Zalman Shazar

  • Issue: August 1975
  • Designer: A. Berg
  • Stamp size: 25.7 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 446
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

In a century when events in the history of the Jewish people were of the greatest magnitude, Zalman Shazar stood out as a major figure. His greatness is seen not necessarily in his gifts as a poet - though he was a belles-letterist - his influence as a journalist - though he was a writer of persuasive editorials and essays - or his pre-eminence as a statesman- though he succeeded Chaim Weizmann and ltzhak Ben-Zvi as President of the State of Israel. Rather, Shazars greatness lies in his involvement in the Jewish life of his time to the fullest possible extent and in the widest imaginable contexts. Shazar defies classification. A labor leader, politician and statesman who faced immediate problems of great urgency, Shazar was also a leading historian of the Shabbathian movement. Shazar could, without the inhibiting fear of inconsistancy, be a student of Biblical criticism, Jewish history and Yiddish philology, a leader of the Socialist-Zionist movement, and a follower of Hassidism. Shazar devoted his whole life to reestablishing a sovereign Jewish state, yet ho did so without neglecting the problem of affirmative Jewish life in the Diaspora. He participated in the Renaissance of the Hebrew language, while writing masterful works throughout his life in Yiddish. Concerned with affairs of state, he nevertheless made his official residence as President of the State of Israel into a world centre of Jewish intellectual and cultural life.

Sh'neur Zalman Rubashow (his surname Shazar is taken from the initials of his original name) was born in Mir, Russia in 1889 and spent his childhood in the town of Stolbtsy. There, greatly influenced by his parents and teachers, he began his life-long attachment to Jewish intellectual pursuits, Habad Hassidism and Zionism. Joining the Zionist labor movement Poale Zion in 1905, he was active in organizing Jewish self-defense units in Belorussia and the Ukraine. At the invitation of ltzhak Ben-Zvi he moved to Vilna in 1907, where he translated into Yiddish Russian articles by Borochov and Ben-Zvi for the movement's journal. In the autumn of 1907 he entered the Academy for Jewish Studies, founded by Baron David Guenzburg in St. Petersburg, where he remained for four years, studying under the historian Simon Dubnow and the Hebrew writer Judah L. Katznelson.

Shazar made his first trip to Eretz Israel in the summer of 1911 where he met and became deeply attached to BerI Katznelson and the poetess Rachel.

Leaving Russia in 1912, Shazar went to Germany where, for the next decade, he was to combine his scholarly interests, editorial talents and Zionist organization work. Studying at the Universities of Freiburg, Strasbourg and Berlin, he did pioneering research on Eastern European Jewish history, Biblical criticism and Yiddish philology. At the same time he participated in Zionist actvities, playing a leading role in organizing the Labor Zionist movement and HeHalutz in Germany while helping to edit the journal "Judische Rundschau". At the 13th Zionist Congress in 1923 he was elected to the Zionist Actions Committee. At the invitation of Professor Zvi Peretz Chajes, Shazar went to Vienna in 1922 where he lectured in Jewish history at the Hebrew Pedagogium, the Jewish teachers seminary, remaining until immigrating to Eretz Israel in 1924.

Devoting his energies and abilities to the labor movement and the Zionist organization, he was a member of the central committee of the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor) and the "Va'ad Leumi' (National Council). A member of the editorial board of "Davar" of which he was to become editor-in-chief serving until 1949, he contributed hundreds of essays and editorials as well as poems. In great demand as an orator, Shazar served on numerous missions and participated in many international conferences forcefully representing the Zionist movement in his travels throughout Europe and America.

One of the authors of Israel's Declaration of Independence, he was elected to the First, Second and Third Knessets. Appointed Minister of Education and Culture in Israel's first Cabinet, he was responsible for the Free and Compulsory Education Law (1949). He resigned from the Cabinet to accept the post of Israel Ambassador to the Soviet Union. When the appointment did not materialize, he became a member of the Jewish Agency Executive, heading the Department of Information (1952), and from 1954 on, the Department of Education and Culture in the Diaspora. From 1956-1960 he served as acting chairman of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem.

On May 21, 1963, Shazar was elected President of the State of Israel and was elected to a second five year term of office on March 26, 1968. As President, Shazar, aside from his official state duties, opened the Presidential residence to scholars, writers and artists, holding regular study groups on the Bible, Jewish history and contemporary Diaspora Jewry. By researching the Jewish past and tradition, he strove to find possible solutions to problems facing Jewry today and a means of reinforcing the living bond and relationship of the Jewish people to each other and the State of Israel.

Zalman Shazar died in Jerusalem on October 5, 1974 and was laid to rest on Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem.

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Zalman Shazar