Saturday 3 October 2015


YITSKHOK GRINBOYM (YITZḤAK GRUENBAUM) (November 24, 1879-September 16, 1970)
            He was born in Warsaw.  His father Yehoshua was a rabbi’s son, a Talmud scholar, a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment, and a fighter for the Enlightenment movement in Poland.  When he was still a child, his parents brought Grinboym to Plonsk, where his father undertook his Jewish education by himself.  He studied Hebrew and Tanakh with him, but without satisfactory results.  He studied secular subjects initially at a Plonck state elementary school for Jewish children and later in the government high school.  As a pupil in the second-year class in high school, he assiduously studied Hebrew with a private teacher.  While a student in the fourth-year class, he became engrossed in the Zionist idea, became a Zionist leader, and he appeared on stage giving lectures on the messianic movements in Zionism.  After graduating from high school, he entered Warsaw University.  He began studying medicine and later switched to law.  While still a student, he began writing in Hebrew.  He sent his articles to Hamelits (The advocate) and Hatsfira (The siren), but with no success.  He was informed by “Answers from the editorial board” that his pieces were not going to be published.
            Around 1901 he became a frequent visitor to the home of Y. L. Peretz, who befriended him.  Peretz asked him to write a work about the Yiddish theater in the United States.  Later, he read aloud his work at one of the Saturday gatherings at Peretz’s home, and Peretz then passed the work on to Dr. Yoysef Lurye, editor of Der yud (The Jew), and it became Grinboym’s literary debut.  Using the pseudonym Y. N. Tseir (Y. N. the younger, he subsequently began writing press notices for Hashiloa (The shiloah), edited by Dr. Yosef Klausner and Ḥ. N. Bialik; he also published in the Polish weekly Wschód (East), published in Lemberg and with an editorial division in Warsaw; and he published in the Zionist anthology Sedarot (Weekly portions) treatises about Aḥad-Haam and Michel Yosef Berdichevsky, and translations into Polish of Peretz’s Hassidic stories.  He also published in the illegal leaflets of the Warsaw Labor Zionist treatises about Zionism as a revolution in Jewish life and about Jewish self-defense during the Kishinev pogrom.  These articles were later collected in the Hebrew volume, Dor bemivḥan (A generation tested).  He went on to mature into an important figure in the realms of community, politics, and publishing, and especially in the Zionist movement.  He founded a Jewish library in Plotck, which was the first Jewish library in Poland.  Together with Yankev Leshtshinski, in 1903 he founded in Warsaw the “worker-Zionist” circle and published the illegal leaflet Undzer tsukunft (Our future).  He graduated from the law faculty at Warsaw University in 1904.  The following year he was Nokhum Sokolov’s secretary, and he was elected to be a delegate to the seventh Zionist congress.  In 1906 as a delegate to the Zionist conference in Helsinki, at which was hammered out the political program for Zionism in Russia and Poland—known as the Helsingfors Program—Grinboym fought for a plan to work for the present among the Diaspora countries.  Using the pen name “Y. G. Hatseir” (Y. G. the younger), in 1907-1908 he published a series of militant articles against the writing of Zionist explanatory work in foreign-language publications, which was leading to assimilation, and he energetically demanded discontinuation of these publications.  Although he himself for a short time was editor of Zionist periodicals in Polish—Glos Żydowski (Jewish voice), Życie Żydowskie (Jewish life), and Wschód—he demanded publication should be solely in the two Jewish languages of Yiddish and Hebrew.
            Grinboym lived in Vilna over the years 1909-1911.  He served there as secretary of the central committee of the Zionist Organization in Russia and the representative from Poland.  Using the pen name “Y. Kanai” (Y. Zealot), he wrote for Hazman (The times) and Haolam (The world)—for a time he was editor of the latter.  He also published his writings on Polish Jewry and their struggle for equal rights in Fraynd (Friend), Di idishe velt (The Jewish world), Der telegraf (The telegraph), edited by N. Sokolov and M. N. Sirkin, and the Russian-language Razsviet (Dawn)—all in St. Petersburg.  Over the course of the years 1905-1910, he was imprisoned on five occasions for his political activities.  In 1911 he was one of the accused in court, when the Tsarist authorities were attacking the Zionist leaders in Russia, and he was sentenced to debarment as a lawyer.  He returned to Warsaw, became the leader of the Zionist movement in Poland, stood at the head of the election campaign among Polish Jews during the elections to the Russian Duma, and led a fierce fight against the boycott movement and anti-Semitism; in 1914 he was editor of the Zionist organ, Dos yidishe folk (The Jewish people).
