Article - Yizhak Gruenbaum
Yizhak Gruenbaum, one of the outstanding leaders of Polish Jewry, Zionist leader, and Israel's first minister of the interior, was born in Warsaw on the November 24, 1879. His father, himself a Jewish intellectual, was one of those who fought for the education of the Jewish population. Gruenbaum received his education in Plonsk where he attended heder and high school, going on to the University of Warsaw where he studied law. While at university he was a member of various Zionist groups. At the same time (1901) he began his journalistic career, writing and editing for the Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, and Russian press. He was a delegate to all the Zionist Congresses from the 7th on. Yet, he also fought for the recognition of the non-religious Jews and for the use of Yiddish in government institutions.
In the year 1918 Yizhak Gruenbaum returned from Russia to the independent Poland and started his Zionist career. He was elected a member of the Polish Sejm (parliament) and was a member of the Legal Committee which drew up the constitution of the new Polish state. He sponsored the formation of the "Minorities bloc" (1922) and fought fiercely for equal rights for the Jews and against anti-Semitism. His speeches in the Sejm were both powerful and provocative. Through his unceasing fight for Jewish rights he won the hearts of the Jewish masses in Poland and restored their pride and self-confidence. He was elected chairman of the group of Jewish members of the Sejm.
Gruenbaum was one of the founders of the Tarbut organization for the encouragement of Jewish education and culture and the representative of the Jewish National Fund in Poland. When the radical Zionist group "AI Ha-Mishmar" achieved a majority in the Polish Zionist movement, Gruenbaum became the leader of Polish Zionism. He fought fiercely against the Mandatory Government's White Papers and objected to the enlargement of the Jewish Agency Executive (by the inclusion of non-Zionists), fearing that the movement would lose its popular and democratic character. When his objections proved unsuccessful, he accepted the verdict of the majority.
He visited Jerusalem for the first time in 1925. At the 18th Zionist Congress (1933) he was elected to the Zionist Executive and until 1948 he held many important administrative posts on the Jewish Agency and Zionist Organization Executives. He also served as head of the Bialik Institute.
It was at his initiative that general labor exchanges were set up to settle industrial relations. He was a member of Ben-Gurion's committee that drew up plans for the foundation of the Jewish State. On the declaration of the State, Gruenbaum was chosen as a member of the Provisional Government and later as Israel's first minister of the interior. He was responsible for preparing the elections to the "Preparatory Assembly" which became the First Knesset.
After leaving the government, Yizhak Gruenbaum went to live on kibbutz Gan Shemuel of which his son was a member. He continued his interest in political and social problems and put forward his views through the medium of the Hebrew press. His books written in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, and Polish included "The Wars of the Jews of Poland 1905-1912"; essays on "the Zionist Movement"; "the Pangs of Redemption"; "the Face of the Generation".
He died in Tel Aviv on September 7, 1970.