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Farbstein, Yehoshu‘a Heshel

(1870–1948), Zionist leader. Born in Warsaw, Yehoshu‘a Heshel Farbstein was an active member of the Ḥibat Tsiyon movement and a delegate to the First World Zionist Congress in 1897. Earlier, Farbstein had been involved in ill-fated attempts to gain a commitment from Theodor Herzl that Zionism would not be contrary to Jewish religious law. After the founding of Mizraḥi in 1902, Farbstein participated in its activities and struggled against members of the organization who supported withdrawal from the Zionist Federation.

Farbstein was concurrently involved in the business world and served as chairman of the Jewish Merchants Association in Warsaw until World War I. Unlike other Zionist leaders, he did not leave Poland during the war years, but took part in diverse humanitarian activities that enhanced his public status. He also was appointed head of the Zionist Federation in Poland in 1915.

As a Zionist, Farbstein emphasized the centrality of the Land of Israel and the Hebrew language, and he clashed on these issues with the Folkist Party. In 1918, with the return of Zionist leaders Yitsḥak Grünbaum and Leon Lewite from Russia, Farbstein resigned from the Zionist Federation in Poland and ultimately became the president of Mizraḥi in Poland. While holding this position—which he filled until moving to Palestine in 1931—he actively promoted middle-class immigration and settlement. He also encouraged Mizraḥi to focus on political issues rather than cultural activities. At the same time, he continued to work within a general Zionist framework, serving from 1920 as a member of the Zionist Executive and as president of Keren Hayesod in Poland between 1927 and 1931.

Farbstein was a deputy in the Polish Sejm (Parliament) from 1919 to 1930, where he dealt with general economic issues as well as the interests of Polish Jews. He was also an executive member of Koło, the Jewish parliamentary faction. In this latter capacity, he tried to serve as a liaison between Zionists in Congress Poland—who took radical positions against the authorities—and those in Galicia, who promoted a more compromising approach. Farbstein also served as chairman of the Warsaw Jewish community’s executive between 1926 and 1931, representing the Zionist–Mizraḥi bloc. He improved the community’s financial situation and also attempted to serve Zionist and Mizraḥi party interests, but opposition from Agudas Yisroel made this difficult.

After his immigration to Palestine in 1931, Farbstein served on the executive of the Jewish Agency for two years. In this position, he sought to increase the numbers of immigrants from the Polish middle class and also initiated Jewish settlement in Transjordan. He later served as chairman of the Mizraḥi Bank and president of the Jewish community of Jerusalem.

Suggested Reading

Joseph Elichai (Eliḥai), “Farbshtain: Rosh kehilat V’arshah ve-nasi’ ha-mizraḥi be-Polin,” Sheragai 4 (1983): 175–185; Alexander Guterman, Kehilat V’arshah ben shete milḥamot ha-‘olam (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, 1997); Yosef Heftman, David Tsevi Pinkes, and Avraham Zamir, eds., ‘Askan le-mofet (Tel Aviv, 1945); Ezra Mendelsohn, Zionism in Poland: The Formative Years, 1915–1926 (New Haven, 1981).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 404, Brocho Reichel, Papers, ca. 1900-ca. 1953.



Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen