Shazar, Shneur Zalman

(formerly Rubashov)
   Israel's third president (1963-73). Born in Mir in the Minsk Province of Russia on 6 October 1889, he later moved with his family to Stolbtsy, where he received a traditional heder education. Encouraged by his parents' Zionism, he entered the Poalei Zion Movement in Russia in 1905. During the unsuccessful Russian Revolution of 1905, he participated in Jewish self-defense groups. In 1907, he moved to Vilna, where he wrote for Yiddish newspapers in Russia and in the United States. He left for Palestine in 1911 but returned to Russia, and then beginning in 1912, he studied at several German universities. In 1916, he became one of the founders of the Labor Zionist Movement in Germany and the next year helped found the Hehalutz Movement in Germany. At the Poalei Zion conference in Vienna in 1920, he gained notice as a prominent spokesman for the right wing. He was responsible for the first conference of the World Hehalutz Organization in 1921.
   Shazar settled in Palestine in 1924, became a member of the secretariat of the Histadrut, and joined the editorial board of Davar. In 1949, he was elected to Israel's first Knesset and served as minister of education and culture, in which he was responsible for the 1949 Compulsory Education Law. In 1952, the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics refused to accept him as Israel's ambassador. In that same year, he became a member of the executive of the Jewish Agency and headed the Department of Information and after 1954 the Department of Education and Culture in the Diaspora.
   Between 1956 and 1960, he was acting chairman of the Jewish Agency's Jerusalem executive.
   Shazar was elected the third president of Israel on 21 May 1963, reelected in March 1968, and served until 1973. As president, he sponsored the Bible Study Circle and the Circle for the Study of the Diaspora. He wrote voluminously on political, social, and historical themes. In January 1964, he was awarded the Bialik Prize for his book on Jewish personalities. He died on 5 October 1974.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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