SHOCHAT, MANIA WILBUSHEWITCH
SHOCHAT, MANIA WILBUSHEWITCH (1880–1961), one of the leaders of the *Ha-Shomer organization. Born on the estate of Lososna, near Grodno, Belorussia, she left her father's house in her youth and went to work in her brother's factory in Minsk in order to become acquainted with the living conditions of the workers and assist them. There she became associated with revolutionary circles (*Gershuni and others) and was arrested during the summer of 1899. In prison she met the chief of the secret police of Moscow, Zubatov, who advanced the idea of establishing a workers' movement that would be loyal to the czar and supported by him ("police socialism," or "Zubatovshchina"). Zubatov convinced her that the establishment of a Jewish workers' party under the aegis of the authorities, concerning itself solely with professional and economic interests and abstaining from political activities against the regime, would be a blessing to the Jewish masses and would lead to an extension of Jewish civic rights. Under his influence she undertook to establish such a movement, and in the summer of 1901 she participated in the establishment of the Jewish Independent Labor Party. The workers organized within this party and the strikes they declared were successful because agents of the secret police supported them. They were stubbornly opposed by the Bund and the other Jewish Socialist groups, however. Mania Wilbushewitz played a central role in the party, and even discussed its affairs with the minister of the interior, *Plehve (May 1902).
With the change of the government's policy toward Zubatov's projects and under the impact of the Kishinev pogrom, the party reached an impasse and in the summer of 1903 announced its own dissolution. Mania Wilbushewitch subsequently underwent a period of grave crisis. She unsuccessfully attempted to assume a role in revolutionary activities. At the beginning of 1904, her brother Naḥum Wilbushewitch invited her to visit Ereẓ Israel, and for a year she traveled through the country studying the conditions of settlement and came to the conclusion that only through collective agricultural settlement could a wide class of Jewish workers emerge – an essential condition for the development of Ereẓ Israel into a Jewish country. In 1907 she undertook a journey to Europe and the United States in order to study various communist settlements. Upon her return, she sought out a group of men who would cooperate in the realization of her project and thus became associated with the members of the Bar-Giora group led by Israel Shochat. Under her influence its members settled on a farm near Sejera (Ilaniyah) and in 1907–08 undertook to farm it on a collective basis, thus inaugurating the first experiment of collective settlement in Ereẓ Israel.
In 1908 she married Israel Shochat and with him was among the founders of Ha-Shomer (1909). She became a central figure in Ha-Shomer, where her spiritual influence prevailed. When World War I broke out, the Turkish authorities banished Mania and Israel Shochat to Bursa, Anatolia. It was not until the spring of 1919 (after they had traveled to Stockholm to attend the Po'alei Zion convention) that both returned to Palestine and joined the Aḥdut Avodah party. In 1921 Mania was a member of the first Histadrut delegation to visit the United States. Her presence aroused bitter polemics when the Bundists and the Communists recalled her collaboration with Zubatov and accused her of denouncing revolutionaries to the secret police. She then published her memoirs in the newspaper Di Tsayt. During the following years she devoted herself to the activities of *Gedud ha-Avodah, and after its dissolution she was active in Kefar Giladi. In 1930 she was among the founders of the League for Jewish-Arab Friendship. In 1948, she joined the Mapam party and settled in Tel Aviv, where she devoted herself to social work. She published memoirs in Divrei Po'alot (1930), Koveẓ ha-Shomer (1937), and Sefer ha-Shomer (1957).
Dinur, Haganah, vols. 1–2 (1954), indexes; S. Sheva, Shevet ha-No'azim (1969); M. Mishkinsky, in: Zion, 25:3–4 (1959/60), 238–49.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.