            During WWI, when Warsaw was evacuated, Grinboym settled in St. Petersburg, and there, under difficult circumstances, he continued his Zionist work.  Over the years 1916-1917 he led the organization office of the Zionist Organization in Russia.  In 1917 he was editor of the Zionist newspaper Petrograder tageblat (Petrograd daily newspaper).  Publishing on the premise that the new Russian government (after the fall of Tsarism) would not be able to give equal recognition to both Jewish languages, Hebrew and Yiddish, at the seventh Zionist conference in Russia he led a fierce battle to have Yiddish recognized as the official language of the Jewish national minority.  He also led the fight to support the Jewish community councils.  His program was adopted solely because there was added a point that in the councils would be created commissions for religious affairs who would be elected by the worshippers in the schools, and Grinboym thus refused to join the newly elected Zionist central committee.
            At the end of 1918, after the Bolsheviks shut down Petrograder tageblat, Grinboym returned to Poland and settled in Warsaw.  He plunged right back into Zionist activities and into the new political problems that sprang up for Polish Jewry with the rise of an independent Polish republic.  He became secretary-general of the Zionist central committee in Poland.  In 1919 he was editor of Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people), and in 1920 of the Hebrew-language newspaper Hatsfira.  He was founder and chairman of the Provisional Jewish National Council.  Thereafter, as Dos yudishe folk was folded into Haynt (Today) in Warsaw, he became a regular contributor to Haynt and the political advisor for the newspaper.  He was also selected as a deputy from Warsaw to the constituent Sejm.  He was a member of the commission that worked out the project of the constitution of the Polish republic.  He was chair of the caucus of Jewish deputies in the Sejm and headed the national council of Polish Jewry.  In 1921 he published an important series of articles, entitled “Di poylishe constitutsye un di yidishe frage” (The Polish constitution and the Jewish question), in Der khoydesh (The month) 1-3.  Because the Polish constitution was drawn up so that, with respect to rights, it undercut the representativeness of the national minorities in their legislative capacity, he put together a bloc of national minorities, of whom he was one of the initiators and leaders, and he led an indefatigable fight for Jewish rights.  At the same time he was an important leader of a variety of organizations and institutions: secretary of the Zionist Organization in Poland; one of the founders of the Tarbut schools; president of the Land of Israel office; and on the leadership of the Jewish National Fund.  His publicist writings, which appeared regularly in Haynt, were read with great interest by Jews of all parties and affiliations.  They excelled in their exactingly accurate information, with their straightforwardness, with their sincere idealism, and with their deep historical insight and analysis of Polish Jewish conditions and their struggle for civil and equal rights.
            In the 1920s there was a crisis in Grinboym’s attitude concerning his political activities: due to a change in the party and regional composition of the Jewish deputies in the Polish Sejm, he was removed from the leadership of the caucus of Jewish deputies.  Through the years 1923-1929, he stood in opposition to the world Zionist movement due to the creation of the expanded Jewish Agency and its submissiveness vis-à-vis England.  He established the radical Zionist movement “Al-hamishmar” (On guard) and conducted a fierce fight at the Zionist congress against the Zionist executive, first and foremost with Chaim Weizmann.  In the new atmosphere thus created, Grinboym, who was earlier known as an experienced fighter for recognition and respectability of the Yiddish language, launched a huge injustice against Yiddish: during a vote in the Sejm, he publicly spoke out against Noyekh Prilucki’s proposal for state subsidies for Jewish schools in which Yiddish was the language of instruction.
            In 1925 Grinboym renounced his Sejm credentials.  He visited Israel and published travel impressions in Haynt.  Aside from this, he continued to publish weekly articles on Zionist problems and general Jewish matters in Haynt, and he edited the biweekly periodical Tsienistishe bleter (Zionist leaves).  In 1927 he was invited by the American Jewish Congress to the United States, and he was received by President Coolidge.  He spent part of 1932-1933 in Paris.
            At the eighteenth Zionist congress in 1933, he was elected to the Zionist executive as the director of the Aliya Department, and he thus moved and settled in Israel.  During WWII, he founded an office in Constantinople with the goal of establishing ties with Jews in Nazi-occupied countries.  He was one of the organizers of the parachutists who dropped into Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Slovakia to bring assistance and comfort to Jews in the ghettos.  Grinboym also stood with the Polish government-in-exile in London, concerning the fate of Polish Jews under German occupation.  After the war, he returned to his earlier position.  From June 29 to November 5, 1946, he was held under arrest in Latrun by the British Mandate authorities.  He later made trips to Europe and the United States.  With the rise of the state of Israel, from May 1948 to March 1949 he served as Interior Minister in the provisional government.  He contributed to the introduction of the democratic electoral system to the Knesset, to municipalities, and to district towns.  He ran for election to the Knesset on his own list, but was not elected.

