RUFEISEN, JOSEPH (1887–1949), Czechoslovakian Zionist leader. Born in Ostrava, at the age of 14 Rufeisen founded a Zionist society among the secondary school pupils of his town. He studied law in Vienna, where he became one of the leaders of the movement of Zionist students and a founder of the Ha-Koaḥ sports society. On completing his studies in 1910, he settled in his native town as an advocate. When the Czechoslovak Republic was established in 1918 Rufeisen was among the founders of the Jewish National Council and was elected president of the Zionist District Committee of Moravia and Silesia. In 1921 he was elected president of the Zionist Organization of Czechoslovakia, whereupon the headquarters of the movement were transferred from Prague to Ostrava. He held this position until the spring of 1938 when he left for Palestine. He attended all the Zionist Congresses from 1921 on and was a member of the Zionist Actions Committee and the central judicial and economic institutions of the World Zionist Organization. In Palestine he settled in Tel Aviv and was alternately president and vice president of the Association of General Zionists, as well as president of the Association of Czechoslovak Immigrants.
Rufeisen was convinced that the future of the Jewish people was linked to the future of Ereẓ Israel, and he therefore considered the rapid development of the land to be its principal task. He was involved in most of the national economic enterprises while at the same time he turned his attention to the human element required for the realization of Zionism – and especially to the pioneering movement. Rufeisen was among the leaders of General Zionists and maintained an alliance with the Zionist-Socialist camp. In political matters, he was among the active supporters of *Weizmann. Although he was in favor of "work in the present" (see *Helsingfors Program) in the Diaspora, because he believed that a strong Diaspora would serve as a safeguard and support for the rapid and secure development of Ereẓ Israel, he himself concentrated on working for Ereẓ Israel. He gathered around himself a group of Zionist activists which became the leadership and executive arm of the Zionist movement in Czechoslovakia.
Ch. Yahil, Devarim al ha-Ẓiyyonut ha-Czechoslovakit (1967); idem, in: Gesher, 13 (1967), 59–60.