NIR-RAFALKES, NAHUM (1884–1968). Israeli labor politician, second speaker of the *Knesset, and member of the First and Third to Fifth Knessets. Born in Warsaw, Nir-Rafalkes studied in a ḥeder and then in a gymnasium. He studied natural sciences at the universities of Warsaw and Zurich and law at the University of St. Petersburg, receiving a doctorate in law in 1908. In 1903 he joined the Zionist students' organization Kadimah, and joined *Po'alei Zion in 1905, representing it as a delegate in the Sixth and Seventh Zionist Congresses. In 1906 he was imprisoned for four months for his political activities. In 1917 he represented Po'alei Zion in the All-Russian Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies during the revolution. In 1919 he moved back to Warsaw and was elected to its city council. He participated in the Po'alei Zion Conference in Stockholm in 1919, and after the movement split the following year, he joined Left Po'alei Zion, becoming its secretary, and held negotiations for its entry into Comintern. He remained secretary of Po'alei Zion until 1935. In 1925 he settled in Palestine, where he practiced law and represented his party in the *Histadrut and the Va'ad Le'ummi. After Left Po'alei Zion merged with *Aḥdut ha-Avodah and, with it, joined *Mapam, he became a member of the pre-state People's Council and its deputy chairman. He was elected to the First Knesset on the Mapam list, and from the Third Knesset on the Aḥdut ha-Avodah-Po'alei Zion list. Already in the First Knesset he was chosen as one of the deputies to the speaker, and upon the death of Joseph *Sprinzak in 1959, was elected by an ad hoc coalition of all the parties in the plenum except *Mapai as speaker, serving in that capacity until after the elections to the Fourth Knesset. He then returned to serve as deputy speaker until leaving the Knesset in 1965. In the First Knesset he served as chairman of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, and in the Fourth and Fifth Knesset as chairman of the Public Services Committee. He wrote many articles in Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew and published a number of books. Among his writings are Wirtschaft un Politik in Eretz Yisrael (Yiddish, 1930); Leningrad (Yiddish, 1942); Pirkei Ḥayyim – Ba-Ma'agal ha-Dor ve-ha-Tenu'ah 1884–1918 (1958); Vande rungen (Yiddish, 1966).
[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.