BLIS, DAVID (1870–1942), Cuban communal leader. David Blizhnianski-Halpern was born in Grodno and studied in a yeshivah in Volozhin. He continued his studies in the Rabbinical Seminary in Breslau and the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He joined his parents, who settled in *Moisesville (Argentina), but he continued his travels, being more interested in business than in agriculture. He lived in Mexico for a few years and participated in the foundation of the first Jewish organization there, Alianza Monte Sinai (1912). He apprently lent money to President Francisco Madero and fled from Mexico following his assassination, reaching Cuba in 1913. Blis took an active part in the foundation of almost all the early Jewish organizations of Cuba and was later nicknamed "the grandfather of the Jewish community." He founded the Young Men's Hebrew Association (1916), a common social framework for Americans and Sephardim in Cuba. From the early 1920s he took an active part in assisting immigrants from Eastern Europe, and was co-founder (1924) and president of the Centro Hebreo, and the president of the Centro Israelita, which developed from it. From 1933 to 1934 he was president of the Comisión Jurídica, which protected the Jewish community during the political upheavals of that period.
Blis was an ardent Zionist and promoted the early Zionist activities of the Sephardi Jews. As one of the most prominent members of the Unión Sionista he was named honorary president in 1937. On Blis's initiative the Cuban Senate approved unanimously in 1919 a resolution supporting the efforts of the Jewish people to achieve self-determination and national independence‥
B. Sapir, Jewish Community of Cuba (1948), 18–21. add. bibliography: J. Hochstein, "David Blis," in: Havaner Lebn Almanaque 1947–48.
[Margalit Bejarano (2nd ed.)]