Monday 25 July 2016


            He was born in Pikeln (Pikeliai), at the border between Lithuania and Latvia, into a devout household.  He studied in religious elementary schools and yeshivas.  He was later a well-known Zionist orator.  In 1900 he served as a delegate to conference of Russian Zionists in Vilna.  Over the years 1903-1915, he lived in Shavel (Šiauliai), Lithuania, where he was a cofounder of Zionist institutions and a head of the local Jewish community.  At the time of the expulsion of Lithuanian Jewry in early 1915, he performed relief work for refugees, living later in Vitebsk, and after the Revolution of 1917 he took part in the conference of Jewish communities in Petrograd.  At the “trial against the Jewish elementary school,” orchestrated by the Communist Jewish Section in Vitebsk (January 12-18, 1921), Zaks was one of the defendants, and he called for the working out of a plan for the Jewish ethnic school which would satisfy the entire Jewish population and not to kill the Jewish religious elementary school.  He was as a result later arrested.  At the end of 1922 he returned to Shavel.  In 1928 he moved to the land of Israel and there he died.  In his youth he wrote for Hatsfira (The siren), later publishing correspondence pieces for: Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg and Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people) in Vilna.  He authored several booklets of Yiddish stories with romantic content and Zionist inclinations, such as: A geferlikher trit (A dangerous step), “a romantic tale” (Vilna, 1896), 32 pp., which appeared in a number of editions, the last in 1927; Der erlikher veg (The virtuous path) (Vilna, 1897), 32 pp.  His description of his experiences at the time of the expulsion from Lithuania in 1915 was translated from a Yiddish manuscript into Hebrew and published in the fifth volume of Reshumot (Records), edited by Kh. N. Bialik and Y. Kh. Ravnitski (Tel Aviv, 1927), pp. 228-72.

Sources: Der mishpet ibern kheyder (The trial of the Jewish elementary school) (Vitebsk, 1922); Reshumot (Tel Aviv) 5 (1927); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928); A. Tsentsiper, Paame hageula (The time of redemption) (Tel Aviv, 1951); Bemaavak legeula (In the struggle for redemption) (Tel Aviv, 1957); Y. Z. Vulfson, in Sefer vitebsk (Vitebsk volume) (Tel Aviv, 1957), see index; Vitebsk amol (Vitebsk in the past) (New York, 1956), pp. 164, 167.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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