            Among Grinboym’s literary works that appeared in book form, in Hebrew there are: Askhalto degeule, zamlung fun artiklen arum der englisher dekleratsye vegn erets-yisroel (The beginning of redemption, a collection of articles concerning the English declaration on the Land of Israel) (Petrograd: Geula, 1917), 32 pp., published under his pen name Y. Kanai; Milḥamot yehude polin (1905-1912) (Wars of the Jews of Poland, 1905-1912) (Warsaw, 1922), 161 pp.; Milḥamot yehude polonya, 673-700 (Wars of the Polish Jews, 1913-1940) (Jerusalem, 1941), 474 pp.; Dor bemivḥan (A generation tested) (Jerusalem, 1951), 351 pp.; Hatenua hatsiyonit vehitpatḥuta (The Zionist movement and its development), part 1 (Warsaw, 1927), 72 pp., part 2 (Jerusalem, 1950); and Biyame ḥurban veshoa, 700-706 (In the days of destruction and Holocaust, 1940-1946) (Jerusalem, 1946), 222 pp.  In Yiddish: Di yudishe kehile, zamlung fun artiklen un materyaln (The Jewish community, a collection of articles and materials) (Warsaw, 1920), 91 pp.; Di balfur-deklaratsye un ir farvirklikhung (The Balfour Declaration and its realization) (Warsaw, 1923), 154 pp.; Seym redes, 1919-1922 (Speeches at the Sejm, 1919-1922) (Warsaw, 1923), 230 pp.; Khevle-geule, a zamlung fun artiklen iber der ferbreyterung fun der yidisher agents (The pangs of redemption, a collection of articles on the expansion of the Jewish Agency) (Warsaw, 1929), 287 pp.; Der tsienizm in likht fun di erets-yisroel gesheenishn (Zionism in light of events in Israel) (Warsaw, 1930), 36 pp.; Der shekel, symbol fun tsienistishe birgershaft (The shekel, symbol of Zionist citizenship) (Warsaw, 1936), 27 pp.; and Un vos iz havloge un farvos havloge? (And what is self-restraint and why self-restraint?) (Warsaw, 1939), 31 pp.; Fun mayn dor (Of my generation) (Tel Aviv: Makor, 1959), 518 pp., which also appeared in a Hebrew translation as Pene hador (Jerusalem, 1957-1960), 2 vols.  Grinboym also published a large number of books and pamphlets in Russian, Polish, and other languages.  He edited the volume Varsha (Warsaw) (Jerusalem, 1953) in the “Encyclopedia of the Diaspora” series.  He was living in Israel and contributed to the local Hebrew and Yiddish press.  His articles in the Mapam newspaper Al hamishmar bore the heading of a series of articles by Peretz: “Hayokhed bereshus horabim” (The individual in the public domain).  He died in Gan-Shmuel, Israel.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (Vilna, 1928); Z. Tigel, Geshtaltn (Images) (New York, 1928); Dr. M. Zilberfarg, Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings), vol. 2 (Paris-Warsaw, 1937), pp. 232-73; Haynt yoyvl-bukh, 1908-1938 (Jubilee volume for Haynt, 1908-1938) (Warsaw, 1938); Dr. R. Feldshuh, Yidisher gezelshaftlekher leksikon (Jewish community handbook) (Warsaw, 1939); D. Tidhar, Entsiklopedyah lealutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the pioneers and builders of the yishuv), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv, 1947); M. Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1947); Y. Mastbaum, Leyovel hasheviim shel yitsḥak grinboym (Toward the seventieth birthday celebration of Yitzḥak Gruenbaum), in “Mador ivri” (Hebrew section) of Keneder odler (Montreal) (February 6, 1950); Kh. Vital, in Forverts (New York) (September 5, 1950); N. Mayzil, Geven amol a lebn (Once was a life) (Buenos Aires, 1951); Y. N. Nayman, in Keneder odler (December 20, 1954); M. Turkov, Di letste fun a groysn dor (The last of a great generation) (Buenos Aires, 1954); Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (October 12, 1954); B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955); B. Ts. Kats, in Hadoar (New York) (January 21, 1955); M. Grosman, in Fun noentn over 2 (New York, 1956) (see also therein the works by Kh. Finkelshteyn, Dr. Azriel Karlbakh, and Y. Grinboym); B. Y. Rozen, Portretn (Portraits) (Buenos Aires, 1956), pp. 181-202; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico, 1956), see index; Sh. Slutski, Avrom reyzen biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen’s bibliography) (New York, 1956); A. Levinson, Ketavim (Writings) (Tel Aviv, 1955).
                                                                                                                                     Zaynvl Diamant
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 176-77.]

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