Zalman Shazar was born in the Belorussian town of Mir as Shneur Zalman Rubashov, a hasidic Habad family. Following a religious education, he became active in the Po'alei Zion movement, organizing Jewish selfdefense units during the 1905 revolution.
Shazar was a member of the Jewish Agency delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1947.
Elected to the First Knesset, he became Israel's first Minister of Education and Culture (1949-1951). Continuing as a member of Knesset, he became a member of the Jewish Agency Executive (1952), and from 1956 to 1960 was acting chairman of the Agency's Jerusalem Executive.