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Kleinbaum, Moyshe

(1909–1972), Zionist leader and publicist. Moyshe Kleinbaum (Sneh) was born in Radzyn Podlaski, Poland, to a traditional Zionist family. In 1935, he graduated as a physician from the University of Warsaw. During his college years he had chaired the Warsaw Zionist youth organization Jardenia, while at the same time starting his career in journalism and public affairs. In 1931, he was appointed editor of Nowe Słowo, a Zionist daily, which was issued as a weekly under the title Opinia after 1933.

Beginning in 1932, Kleinbaum worked closely with Yitsḥak Grünbaum in the Executive of the Polish Federation of General Zionists. From 1933, the year Grünbaum left for Palestine, Kleinbaum in effect became his successor, taking over as head of the Warsaw Zionist Center and its institutions. That same year, and subsequently, he was elected as a delegate to the Zionist Congress; and at the gathering of 1935 was chosen to be a member of the Central Committee.

In 1935, Kleinbaum served as political editor of the Yiddish daily Haynt, a Zionist newspaper that was the most important and widely distributed Polish Jewish publication. In response to Kleinbaum’s appeal to the country’s Jews to follow the lead of Poland’s opposition parties by boycotting parliamentary elections—which from 1935 did not conform to democratic standards—the authorities tried to silence him by conscripting him for a year of military service. After his release, however, he renewed and intensified his activities. Kleinbaum’s chief rivals within the Jewish community were members of the Bund, which by the end of the 1930s was growing in strength.

At the Twenty-First Zionist Congress in Geneva (August 1939), David Ben-Gurion deputed Kleinbaum to go to London to investigate whether the British government would organize a Jewish Army Legion in Poland that would eventually immigrate to Palestine. In light of the deteriorating international situation, though, he hurried back to Warsaw, arriving there the day before World War II began. He was immediately conscripted into the Polish army, and after a short while his unit was captured by the Soviets. Kleinbaum managed to escape from his captors, eventually reaching Vilna, and immigrated to Palestine in March 1940. Immediately after his arrival, Kleinbaum became actively involved with local Polish Jewish representatives. He soon joined Haganah, and from 1941 to 1946 headed its command. After 1946, he experienced an ideological volte-face and embraced radical left-wing parties, espousing pro-Soviet positions.

In 1948, Kleinbaum took part in the inaugural convention of Mapam (Mifleget Po‘alim Me’uḥedet; United Workers Party) and remained a member of its secretariat until 1953. At the end of that year, his views shifted even further to the left and he joined the Israeli Communist Party (known as Maki, for Miflagah ha-Komunistit ha-Yisre’elit), which he represented in the Knesset until 1965. He justified his orientation by pointing to the Soviet Union’s critical role in eradicating the Nazis and in saving the remnant of European Jewry.

After the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, Kleinbaum changed his views yet again, bitterly attacking the anti-Israel position of the Soviet government. In his will, he expressed regret that in the last years of his life he had become involved in anti-Zionist activities.

Suggested Reading

Eli Shaltiel, Tamid bi-meri: Mosheh Sneh; Biografyah (Tel Aviv, 2000); Moshe Sneh, Aḥarit ke-reshit: Mivḥar devarim, 1967–1972, ed. Yair Tsaban (Tel Aviv, 1982).



Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler