SHNEUR-ZALMEN SHAZAR (November 24, 1889-October 6, 1974)
He was researcher in Jewish history and a journalist, born (with the surname Rubashov) in Mir, Byelorussia. He descended from a well-pedigreed Hassidic family. He was educated in Stoybts (Stowbtsy) and Koydenev in religious elementary school, and with a recluse he studied Talmud and commentaries. In 1906 he was a student in the “Higher course of study in eastern learning” in St. Petersburg. From late 1912 he was studying history, biblical scholarship, and philosophy at the Universities of Freiburg, Strasbourg, and Berlin. From early on he stood with labor Zionism, was a pupil and collaborator with Ber Borokhov, a builder of the Labor Zionist party, and a member of its highest bodies in Europe. From 1924 he was on the highest institutions of Mapai (Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel), Histadrut, and throughout Israel. In was elected in 1963 as the third president of the state of Israel. He took up research on Jewish history, especially Messianic movements among Jews, Bible scholarship, and old sources of the Yiddish language. In addition, he was active in community and public affairs work. In his historical research, Shazar was the pioneer of a new approach to the Shabbatai Zvi movement, seeing in it a longing of the Jewish people for redemption in the land of Israel. Gershom Scholem, the scholar of Kabbalah, writes: “I am certain that I and others of that generation were greatly inspired, consciously and unconsciously, by the seeds that he sowed in us.”
His literary and journalistic work began in 1903 in Hamelits (The advocate), later in Hashiloaḥ (The shiloah), Haadama (The earth), Reshumot (Gazette), Hagoran (The threshing floor), and other Hebrew serials. From 1938 he was on the editorial board of Davar (Word) and later editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Aside from hundred of articles and essays, he also published poetry (the majority under pseudonyms). In Hebrew he published numerous books, such as: Kokhve boker (Morning stars) (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1950), 377 pp.; Or ishim (Light of personalities) (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1954/1955), 3 vols.; Mivḥar imrot (Selection of sayings) (Tel Aviv: Alef, 1964), 94 pp.
He debuted in print in Yiddish in 1906 in organs of the Labor Zionists: Der proletarisher gedank (The proletarian idea) and Forverts (Forward) in Vilna. He also wrote for: Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Naye leben (New life) 3-4 (1910); Der yudisher arbayter (The Jewish worker); Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper); Arbayter-vort (Workers’ word); Tsukunft (Future) and Di tsayt (The times) in New York; Dos vort (The word) in Warsaw (1934, its first editor-in-chief); Kiem (Existence) in Paris; and Letste nayes (Latest news) and Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) in Tel Aviv; as well as a dozen other Yiddish publications throughout the world. His poetry in Yiddish appeared in: Mortkhe Yofe, Erets-yisroel in der yidisher literatur (Israel in Yiddish literature), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1961); Shmuel Rozhanski, Di froy in der yidisher poezye (Women in Yiddish poetry) (Buenos Aires, 1966) and Ven a folk dervakht, medines yisroel, 1948-1968, antologye (When a people awakens, the state of Israel, 1948-1968, anthology) (Buenos Aires, 1968); Yoysef Papyernikov, Yerusholaim in yidishn lid, antologye (Jerusalem in Yiddish poetry, anthology) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1973); Arie Shamri, Vortslen (Roots) (Tel Aviv, 1966); and an essay in Joseph Leftwich, An Anthology of Modern Yiddish literature (The Hague: Mouton, 1974).
He edited the following: Af der shvel (At the threshold), “Zamelheften far poyle-tsienistishe teorye un praktik” (Collections for Labor Zionist theory and practice) (Berlin, 1918); Di erets-yisroel arbayt, din ṿekhezhbn fun der erets-yisroel-arbayter komisye fun’m alveltlikhen yudishen sotsyalistishen arbayter-ferband poyle-tsien (Labor in the land of Israel, an accounting of the Israeli Labor Commission of the World Socialist Union of Jewish Workers, Labor Zionism) (Yafo, 1920); the Labor Zionist party organs, Unzer vort (Our word) and Dos arbaytende erets-yisroel (The laboring land of Israel) (Vienna, 1921-1922; Berlin, 1923). One of his most important works in Yiddish, “Yidishe gvies-eydes in di shayles-vetshuves fun onhoyb XVtn biz sof XVII yorhundert” (Jewish testimony in the responsa from the beginning of the fifteenth until the end of the seventeenth century), appeared in Historishe shriftn (Historical writings) (Warsaw) 1 (1929).
Books in Yiddish include: Marks vegn yudentum un yudentum vegn marks (Marx on the Jews and Jewry in Marx) (Berlin: Y. Kornfeld, 1919), 16 pp.; Gehn oder nit gehn tsum tsienistishen kongres? (To go or not go to the Zionist Congress) (Vienna: Union Bureau, Labor Zionists, 1921), 36 pp.; Farzikh, lider (For myself, poetry) (Tel Aviv: Goldene keyt, 1972), 63 pp.; In shlikhes, lider untervegs (On assignment, poetry pathways) (Montevideo: Zerye, 1972), 27 pp.; Opshatsungen un eseyen (Assessments and essays) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1976), 220 pp. In 1969 was published a jubilee volume: Zalman shazar, nasi vesofer (Zalman Shazar, president and writer), ed. Avrom Lis, in Hebrew and Yiddish (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ.), 267 pp. He also translated Rokhl Blovshteyn’s Rokhls lider (Rokhl’s poetry) (Winnipeg, 1932), 60 pp., second edition (Buenos Aires, 1957). His own Shtern fartog, zikhroynes, dertseylungen (Morning stars, memoirs, stories [original: Kokhve boker]) (Buenos Aires, 1952, 1963), 270 pp., was translated from Hebrew by Mortkhe Shtrigler (initially) and later by Yoysef Mendelson, Yisroel Ritov, and Shtrigler. He died in Jerusalem.
Shazar’s wife, ROKHL SHAZAR-KATSENELSON (October 20, 1888, Babruysk, Byelorussia-August 11, 1975, Jerusalem), was among the leadership of women workers of Israel. In addition to books in Hebrew, she compiled and edited the collection Vos arbeterins dertseyln (What women workers recount) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel bukh, 1931), 370 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4 (under Rubashov); Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Merḥavya, 1967); D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah leḥalutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the pioneers and builders of the yishuv), vol. 3 (Tel Aviv, 1949); Dov Sadan, Ben din leḥeshbon (Between law and accounting) (Tel Aviv, 1963), pp. 370-86; Sadan, Heymishe ksovim, shrayber, bikher, problemen (Familiar writings, writers, books, issues), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1972), pp. 294-306; Leyzer Domankevitsh, Verter un vertn (Words and worth) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1965), pp. 167-80; Shloyme Bikl, in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1966); Borekh Tsukerman, Eseyen un profiln (Essays and profiles) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1967), pp. 302-9; Arn Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 16, 1970); Moyshe Gross-Tsimerman, Dos vort vos mir shraybn, eseyen un profiln (The word that we write, essays and profiles) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1971); Yitskhok Yanasovitsh, in Di shtime (Mexico City) (January 1, 1973); Moshe Erem, in Folksblat (Tel Aviv) (October 1974); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (November 15, 1974); R. Veltsh, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (November 22, 1974); Moshe Ungerfeld, Erets veḥakhameha (The land and its wisdom) (Tel Aviv, 1975).