Levin, Shmarya

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LEVIN, SHMARYA (Shemaryahu ; 1867–1935), Zionist leader, Hebrew and Yiddish author. Born in Svisloch, Belorussia, Levin joined Ḥibbat Zion in his youth, was one of *Aḥad Ha-Am's adherents, becoming a member of the *Benei Moshe society. Levin studied at Berlin University and at the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in the same city, joining the Russian-Jewish Scientific Society, which proliferated the idea of Jewish nationalism among Russian-Jewish students in Germany. He served as *Kazyonny ravvin in Grodno (1896–97) and Yekatrinoslav (1898–1904) and preached in Vilna (1904–06). Throughout his career he worked toward spreading Zionist ideas both orally and in the Hebrew press (Ha-Shilo'aḥ, Ha-Zeman, Ha-Ẓofeh) and the Yiddish press (Der Yud, Der Fraynd). At the Sixth Zionist Congress (1903), Levin was among the leaders of the opposition to the *Uganda Scheme. He was also among the founders of the League for the Attainment of Equal Rights for the Jewish People in Russia (established in 1905) and a member of its central board. In 1906 Levin was chosen to the first Russian Duma as delegate of the Jewish National List in Vilna (with the support of the Lithuanians). He participated in deliberations in the Duma and delivered two speeches on the pogrom in Bialystok. After the first Duma was disbanded, Levin was among the signators of the Vyborg Declaration, which called for civil disobedience.

Afterward, Levin left Russia and settled in Berlin, from where he traveled to the United States on a number of lecture tours. At the Tenth Zionist Congress (1911), he was elected a member of the Zionist Executive. He took part in the work of the *Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden in Germany and was among the initiators of the establishment of the technical school in Haifa (the *Technion); he also influenced American Jews to contribute to this cause. Levin resigned from the board of governors of the Technion together with Aḥad Ha-Am and J. *Tschlenow after their suggestion to use Hebrew as the language of instruction was rejected. During World War i he lived in the U.S. and directed propaganda work on Zionism and Hebrew culture orally and in writing. Together with Y.D. *Berkowitz he edited the weekly Ha-Toren and regularly wrote its editorials. Levin was outstanding as a sharp-witted publicist, and he became particularly famous as a speaker and conversationalist. His speeches were a blend of Jewish heritage and European culture, spiced with Jewish folk wit. He frequently contributed to the Zionist press in all its languages, and some of his articles were collected in Bi-Ymei ha-Ma'avar ("In the Days of Transition," 1949).

In 1920 Levin participated in the postwar Zionist Conference in London and was entrusted with the propaganda for *Keren Hayesod. He was among the founders and directors of the Devir publishing house. In 1924 he settled in Palestine, traveling from time to time in various countries on missions for the Zionist Movement and its funds. He developed ties of friendship with Sir Arthur *Wauchope, the high commissioner for Palestine. Levin's first book was entitled Asarah Shirim ("Ten Poems," original works and translations, 1899). In his last years he began to publish his memoirs in the Jewish Daily Forward (New York). A selection of his letters was published in 1966 entitled Iggerot Shemaryahu Levin. A small selection of his articles appeared in English entitled Out of Bondage (1919). Levin's autobiography and memoirs appeared in English in three volumes entitled Childhood in Exile (1929), Youth in Revolt (1930), and The Arena (1932). In 1967 it appeared in one volume (abridged by Maurice Samuel) entitled Forward from Exile (1967).


L. Lipsky, A Gallery of Zionist Profiles (1956), 78–85; Z. Woyslawsky, Yeḥidim bi-Reshut ha-Rabbim (1943), 62–75; B. Katznelson, Be-Ḥavlei Adam (19642), 83–88; J. Fichmann, Be-Terem Aviv (1959), 310–23; Ch. Weizmann, Trial and Error (1949), index.

[Yehuda Slutsky]