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Mordechai Nurock

NUROCK, MORDECHAI (Max; 1884–1962), Religious Zionist and Israeli politician, member of the First to Fifth Knessets. Nurock was born in Tukum in the Courland district of Latvia. His father, Zvi Hirsch Nurock, was rabbi in the capital of the Courland district, Mitau (Jelgava). Nurock was first taught religious studies by his father, and was eventually ordained a rabbi himself. He later studied at a gymnasium in Mitau. In 1902 Nurock attended the Russian Zionist Conference in Minsk as a delegate from Courland. In 1903 he participated in the Sixth Zionist Congress, at which he took a stand against the *Uganda Plan. At the same time he was instrumental in gaining an important concession from the czarist government which made possible the settlement of more Jews in Courland and in Riga, though these areas were outside the Pale of Jewish settlement. In 1913 Nurock succeeded his father as the official government-appointed rabbi of Mitau. In 1915, when the Russian military command expelled the Jews from Courland, accusing them of spying for the Germans, Nurock was invited to remain in Mitau as a military censor, but he declined the offer, and left for St. Petersburg, where he attended university. In later years he studied at German and Swiss universities, and received a Ph.D. He eventually settled in Moscow, where he lived until 1921, becoming deputy chairman of the Jewish community. Between the February and the October Revolutions of 1917, he was engaged in preparing for the All-Russian Jewish Congress, establishing a united religious front of Zionists and non-Zionists called Masoret ve-Ḥerut (Tradition and Freedom). However, the Congress never met, due to opposition by the new Bolshevik regime. In 1921 Nurock left the Soviet Union and settled in Riga, where he was elected to the Latvian Sejm on a religious Zionist ticket. Five years later, as head of the Minorities' Bloc (Jews, Germans, Russians) in the Sejm, Nurock was formally entrusted with the task of helping form a left-of-center government, which he himself did not join. He was an active defender of the rights of national minorities and participated in the meetings of the Congress of National Minorities. He was a member of the Sejm until it was disbanded in 1934. Nurock was one of the founders of the World Jewish Congress in 1936, and until World War II was a delegate on behalf of *Mizrachi to most of the Zionist Congresses, at which he traditionally served as chairman of the closing session. In addition to his activity in the world leadership of Mizrachi, Nurock was a member of the Zionist General Council, the World Council of HICEM – an organization founded in 1928 by HIAS, ICA and Emig-Direkt to deal with Jewish migration – and other Jewish bodies.

After Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union, Nurock was arrested in 1941 for his Zionist activities, and sent to Turkestan. He was released the following year. His wife and two sons, who had remained in Riga, perished in the Holocaust. In 1945 Nurock left the Soviet Union, visited Norway, where he was received by King Haakon, and traveled to New York. In 1947 he settled in Palestine. He was elected to the First Knesset on the United Religious Front list, and in the Second to Fifth Knessets on behalf of Mizrachi and then the National Religious Party. Nurock strongly opposed the restitution agreement with West Germany, and the establishment of any sort of formal relations with it, often voting independently from his parliamentary group on this issue. In 1952 he was appointed minister of posts and was a candidate for the presidency of the State opposite Yitzhak *Ben-Zvi in 1952. He passed away in the course of the Fifth Knesset.

He wrote Veidat Ẓiyyonei Rusya be-Minsk, Elul 5662, August/September 1902 (1963).


A. Tartakower (ed.), Zekher MordechaiMukdash le-Ḥayyav u-Po'alo shel ha-Rav Mordekhai Nurock (1967).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.