Nachman Syrkin

Nachman Syrkin – 1867-1924

Nachman Syrkin 1867-1924 was born into a religious family in Russia and, like Hess, abandoned religion for socialism. He was active in Hovevei Zion and a socialist when he was young. He was influenced by Ber Borochov.

At the First Zionist Congress in 1897 Syrkin was one of the leaders of the socialist Zionist faction and was an early proponent of the Jewish National Fund. He was the first person to propose that olim to Palestine form collective settlements.

Syrkin helped establish socialist Zionist groups throughout Europe. He expelled from Germany in 1904 returned to Russia after the Revolution of 1905. In 1905 he attended the Basle Seventh Zionist Congress as a delegate of the new Zionist Socialist Workers Party.

In 1904 when the British proposed to the Zionist movement Uganda as a national home for the Jewish people, Syrkin headed a Zionist splinter group advocating acceptance of the British offer. Syrkin contended that while the Jews had no land of their own, Jewish lives were everywhere in peril. The Jews needed immediate refuge, and a state in Uganda was better than no state in Palestine. The majority of the Zionist Congress, arguing that the goal of Zionism could only be a state in the Jewish homeland, turned down the British proposal

In 1907 he moved to the United States but in 1909, he returned to the mainstream Zionist movement by joining Poale Zion (Po‘alei Tziyon, ‘Workers of Zion’) and became one of its leaders.

In 1919, Syrkin was a member of the American Jewish delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference. He was also a leading figure in the World Poale Zion conference and was asked to visit Eretz Israel to develop a plan for kibbutz settlement. He intended to relocate to Eretz Israel, but died of a heart attack in 1924 in New York City.

In 1951 his remains were buried in the Kinneret Cemetery alongside other founders of Labour Zionism. Kfar Sirkin, founded in 1933 close to Petach Tikva, is named for him.