Zissu, Abraham Leib

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ZISSU, ABRAHAM LEIB (1888–1956), Romanian Zionist leader and author. Born in Piatra-Neamţ, Zissu was descended from prominent Ḥabad Ḥasidim and was raised in a religious environment. Although he became an important manufacturer, Zissu devoted most of his time to literary and political work of a Jewish or Zionist nature. He joined Leon *Algazi and the philo-Semitic Romanian writer Gala Galaction (1879–1961) in publishing the periodical Spicul; was coeditor (from 1908) with M.M. *Braunstein (Mi-Bashan) of the Hebrew monthly Ha-Mekiẓ; and in 1919 founded the Romanian Zionist daily Mântuirea.

As an active Zionist, Zissu often came into conflict with Jewish assimilationists who headed many Jewish institutions, and in his writing developed a violently polemical style. He wrote several novels and other works on Jewish themes, including Spovedania unui Candelabru ("Confession of a Candelabrum", 1926); Ereticul dela Maˇnastirea Neamţului ("The Heretic of the Neamţ Monastery", 1930); Calea Calvarului ("The Road of Calvary", 1935); and Samson şi Noul Dagon ("Samson and the New Dagon", 1939). The publication of his study Logos, Israel, Biserica ("The Logos, Israel, and the Church", 1937) brought him threats of violence from outraged antisemitic students. From 1944 he headed the Zionist Federation and the World Jewish Congress (Romanian section), and organized the mass emigration to Ereẓ Israel of Romanian Jews. Zissu nevertheless continued his efforts under the Communist regime until he was arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1954 for Zionist activities. Following his release, he arrived in Israel in 1956, but died a few weeks later.

Abraham Zissu's son. theodore zissu (1916–1942), who had an English university education, was a practical Zionist. He foresaw the immense importance of the then barren Negev region of Palestine and, after the 1937 Peel Commission, formed the Negev Group to fight for the area's inclusion in any future Jewish state. Zissu conducted a vigorous publicity campaign to this end. During World War ii he rose from the ranks to become a British tank officer and was fatally wounded at the battle of El Alamein. His book, The Negev, Southern District of Palestine, was published in 1946.


T. Arghezi, in: Adam (July 31, 1929); A. Saraga, He-Asui li-Veli Ḥet (1964).

[Abraham Feller]