucha rabbi, Yankev Aronson, and the aunt of Z. Y. Anokhi—she was a women of extraordinary virtue. He initially studied in a religious primary school. At age seven his grandfather, the Krucha rabbi, took him under his wing, taught his grandson seven days a week, and played a major role in forming the character of Ben-Adir later. At age fourteen he went to Gluchov (Hluchiv), Mogilev, to continue his studies with his uncle, R. Shloyme Aronson, the town rabbi and later a rabbi in Kiev and Tel Aviv, and there he surreptitiously became acquainted with Hebrew-language Enlightenment literature. At age sixteen he moved to Odessa to sit for the examinations to be an external student and there was captivated by both general and Jewish socialist ideas which were then spreading over the Jewish world. In the mid-1890s he moved to Minsk and became involved with illegal socialist circles. He also lived for a short time in Kharkov where he was involved with the socialist youth. After the First Zionist Congress, Ben-Adir was an adherent of Herzl’s political Zionism and an opponent of Aḥad Ha’am. He published an article on this topic in Hamelits (The advocate), the first and only article that he wrote in Hebrew. In 1901 he left for Paris to continue his studies. A mere two years later, he returned to Russia with a plan to build a Jewish party that would look for ways to relieve the hardships suffered by the Jewish people on the basis of territorial concentration. After the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, he proffered his plan in a lecture he gave at the Kiev Conference of socialist-territorialist and labor Zionist leaders (1903), the group known as “Vozrozhdenye” (Rebirth). Three years later, his program was the foundation for the Sejmist Party (1906). After the Kiev Conference, the group there began to publish illegally the Russian-language periodical Vozrozhdenye with Ben-Adir as the editor-in-chief. He also published a series of tracts concerning Zionism and Bundism (published in Yiddish by the “Kamf” [Struggle] publishing house in Vilna, 1906, with the title Shtarke verter, shvakhe gedanken [Strong words, weak ideas]). In 1904 Ben-Adir spent time abroad, preparing the second volume of Vozrozhdenye and organizing sympathizers in various countries.
He returned to Russia in 1905 and parted ways with his former comrades (such as Latsky-Bertoldi, among others) who had already founded the Zionist socialist party, and, together with new comrades, compiled Vozrozhdenye in which his article appeared: “Dos sotsyale un dos natsyonale” (The social and the national) and “Di statik fun yidishn lebn un di dinamik fun yidishn lebn” (The static and the dynamic in Jewish life). These articles gave rise at the time to fierce debates. In the spring of 1906 SERP [lit. ‘sickle’: Sotsialisticheskaia Evreiskaia Rabochaia Partiia], the Jewish Socialist Labor Party, was founded, and Ben-Adir was elected to serve on the Central Committee as well as on the editorial board of its organs, SERP (Russian) and Folks-shtime (Voice of the people, Yiddish). He would later also contribute to the unaffiliated periodicals: Dos naye lebn (The new life) in New York, Evreiskii mir (The Jewish world [in Russia]), the anthology Folk un land (People and land), Di shtime (The voice), and Fun tsayt tsu tsayt (From time to time) (Kiev, 1911); and he was the actual editor of the journal Vuhin (Whither) which was concerned with the problems of Jewish emigration. After the February-March Revolution in 1917 in Russia, when the Jewish Socialist Workers Party and the Zionist Socialists united, Ben-Adir served on the central committee of the new United Jewish Socialist Workers Party and the editor of its daily newspaper Di naye tsayt (The new time) in Kiev; in a series of articles for this newspaper, he defended the position of the internationalists in the general social-democratic party movement in the country. He also served at this time on the editorial board of the “united” party’s organ, Der yidisher proletariat (The Jewish proletariat), wrote the two booklets, Kehile-fragn (Community issues) (Kiev, 1917) and Unzer shprakhn-problem (Our language issue) (Kiev, 1918), and edited the Russian-language weekly Narodnoe delo (People’s cause) (Kharkov, late 1918) and the Yiddish monthly Tsukunft (Future) (three issues appeared, Kharkov, late 1919). When the “united” party in 1919 embraced the Communist program, Ben-Adir left the party.
In 1921 he left Soviet Russia with his family, lived for a year in Kovno (Lithuania), contributed to the democratic newspaper Nayes (News), and from there left for Berlin where he edited the monthly Dos fraye vort (The free word), “organ of independent socialist thought” (no. 5, 1923) and Der veg (The way), “journal for issues of Jewish emigration and colonization”—and he published articles in the New York Tsukunft and other periodicals. In 1925 in Berlin his book was published: In khaos fun lebn un denken (In the chaos of life and thought), a collection of articles which were “an effort to give a partial reflection of the ideology of those lone Jewish socialists who continued to swim against the general current.” He came out publicly in opposition to Bolshevism, stressing the ethical factor in the socialist restructuring of society, because “socialism does not demand only an outward upheaval in the social-economic conditions and relations, but also a radical break in the soul of each individual separately.” That same year, Ben-Adir departed for Palestine and was there invited to contribute to Davar (Word) in Tel Aviv, but his critical relationship to Zionism made it impossible for him to accept the invitation. His activities in Israel were limited to giving lectures on the history of the Jewish workers’ movement. He returned to Berlin in 1927, and there he edited the ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) journal Virtshaft un lebn (Economy and life). In 1932 he was one of the founders of the “Dubnov Fund” to publish Algemayne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia). He then became one of its editors and stayed with this work until the end of his life. In 1933 he and the editorial board of the Encyclopedia left for Paris, where after a long interruption he reverted to his past territorialist outlook on Jewish life and also to practical territorialist activities with the founding and leadership of the “Frayland lige” (Freeland League) in 1935. During his time in Paris, Ben-Adir wrote the pamphlet, Tsienizm, teritoryalizm, sotsyalizm (Zionism, territorialism, socialism) (Warsaw, 1936), 32 pp.; edited the territorialist organ Di naye shtime (The new voice) (Warsaw, 1936-1937); wrote a series of longer and shorter works for the Algemayne entsiklopedye (such as “Akhad haam,” “Antisemitizm,” “Erets-yisroel,” and “Moderne gezelshaftlekhe un natsyonale shtremungen” [Modern social and national trends]) and for the anthology Afn sheydveg (At the crossroads) (Paris, 1939). Early in WWII (May 1940), Ben-Adir published his booklet Farn geshikhtlekhn yom-hadin, dos yidishe folk tsvishn toykhekhe un geule (Toward the historic day of judgment, the Jewish people between curses and redemption) (Paris, 1940), 119 pp., in which he called for the enactment of a national introspection and came to a territorialist conclusion. With the collapse of France in 1940, Ben-Adir came to New York where he continued to participate in the editing of the Encyclopedia and with fresh zeal carried on territorialist propaganda. He also founded and edited the journal Afn shvel (At the threshold), published by the American Freeland League. Two years later, in 1942, Ben-Adir died after a severe illness. He left behind a wife and a son, Yankev Rozin who became an engineer.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, pp. 310-15; Y. Leshtsinski, in Algemayne entsiklopedye, vol. 5 (New York, 1949), pp. 508-11; Y. Leshtsinski, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1943); Afn shvel (New York) (February 1943; March-April 1951); letters from A. Rozin (Ben-Adir), in Yidishe kultur (New York) (November 1949); D. Charney, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (December 1942); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Lite 1 (New York, 1948), pp. 1080-87; Dr. Y. N. Shteynberg, in Frayland 1 (Paris, 1951); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Tsukunft (New York) (February 1951); Yivo-bleter 20 (1942), pp. 285-86.