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Leon Lewite

LEWITE, LEON (1878–1944), Polish Zionist. Born in Warsaw, Lewite joined the Zionist Movement as a youth. After the revolution of the Young Turks (1908), Lewite made it possible, through a donation of a considerable sum (5,000 rubles), to establish a Zionist political and information center in Constantinople with the participation of Victor *Jacobson, Vladimir *Jabotinsky, and Richard *Lichtheim. With the outbreak of World War I (1914), he moved to Moscow, where he joined the leadership of the Zionist Movement and of the Jewish community. After the establishment of independent Poland (1918), Lewite returned to Warsaw and served in the front line of Jewish and Zionist affairs. He was a representative of Polish Jewry on the Comité des Délégations Juives which represented Jewish interests at the Paris Peace Conference, and took part in the first Zionist conference held after the war in London (1920). Lewite concerned himself basically with practical affairs, especially with the organization of aliyah from Poland to Palestine. In 1925 he established a Polish-Palestinian chamber of commerce and remained its president until 1939. His outlook – encouragement of private middle-class initiative and lack of sympathy for the collective and cooperative labor economy in Palestine – placed him among the right-wing *General Zionists. He steered the policy of the Zionist movement in Poland in this direction for many years until the "radical" faction, under the leadership of Yiẓḥak *Gruenbaum, prevailed and caused him to resign from the presidency of the organization. The General Zionists in Poland then split, in effect, into two factions: one termed itself Et Livnot ("This is the Time to Build") and remained under the direction of Lewite; the other, Al ha-Mishmar, was led by Gruenbaum. Lewite did not devote much attention to Jewish policy on the Polish scene; he devoted himself mainly to encouraging aliyah to Palestine, especially during the years of the middle-class Fourth Aliyah in the 1920s. With the outbreak of World War II (1939) Lewite succeeded in reaching Palestine, where he was completely restricted from public activity by a severe illness.


I. Gruenbaum, Penei ha-Dor, 1 (1957), 193–9. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Mendelsohn, Zionism in Poland, The Formative Years, 19151926 (1981), index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.