Simon, Sir Leon

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SIMON, SIR LEON (1881–1965), English Zionist leader, Hebrew writer, and British civil servant. Born in Southampton and educated at Manchester Grammar School and Oxford, in 1904 Simon entered the service of the General Post Office, becoming director of telegraphs and telephones (1931–35) and director of the savings bank (1935–44). For his services, he was knighted in 1944. Simon received a Jewish and Hebrew education from his father, a Manchester rabbi. He was particularly influenced by *Aḥad Ha-Am, who settled in London in 1907. He was also a member of the group of Zionists who were influenced by Chaim *Weizmann and supported his political efforts during World War i that led to the *Balfour Declaration (the Hebrew version of the Declaration was written by Simon). Simon was a member of the *Zionist Commission that visited Palestine in 1918 and took part in laying the cornerstone of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Later he served as chairman of the university's Executive Council (1946–49) and Board of Governors (1950–53). In 1945–46 he was a member of the Commission of Inquiry into Jewish Education in Palestine, on behalf of the British government. The only Jew on the commission, Simon objected to the conclusion that English should be the language of instruction in higher education. He lived in Jerusalem from 1946 to 1953; during that period he also worked in the Israeli Ministry of Posts, laying the plans for the post office bank (1950–53). After his return to England, he continued his association with several cultural projects in Israel.

Simon was a brilliant writer in both English and Hebrew. He published essays and articles in English on Zionism and Hebrew culture and literature. Some of his essays were collected in Studies in Jewish Nationalism (1920). He edited the anthology Aspects of The Hebrew Genius: Essays on Jewish Literature and Thought (1910) and wrote The Case of the Anti-Zionists: A Reply (1917) and Zionism and the Jewish Problem (1918). Together with Leonard Stein, he edited Awakening Palestine (1923). Simon's main work in English is his translation of Aḥad Ha-Am's writings, which were first published in journals and later in books (a list of translations and their editions is to be found in Goell, Bibliography, 83–84). In collaboration with J. Heller, Simon wrote a book entitled Aḥad Ha-Am: Asher Ginzburg (Heb., 1955; Eng., 1960), and together with I. Pograbinski he edited the second edition of Aḥad Ha-Am's letters (6 vols., 1956–60).

From 1910 Simon began to publish a series of essays in Hebrew on Greek literature (the first of their kind in Hebrew) in Ha-Shilo'aḥ. They were later collected (1951) in his book Perakim be-Sifrut Yavan ha-Attikah ("Chapters on Ancient Greek Literature," 1951). He also translated into Hebrew seven of Plato's Dialogues, the Memoirs of Xenophon, and On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. On his 80th birthday, an anthology, Eshkolot, dedicated to the study of classical culture and including a bibliography by Ḥaim Toren (4th vol., 1960), was published in his honor.

[Getzel Kressel]

His brother, maurice simon (1874–1955), a Hebraist and translator, was born in Manchester. Because of a breakdown in health, Simon lived in South Africa for a while. Later he became associated with the work of the Soncino Press, founded in London by his relative J. Davidson, and was co-translator (into English) of the Zohar (1931–34) and Midrash Rabbah (1939). He also cooperated in the Soncino translation of the Talmud (1935–52) and its Minor Tractates (1965). Simon edited the Speeches, Articles and Letters of Israel Zangwill (1937) and was coeditor of the Essays and Addresses, by Samuel Daiches (1955). He also wrote Jewish Religious Conflicts (1950) and numerous short studies in periodicals and reviews.

[Ruth P. Lehmann]


Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 497f.