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Leon Pinsker

1821 - 1891.

Leon Pinsker. Source: https://lcdl.library.cofc.edu/lcdl/catalog/lcdl:65189

Leon Pinsker, born in Poland in 1839, was a Jewish and Zionist leader, physician, and writer during the 19th century.


He graduated with honors from medical studies at the University of Moscow and in 1849, was appointed senior physician at the Odessa hospital.


In the 19th century, Pinsker believed that Russian Jews would gain emancipation due to equal rights movements developing in Western Europe. In 1860, he began writing anonymous articles in Russian Jewish newspapers, calling on Russian Jews to recognize Russia as their homeland while preserving their Jewish identity.


Pinsker supported the idea of secular education for Jews, as well as the translation of Hebrew texts into Russian, such as the Bible.


However, a pogrom in Odessa in 1871 and another in 1881, ignored by the government and supported by the press, shook his beliefs. This led him to abandon his assimilationist views and embrace a more conservative approach. He believed that the only solution to anti-Semitism was territorial, where Jews would concentrate in one country where they would be protected and free.


Pinsker is best known for his influential 1882 pamphlet "Auto-Emancipation", anonymously written in German, calling on Jewish people to strive for independence and national consciousness. It became a fundamental text in the history of Zionism.


He joined the Hovevei Zion Association to encourage settlements in the Land of Israel. In 1884, Pinsker was among the initiators of the Katowice Conference. At this conference, the Hovevei Zion movement was founded with the aim of uniting the activities of dozens of Zionist associations.


He was chosen to head the movement.


He died in 1891 at 70 and in 1934, his bones were brought to Israel.

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