Yitzhak Gruenbaum (1879-1970)

    Zionist and Jewish leader in Poland, leader of the radical faction in General Zionism, one of the main spokesmen of Polish Jewry between the wars, publicist, historian, minister of the interior in Israel's first cabinet.

    Born Warsaw, Poland; died Gan Shmuel, Israel.

    Gruenbaum grew up in Plonsk in Russian Poland, where he joined a Zionist movement in 1888 while in high school. His Zionist and publicist activities continued while studying law in Warsaw. He served as a delegate to the Zionist Congresses from the seventh congress in 1905 onward.

    He was active in promoting Hebrew culture in Poland and tried to ensure that the struggle of the Jews in the Diaspora for their rights should be led by Zionists. He was a central figure at the conference of Russian Zionists at Helsingfors in 1906. He was in St. Petersburg during the First World War, but returned to Warsaw in 1918, where he established the Provisional National Council, which played an important role in the campaign for civic and political rights of the Jews during the first years of independent Poland. In 1919, Gruenbaum was elected to the Sejm, the Polish parliament, where he fought for the rights of national minorities, and he remained a member until he left the country in 1932.

    In Zionist life Gruenbaum was vigorously opposed to the "enlargement" of the Jewish Agency by the co-option of non-Zionists.

    In 1932 he moved to Paris and at the Zionist Congress of 1933 he was elected a member of the Jewish Agency Executive and settled in Palestine. He was immediately appointed head of the Aliya Department, a position he held for two years. From 1935-1948, he was head of the Labor Department, one of the leaders of the Organization Department and also headed the Bialik publishing house. He served as treasurer of the Jewish Agency from 1949-1950 and commissioner from 1950-1951.

    On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, Gruenbaum was a member of Minhelet ha-Am ("People's Administration") in charge of internal affairs and became minister of the interior in the Provisional Government. Elections to the Knesset in 1949 were under his guidance. He himself ran for election under his own personal list, campaigning largely for the secularization of the state, but failed to be elected.

    He remained active for many years in journalism and Zionist affairs, but his sympathies moved to the Leftist faction. He spent the last decade of his life on Kibbutz Gan Shemuel.

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