London (Jan. 22)
On the 5th. of Shevat (corresponding with January 23rd.) our leader, Nahum Sokolov, celebrates his seventieth birthday, says a statement issued to-day by the Zionist Executive to all “Fellow Zionists”.
Jews in all lands, it proceeds, will, on that day, pay homage to a man who has left his mark on every aspect of Jewish life and action. As a thinker, as a scholar, as a publicist, as an interpreter of the Jewish mind, as a creator of modern Hebrew journalism, as a leader of Israel in its struggle for freedom of mind and body, Nahum Sokolov towers above our generation, a living personification of the highest traditions of our past, of the noblest hopes of our future.
It is not necessary to tell Zionists what the life-work of this man of letters and of action has meant to our national regeneration. There is no Zionist to whom the name of Nahum Sokolov is not a source of pride, a source of hope. In the difficult times through which our movement is passing at present, his presence among us is a constant inspiration. He has given to our Movement the best of his unique personality, his wise counsel, his enthusiastic ardour, his creative genius. On this day when our leader completes his seventieth year in youthful strength and vigour, Jews all over the world and Zionists in particular, will desire to give some concrete form of expression to their feeling of Joy and recognition. Nothing we know is dearer to Nahum Sokolov’s heart than the Zionist Organisation, which he has helped to build up from its early beginnings. Nothing, as he told his colleagues only a few days ago, could give him greater joy than a triumphant effort to strengthen and expand the Organisation.
The Zionist Executive have decided, the statement goes on, to honour their President by proclaiming the month of Nisan (March 15th. – April 15th.) of this present year, a Sokolov Month of the Zionist Organisation. A special effort will be made during this month to strengthen and expand the Organisation by spreading the Zionist ideal among the Jewish people, by forming new groups and societies, by enlisting new members in the local federations, by making known the Shekel to the Jewish masses, by consolifating the internal organisation of the movement.
Such an effort will show to our great leader that his spirit is alive among us, that his example inspires us, that his life work has borne fruit. The Sokolov Month of the Zionist. Organisation immediately precedes the 17th. Congress. We appeal to Zionists in all lands to make this month a powerful manifestation of the creative strength of the Zionist idea. They can pay no greater homage to the life of Nahum Sokolov.
Large numbers of congratulatory telegrams from Zionist Organisations and Zionist and Jewish Agency leaders in all parts of the world have been received at the Zionist Central Offices today.
“FATHER” OF EUROPEAN STYLE IN HEBREW JOURNALISM: ALOOF AT FIRST FROM ZIONIST MOVEMENT.
Mr. Nahum Sokolow was born at Wysogrod, near Plock, in Poland, of a Hassidic family, originally settled in Cracow, and claiming descent from Rabbi Nahum Schapiro. He started going to Chedar at the age of three. When he was five, his parents removed to Plock, where his remarkable ability attracted wide attention, and at the age of ten he was renowned as a Hebrew scholar. His father wanted him to be a Rabbi, and it was only after much difficulty that he consented on the intervention of Baron Wrangel, the Governor of Plock, to allow him to take up secular studies. He married when he was 18, and settled in Makov, where his father-in-law lived, continuing his studies, and in particular acquiring a knowledge of the European languages. For a time, he travelled in Caucasia and Bokhara as a wool-merchant.
Mr. Sokolow started writing at the age of 15, making a translation of a Hebrew Geography book. He moved to Warsaw when he was entering his twentieth year, and became a regular contributor to the Hebrew daily “Hazefirah”, of which he was afterwards editor. He was the first publicist writing political and international surveys in Hebrew in the manner of European journalism, and he soon won wide recognition and popularity. He travelled extensively abroad, and made the acquaintance of many prominent persons. He wrote travel-sketches, stories, poems, scientific treatises but mostly essays and causeries.
At first, Mr. Sokolow stood aloof from the Zionist movement, being closely associated with the Polish-language Jewish paper “Irraelita” and when the question of Jewish colonisation in the Argentine came up, he supported in the “Hazefirah” the emigration movement to that country, as an opponent of Hovevei Zionism. He soon, however, became an active adherent of the political Zionist movement, and he was one of the delegates to the First Zionist Congress called by Dr. Herzl at Basle in 1897. Thirty years after, at the commemoration of the First Congress held in 1927 in the same hall in Basle during the progress of the Fifteenth Congress, Mr. Sokolow, speaking from the platform, where not the surviving members of the First Congress, paid a glowing tribute to the memory of Herzl and Nordau, declaring that Herzl’s coming had been a miracle, the expression of the genius of the Jewish people.
Before long, Mr. Sokolow was playing a prominent part in the Zionist movement, becoming Secretary-General of the Zionist World Organisation, and editor of its central organ, the “Haolom”, moving to Cologne, where the Zionist headquarters were then situated, to take up his duties. Some years later, he returned to Warsaw, resuming his position as editor of the “Hazefirah”. In 1909, he accompanied Dr. Wolffsohn, then President of the Zionist Organisation, on a political mission to Constantinople. At the Tenth Congress in 1911 he was elected a member of the Zionist Executive.
During the War, Mr. Sokolow went to live in London, where he was associated with Dr. Weizmann and the late Dr. Tchlenow in the negotiations which resulted in the issue of the Balfour Declaration. He visited the capitals of numerous countries, interviewing Prime Ministers, statesmen, and also the Pope, to obtain declarations of sympathy and support of the Jewish national aspirations and of the Balfour Declaration.
At the time of the Peace Conference, he was elected President of the Committee of Jewish Delegations, and helped in obtaining the recognition of Jewish minority rights in the Peace Treaties. He also presided over the Conference on Jewish Rights held at Zurich in 1927, and in his opening address he said: Our slogan is to defend the rights which have been guaranteed to the minorities in the international treaties. We are not afraid of the accusation that we are a world Kahal, for the public way in which we are doing our work is sufficient to destroy this legend. It is nothing remarkable for Jews to be patriots in countries where they have full rights and enjoy prosperity. What is an achievement is to be patriots in countries where Jews live in a state of constant martyrdom.
Mr. Sokolow has since 1920 been President of the Zionist Executive and has presided since 1921 at all Zionist Congresses. At the Jewish Agency Conference in 1929 be was elected Honorary Vice-President of the Jewish Agency.