Gruenbaum, Yiẓḥak

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GRUENBAUM, YIẒḤAK (1879–1970), General Zionist leader, spokesman of Polish Jewry between the two World Wars, first minister of the interior in the Provisional Government of the State of Israel, and signatory of Israel's Declaration of Independence. Born in Warsaw, Gruenbaum grew up in Plonsk, and studied first in a ḥeder, then in a Jewish government school, and later a government gymnasium in Plotzk. He learned Hebrew from private teachers. Gruenbaum went to university in Warsaw, starting in medicine, but then switching to law. He became involved in Zionist activity and in publicist writing during his student days, frequenting the home of the writer Isaac Leib *Peretz; he later edited several newspapers in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew, inter alia serving on the editorial board of Ha-Olam and Ha-Ẓefirah. In later years he fought to close down the Jewish press in languages other than Yiddish and Hebrew. Gruenbaum was active in promoting Hebrew culture in Poland and in the *Tarbut organization. He tried to ensure that the struggle of the Jews in the Diaspora for their rights should be led by Zionists, and was a central figure at the conference of Russian Zionists at Helsingfors in 1906 (see *Helsingfors Program). In the years 1908–10 he lived in Vilna and was appointed secretary general of the Zionist Center in Russia. He participated in most of the Zionist Congresses from the Seventh Congress in 1905. Gruenbaum was politically active in Poland, struggling for the rights of the Jews there. In the elections to the Fourth Duma in 1912, he rallied support for the socialist candidate Jagiello, who supported equal rights for the Jews, and promised to fight against the antisemitic Polish nationalists. After the outbreak of World War i Gruenbaum settled in Petrograd, and upon the outbreak of the October Revolution became the editor of the Zionist daily Petragrader Tageblatt, advocating a secular community and official status for Yiddish in government institutions. In September 1918 he returned to Warsaw, becoming active in Zionist work while also participating in the establishment of the Polish Provisional National Council, which played an important role in the campaign for equal rights for the Jews during the first years of independent Poland. In 1919 Gruenbaum was elected to the Sejm (the Polish parliament) and was a member of the commission that prepared the Polish Constitution, advocating the inclusion of articles guaranteeing the rights of the national minorities. In order to overcome the distorted election regulations that sought to prejudice the chances of national minorities of being elected, he played an active role in the formation of a "National Minorities Bloc." In the 1922 elections this bloc, which included the Jews, obtained a considerable number of mandates. The policy of fighting for Jewish interests within the framework of the general struggle for minorities rights in Poland was controversial among the Polish Jews and was resented by many non-Jewish Poles. In the following elections the strength of the Minorities Bloc declined and in the course of the 1930s, upon the increase of overt antisemitism in Poland, it was abandoned. Gruenbaum remained a member of the Sejm until he left Poland in 1932. For much of time, he also served as the chairman of the Sejm's Jewish members club.

Gruenbaum first visited Palestine in 1925. Within the Zionist movement Gruenbaum opposed the enlargement of the Jewish Agency in 1929 through the cooperation of non-Zionists, and headed the radical Zionist faction known in Poland as Al ha-Mishmar. In 1932 he left for Paris. At the Zionist Congress of 1933 he was elected a member of the Jewish Agency Executive, following which he settled in Palestine. In the executive he headed the Aliyah Department in the years 1933–35 and the Labor Department 1935–48, and was also a member of the Organization Department (1935–46). In 1935–48 he headed the Mossad Bialik publishing house.

Gruenbaum was arrested by the British on "Black Saturday" in June 1946, and remained interned in Latrun until November. After the establishment of the State he was treasurer of the Jewish Agency until 1950 and served as its commissioner in 1950–51. On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, Gruenbaum was a member of the People's Administration, in charge of internal affairs, and in this capacity signed the Declaration of Independence. In the Provisional Government he was minister of the interior, in which position he was in charge of the elections to the Constituent Assembly in 1949. He ran in these elections in a personal list, but failed to pass the 1% qualifying threshold. In subsequent years Gruenbaum wrote on Zionist affairs and was a frequent contributor to the Mapam daily Al ha-Mishmar. He spent the last ten years of his life in kibbutz Gan Shemuel.

Gruenbaum's radical positions earned both admirers and enemies.

His principal writings are Ha-Tenu'ah ha-Ẓiyyonit be-Hitpatteḥutah (4 vols., 1942–54); Milḥamot Yehudei Polin (1922, 19412); Bi-Ymei Ḥurban ve-Sho'ah (1940–46); Materjały w sprawie żydowskiej w Polsce (2 vols., 1919–22); Dor be-Mivḥan (1951); Penei ha-Dor (2 vols., 1957–60); and Ne'umim ba-Seim ha-Polani (1963); he edited the first and sixth volumes of Enẓiklopedyah shel Galuyyot (1953, 1959).

[Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson /

Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]