Tseirei Zion

Tseirei Zion (Hebrew: Tseire(i) Tsi(y)on = The Youth of Zion) – an organisation established in 1903–1904 in the Kingdom of Poland and in Galicia.

In years 1920-1921 it was transformed into an independent political party, the Zionist-Socialist Workers Party (also known as the S.S. – the Russian acronym for Zionist-Socialists). The members of the organisation were expected to implement Zionist and socialist ideology through the aliyah, pioneering work and striving towards the rebirth of the Hebrew language. The organisation had the status of an autonomous faction of the World Zionist Organisation, which it criticised for the reliance on diplomacy in its efforts for the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine. The programme of the organisation was formulated during a conference in Kishinev in 1906.

In 1910 another conference of the Zionist-Socialists was held in Łódź; most of those who attended were arrested. The first global conference of the Zionist Socialists took place in Vienna in 1913, during the 11th Zionist Congress. The Zionist-Socialists played an important role in the establishment of the HeHalutz and Jewish self-defence groups in Russia; its influences extended to the territories of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Palestine, Romania as well as Germany, United Kingdom, the United States, South America and South Africa. The central office of the movement was located in Warsaw. In Poland, the organisation’s influence extended mostly to the former Russian Partition. Large centres existed in Będzin, Częstochowa, Kielce, Łódź, Piotrków Trybunalski and Warsaw. In May 1919 a congress of Zionist-Socialists from the former territories of Western Galicia was held, while in June 1919 the second nationwide conference of the faction operating in the former Kingdom of Poland took place in Warsaw. The participants demanded that the organisation be given autonomy within the structures of the Zionist Organisation in Poland due to the fact that there were calls to transform the organisation into a federation.

The followers of the movement believed that the language of Polish Jews should be Yiddish, whereas the Jews living in Palestine should use Hebrew. During the 4th congress of the Zionist Organisation in Poland, two distinct groups have come into being – the “People’s Group” of Zionist socialists led by Izrael Meremiński as well as the right-wing “Aiges” group. Most followers of the Zionist Socialist Party were members of the “People’s Group”. In 1919, the Zionist Socialists adopted a new, socialist programme. Along with the Hapoel Hatzair, the right-wing faction established the Hitachdut World Zionist Workers’ Party in 1920. During the conference held in Warsaw on 11-12 III 1923, the Central Committee of the Zionist Socialists adopted the resolution on the merger with the right faction of the Poale Zion, with the new organisation being called the Poale Zion United Jewish Socialist Workers Party. Despite the formal merger, the delegates of the Zionist Socialists continued to appear under their own name, for example during the second world congress of the Zionist Socialists in Gdańsk (September 1924).

The objective of the movement has been to obtain legal guarantees that the new Jewish state would be formed in Palestine; subsequently, the movement intended to create a socialist Jewish state there. Insofar as the diaspora was concerned, the Zionist Socialists believed it should enjoy autonomy. The movement established Hebrew schools for the children of poverty-stricken craftsmen and organised Hebrew language lessons and lectures on Jewish history for adults. The organisation participated in the activities of the League for the Workers of Palestine as well as in the collection of tools for craftsmen and farmers which were then sent to worker’s organisations in Palestine. The movement also established its own cooperatives, most of them operating in the foodstuffs sector.

It maintained cooperation with other Zionist organisations for the benefit of the Tarbut, Keren Hayesod, Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, Maccabi and HeHalutz. The official newspaper published by the organisation was the Warsaw weekly called “Befraiung”, published in Yiddish. During the elections to the Polish Sejm in 1922 the movement formed part of an electoral alliance with the Poale Zion. Its delegates have managed to secure various positions in municipal councils and commune authorities. The most important activists of the organisation in Poland were: J. C. Kołtun, Małkin, N. Szwalbe, dr J. Wygodzki, dr M. Bekier, J. Rapaport, L. Mundlak, D. Silberman, J. Szwegrow, A Stein, A. I. Prowalski and R. Stern.

Natalia Aleksiun

Quoted after: Tomaszewski J., Żbikowski A., Żydzi w Polsce. Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon. [Jews in Poland – Their History and Culture. A Lexicon.], , Warsaw 2001.


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