RUVN HAKOYEN SINAI (1850-March 31, 1918)
The father of Mikhl Hakoyen Sinai, he was born in Yagustova (Augustów), Suwalk district, Lithuania. His father, Arn Sinai, was well-known as a great scholar in the city; when he died (Ruvn was then only five years old), the family moved to Grodno. Ruvn attended religious elementary school, later studying with the Kovno rabbi, R. Yitskhok Elkhonen, and from him received ordination into the rabbinate. He, though, had no wish to be a rabbi, and instead he became a private Hebrew teacher in Grodno. For a certain period of time, he lived in Zabludove (Zabłudów). He traveled through Russia (1876-1877) as an agent of Rodkinson’s publications: Hakol (The voice) and Asefat ḥakhamim (Assembly of wise men)—both in Hebrew—and Kol laam (The people’s voice) in Yiddish. In 1894 he and his family moved with the first group of Jewish colonists to Argentina in Baron Hirsch’s colony of Mozesville, and there he became the religious and cultural leader for the colonists. A sharp conflict ensued between the Mozesville colonists and the YIKO directors in Buenos Aires, and Sinai with a delegation of colonists traveled to Paris to YIKO headquarters to seek justice. The complaints of the delegation had no impact, and as a result Sinai and his family moved in late 1897 away from Mozesville and settled in Buenos Aires. There the Eastern European Jewish asked him to become their rabbi; he accepted the invitation but wished to receive no remuneration—he earned his living from teaching the wealthier children in his own home. Already in Grodno, Ruvn Sinai was a community leader, one of the main players in the Ḥibat tsiyon (Love of Zion) movement and founder of the municipal group “Safa berura” (Plain language). Through his initiative the first Talmud Torah was founded in Argentina. His first essays in Hebrew, written back in the old country, were published in: Hamagid (The preacher), Hakol, and Hamelits (The advocate), among others. He used the pen name Mr”s (Mes ruvn sinai [from Ruvn Sinai]) when publishing in Rodkinson’s Kol laam. From Argentina he also wrote for London’s Hebrew weekly Hayehudi (The Jew), published by Yitsḥak Subelski, and for Jerusalem’s rabbinical Hapisga (The summit). He also contributed to his son’s printed newspaper Videlkol (Echo), to Vermont’s Di folks shtime (The people’s voice), to Volf Tsaytlin’s Idish argentiner vokhenblat (Jewish Argentinian weekly newspaper), and to the first daily Yiddish newspaper in Argentina, Der tog (The day)—for a certain period of time he was the unofficial editor of this newspaper. He was also the author of: Zikaron moshe (Memory of Moses), a funeral oration for Baron Hirsch (London, 1897) and Ḥaye hazeman vehanitsaḥ (Temporal and eternal life) (Buenos Aires: V. Tsaytlin, 1901). He left behind in manuscript a historical essay in Hebrew entitled “Korot hayehudim beargentina” (History of the Jews in Argentina). His son, Mikhl Sinai, handed the manuscript over to Zalmen Reyzen (when Reyzen visited Argentina in 1932) with the authority to publish it in the confused YIVO publication about the Jews of Argentina, but nothing came of it, and in the years of the Holocaust, the manuscript was lost. Ruvn Sinai died in Buenos Aires.
Sources: Sh. L. Tsitron, “Letoldot haitonut haivrit” (On the history of the Hebrew press), Haolam (Vilna); Mikhl Hakoyen Sinai, in Argentiner yivo-shriftn (Buenos Aires) 3 (1945); Sinai, in Grodner opklangen (Buenos Aires) 3-4 (1950); he is often mentioned in articles about his son, Mikhl Hakoyen Sinai.