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Joseph Sprinzak

(1885 - 1959)


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Born in Moscow, Sprinzak's father was active in the Hovevei Zion. When Jews were expelled from Moscow in 1891, the family moved to Kishinev and then Warsaw. The home was a center for young Hebrew writers and Zionists. In the early 1900s, he was one of the organizers of HaTehiyah, a Zionist group led by Yitzhak Gruenbaum. During this period he worked in a Hebrew publishing house as well as on Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers in Warsaw. In 1905 he returned to Kishinev where he was active in Zionist affairs. In 1908 he spent several months in Constantinople where he was in contact with Zionist leaders, and then went to Beirut to study medicine. His studies were cut very short when, after just a few months, he was asked to become secretary of HaPoel HaZair.

During World War I he was in Eretz Yisrael and after the war, was instrumental in founding Hitahdut, a world movement which joined HaPoel HaZair and Zeirei Zion. A delegate to the 11th and 12th Zionist Congresses, Sprinzak became the first representative of the yishuv's labor movement to be elected to the Zionist Executive.

When independence was declared in 1948, he was elected to the Provisional State Council as well as the first three Knessets, serving as speaker for 10 years.

Joseph Sprinzak was known as a Zionist leader who strongly identified with the rank-and-file, both in Israel and abroad. His conception of Zionism was based on socialism and the process of national rebirth.

During his tenure as secretary of HaPoel HaZair, he was involved in the absorption of Jews from Yemen. During World War I, he helped organize the yishuv's Jewish workers. In the 1920s, as a member of the Zionist executive, he was head of the Labor and then the Aliyah Departments. He also helped found the Histadrut labor federation and was a member of the Tel Aviv municipality.

In the 1930s, as a member of the Histadrut executive, Sprinzak was instrumental in the formation of Ben-Gurion's Mapai political party. In the 1940s he became a leading member of the Zionist General Council and eventually was general secretary of the Histadrut.

As Knesset speaker during the body's first 10 years, Sprinzak had a major influence on the country's emerging democracy. He died in 1959.


Sources: The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente

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