BERL LOKER (LOCKER) (April 27, 1887-February 2, 1972)
He was born in the village of Kriwiec, near Stanislavov (Stanisle), eastern Galicia. His father Yankev Shatner was a Hebrew teacher and a Zionist activist. His mother was the daughter of the well-known scholar, Rabbi Mortkhe-Hirsh Loker. He studied in religious primary school, on his own in synagogue study hall, and also attended the first three years of the Baron Hirsch School (in Polish) in Solotvin. In 1908 he graduated from a German high school in Seret, Bukovina, and thereafter from the law faculty of the German university in Czernowitz. He fell under the influence of the ideas of Dr. Nosn Birnboym (Nathan Birnbaum) concerning diaspora nationalism. He roused among the young Jewish students a national conception, and he called upon them at the time of the census in Austria to list Yiddish as their mother tongue. His journalistic activities began in 1902 in the organ of the Labor Zionists, Der Jüdischer Arbeiter (The Jewish worker), which was published at the time in Vienna in German, and when the newspaper switched to Yiddish (Der yudisher arbayter)—first in Cracow and then in Lemberg—Loker was then a regular contributor and in it published (1908-1911) a popular series entitled “Bukoviner briv” (Bukovina letter). Over the years 1911-1914 he edited the newspaper, in which young Yiddish writers from Galicia published their poems and stories. He was a member of the executive of the Labor Zionist party. During WWI he published articles in Yidisher kempfer (Jewish fighter) and Di varhayt (The truth) in New York. At that time he also wrote pieces for Martin Buber’s Der Jude (The Jew), among them (in German): on the general laws regarding assimilation and the Eastern Jews (1916); and on the Jewish labor movement (1920). In early 1916 he became a member of the Union Bureau of the Labor Zionists in The Hague and one of the publishers of Jüdische Arbeiter-Korrespondenz (Jewish labor correspondence), bulletin of the Union Bureau, published in German, French, and English. As the representative of the Labor Zionist world union, he participated in the international socialist conferences in Stockholm (1917), Berne and Amsterdam (1919), and Vienna (1919). After the split among the Labor Zionists (August 1920), he remained with the right wing and made his way back to Warsaw where he directed the activities of the Labor Zionist party. Over the years 1923-1928, he led the party in Berlin; 1928-1931, he was secretary of the party in the United States; 1923-1931, he was the representative of the Labor Zionists in the Vaad Hapoel (Zionist General Council); 1931-1935, he was a member of the Zionist executive in London; and 1936-1938, he was a member of Vaad Hapoel of Histadrut (Federation of Labor) in Israel. In 1938 he moved to London where he took over the leadership of the political bureau of Histadrut and contributed to the political work of the Jewish Agency. With the emergence of the state of Israel in 1948, he was chairman of the Jewish Agency until 1956. For a time he was also a member of the Knesset. Over the course of his long career as a Zionist labor leader, he contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines, especially the publications of the Labor Zionists in a host of languages, including (in addition to those mentioned above): Unzer veg (Our way) in Vienna; Di tsayt (The times), Der idisher arbayter (The Jewish worker), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Der tog (The day), and Hadoar (The mail)—in New York; Di idishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper) and Di naye tsayt (The new times) in Buenos Aires; Bafrayung (Liberation), Arbeter shtime (Voice of labor), and Dos vort (The word) in Warsaw; Arbayter-vort (Workers’ word) in Cracow; Davar (Word), Hapoel hatsair (The young worker), Bemaale (On the way up), Hador (The generation), Haolam (The world), and Moledet (Homeland)—in Tel Aviv; Unzer vort (Our word) in Paris; the collections Unzer gedank (Our idea) and Der nayer veg (The new way) in Berlin (1924-1925); and Arbayter-tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper) in Częstochowa; among others. In book or pamphlet form: in Yiddish, Moskve un tsienizm, der moralisher bankrot fun di linke poele-tsien (Moscow and Zionism, the moral bankruptcy of the left Labor Zionists) (Vienna, 1921), 46 pp.; Di organizatsye fun der tsienistisher bavegung in der farvirklekhungs-tkufe (The organization of the Zionist movement in the era of its realization) (Jerusalem-London, 1935), 24 pp.; Historishe farbindung un historishe rekht (Historical ties and historical rights) (Tel Aviv, 1938 or 1939), 40 pp.; in English, Covenant Everlasting, Palestine in Jewish History (New York, 1947), 125 pp.; in French, Le Peuple à la nuque raide, la Palestine dans l’histoire juive (The stiff-necked people, Palestine in Jewish history), translation of the item immediately above (Paris, 1947), 98 pp.; in Hebrew, Maks nordau, sheloshim shana lemoto, perakim mekhetavav vedivre mavo (Max Nordau, thirty years since his death, selections from his letters and an introduction), with Zalman Shazar (Jerusalem, 1952/1953), 51 pp. He was also the editor of: Yudishe arbayter-yugend (Jewish labor youth), organ of the Labor Zionist youth movement in 1905; vol. 2 of Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) of Ber Borokhov (New York, 1928), 300 pp.; and Yidishe arbeter yorbukh un almanakh (Jewish workers’ yearbook and almanac) (New York, 1927 and 1928). His pamphlet Di yidn in galitsye (Jews in Galicia) was confiscated during WWI by the German occupation authorities in Warsaw shortly before being published. On the occasions of his sixtieth (1947) and seventieth (1957) birthdays, a great number of writings about him appeared in print—both about his role as a leader in the Zionist labor movement and about his journalistic activities. He died in Jerusalem.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, in Di tsayt (New York) (December 10, 1921); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1928), see index; H. Lang, in Forverts (New York) (May 24, 1931; June 26, 1934); Y. Shigelman, in Forverts (November 12, 1932); Sh. Zak (Zkharye Shuster), in Tog (New York) (June 25, 1934; January 4, 1935); M. Nayshtadt, Berl loker a ben-shishim (Berl Loker, a sixty-year-old) (Tel Aviv, 1947), 15 pp.; Nayshtadt, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (July 29, 1947); A. Tishby, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (October 12, 1951); Dr. Y. Tenenboym, Galitsye mayn alte heym (Galicia, my old home) (Buenos Aires, 1952); M. Edelboym, in Der nayer moment (São Paolo) (November 5, 1954); Dr. N. M. Gelber, in Pirke galitsiya (Tales on Galicia) (Tel Aviv, 1957), p. 55; L. Shpizman, in Geshikhte fun der tsienistisher arbeter-bavegung fun tsofn-amerike (History of the Zionist labor movement in North America) (New York, 1955), pp. 186, 275, 328, 423; Dov Sadan, Kearat tsimukim (A bowl of raisins) (Tel Aviv, 1950); Sefer haishim (Biographical dictionary) (Tel Aviv, 1937), p. 300; A. Rays, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (Iyar 16 [= May 17], 1957); Rays, in Keneder odler (May 9, 1957); Arim veimahot beyisrael (Cities and mothers in Israel), vol. 5 (Jerusalem, 1951/1952), pp. 187, 264-66, 319-20; B. Tsukerman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (May 10, 1957); Sh. Ben-Barukh, in Am vesefer (Tel Aviv) (June 1957); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon) (Montreal, 1958); P. Shteynvaks, in Tsienistn (Zionists), vol. 1 (Buenos Aires, 1950), pp. 77-79; The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York), vol. 7; Who’s Who in Israel (Tel Aviv, 1958).