NOKHUM-MOYSHE SIRKIN (1878-December 24, 1918)
He was born in Byelsk (Bielsk), Grodno district, at the time part of Russia. He received a Jewish education at home, also attended a Russian high school, later graduating from the Warsaw Polytechnic as a technical engineer. At the latter school he founded a corporation of nationally minded students—running counter to the assimilationist majority of students in the school. He belonged to a circle of Yiddish and Hebrew writers in Warsaw and was a frequent visitor at the homes of Nokhum Sokolov and Y. L. Perets, especially Sokolov who engaged Sirkin to contribute to Hatsfira (The siren), in which Sirkin from time to time (from 1897) published articles, such as: a long essay, “An effort at a theoretical justification for Zionism,” which at the time aroused great interest among the readership. With the rise of political Zionism, he became active in the movement, contributed much to Zionist congresses as a delegate and also as the correspondent from Hatsfira. An outstanding speaker, he led a Zionist campaign principally among intellectual youth. Under the influence of Y. L. Perets, he became an advocate of Yiddish, and at Zionist meetings and conferences he fought for Yiddish and against the truculence of the Hebraists. Aside from his role with Hatsfira, he published numerous articles in Sefer hashana (Yearbook), as well as with the Russian Jewish Budushchnost’ (The future), Spektor’s Di naye velt (The new world) in Warsaw, and Sokolov’s Telegraf (Telegraph), of which he was in fact editor (1905-1907). In 1907 he settled in Kiev, where he conducted intensive work on behalf of Yiddish and Yiddish literature, and his speeches, permeated with enthusiastic love for Yiddish works, exerted a huge impact on Jewish youth then engaged in their studies. He also published a series of notices on Jewish writers in the Russian Jewish Evreiskaia entsiklopediya (Jewish encyclopedia). He published as well popular scientific articles in the Russian journals: Vestnik sakharnaia promyshlennost’ (Herald of the sugar industry) and Vodnoe delo (Water treatment) (1910), among others. In the years of WWI, he stood out as a political leader, was elected to the Ukrainian Rada (Parliament) and to Jewish national council in Ukraine, and he became chairman of the democratic Jewish community in Kiev, while at the same time writing journalistic articles in the Zionist weekly Af der vakh (On guard), edited by M. Grosman (ten issues appeared, from March 15 until August 9, 1918) and editing the daily newspaper Der telegraf (forty-nine issues, from November 15, 1917 to January 1918). He authored the pamphlets: In der frayer ukraine (In Ukraine of the past), “remarks, facts, and materials” (Kiev: Farn folk, 1917), 16 pp.; Dos naye lebn un di alte knekht (The new life and the old slave) (Kiev, 1917), 9-16 pp. (reprinted from Der telegraf, prospectus); Tsi zenen mir hefker? (Are we without order?) (Kiev, 1917), 9 pp. He was one of the few exceptions who in Zionist-Hebraist circles did not stop fighting for Yiddish and who appreciated the Yiddish word. He was also beloved by Ukrainian intellectuals. He died in Kiev.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography; Y. Grinboym, Fun mayn dor (Of my generation) (Tel Aviv, 1959), pp. 250-56; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.
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