Tuesday 6 February 2018


YUDE-ZEV NOFEKH (ca. 1840-ca. 1921)
            He was born in the Minsk region of Byelorussia.  He studied in religious elementary school and yeshivas.  As a young man he became a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment.  In the middle of the 1860s, he left for Vilna, entered a rabbinical seminary, became infected with the ideas of socialism, and moved close to the circle of Arn Zundelevitsh and A. Sh. Liberman.  He left the fifth class at the seminary, departed for Minsk, and gave lessons in Russian and arithmetic.  When in the late 1860s the tradesmen school for Jewish children was founded in Minsk, Nohekh was hired as a teacher and later made administrator of the school.  He transformed it into one of the best craftsmen’s school in all of Russia.  In Minsk, Nofekh also developed intensive socialist work campaigning for socialism in a surreptitious manner through his “Minsk letters” in Rodkinzon’s Kol leam (Call to the people).  His approach was to pretend to be a preacher, and he would read ideas about historical materialism, labor and capital, individual freedom, and the like into the Torah portion of the week.  In the early 1880s, after the pogroms in southern Russia, he became an active “lover of Zion” and led a campaign for settlement in the land of Israel.  He later took part in Zionist congresses and was one of the more prominent Zionist leaders in the city.  He took part during WWI in relief work for victims of the war.  His son was a judge in Jaffa.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography; Sh. L. Tsitron, Leksikon tsiyoni (Zionist lexicon) (Warsaw: Sh. Shreberk, 1923), pp. 450-52; Tsitron, Di geshikhte fun der yidisher prese, fun yor 1863 biz 1889 (The history of the Yiddish press, from 1863 to 1889) (Warsaw: Aḥisefer, 1923), pp. 111-13.
Yankev Birnboym

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