Nahum Sokolow

Nahum Sokolow (Nahum ben Joseph Samuel Sokolow, Hebrew: נחום ט' סוקולוב‎‎ Nachum ben Yoseph Shmuel Soqolov, Yiddish: סאָקאָלאָוו‎, 10 January 1859 – 17 May 1936) was a Zionist leader, author, translator, and a pioneer of Hebrew journalism.

Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Chairman of the National Committee, addresses the Zionist General Council Meeting in Jerusalem. From right to left: I. Rupaisen, Ben-Zion Mossinson, H. Farbstein, Nahum Sokolow, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Yosef Sprinzak, I. L. Goldberg, Shmaryahu Levin, Eliezer Kaplan (1935)


Born to a rabbinic family in Wyszogród, Poland (then Russian Empire), Sokolow began writing for the local Hebrew newspaper, HaTzefirah, when he was seventeen years old. He quickly won himself a huge following that crossed the boundaries of political and religious affiliation among Polish Jews, from secular intellectuals to anti-Zionist Haredim, and eventually had his own regular column. He eventually became the newspaper's senior editor and a co-owner.

He died in London in 1936.

Literary career

Sokolow was a prolific author and translator. His works include a three-volume history of Baruch Spinoza and his times, and various other biographies. He was the first to translate Theodor Herzl's utopian novel Altneuland into Hebrew, giving it the name Tel Aviv (literally, "An Ancient Hill of Spring"). In 1909, the name was adopted for the first modern Hebrew-speaking city: Tel Aviv.

Zionist activism

Nahum Sokolow, 1929

In 1906 Sokolow was asked to become the secretary general of the World Zionist Congress. In the ensuing years, he crisscrossed Europe and North America to promote the Zionist cause. During World War I, he lived in London, where he was a leading advocate for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British government declared its support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

On 6 February 1917 a meeting was held in Maida Vale with Dr Weizmann to discuss the results of the Picot convention in Paris. Sokolow and Weizmann pressed on after seizing leadership from Gaster; they were granted official recognition from the British government. At 6 Buckingham Gate on 10 February 1917 another was held, in a series of winter meetings in London. The generation of Anglo-Jewish Association assimilationists, Greenberg, Cowen and Gaster were stepping down or being passed over. "...those friends ... in close cooperation all these years", Weizmann suggested should become the EZF Council (English Zionist Freedom) - Manchester's Sieff, Sacher and Marks, and London's Leon Simon and Samuel Tollowsky: the Zionists take over of Jewish leadership in Britain[1] While the war was raging outside, the Zionists prepared for an even bigger fight; the survival of their home land. They issued a statement on 11 February 1917, and on 12th, they received news of the Kerensky take over in Petrograd. Tsarist Russia was very anti-semitic. But incongruously this made the British government even more determined to help the Jews.[2]

Chaim Weizmann wrote to the Manchester Zionist, Harry Sacher, who became a focus for the view that Sokolow and Weizmann had capitulated; forfeiting the right to lead by "preferring British Imperialism ... to Zionism". Sacher distinguished his Manchester base as different from the "London folk". He did not trust the Foreign Office, nor Weizmann's tactics. In a letter to Tollowsky, Weizmann branded Sacher as "Draufheher" - German extremist[3] Sokolow acted as Weizmann's eyes and ears in Paris on a diplomatic mission with Sir Mark Sykes to negotiate with the French. The idea that the Jews would form a new kind of Triple Entente under the Ottoman Empire was unsettling to them. Nonetheless the delegation left for Paris on 31 March 1917. One purpose of the Entente was to strengthen the hand of Zionism in USA. "The Jews represented a powerful political and economic force...if subterranean influence".[4] Sokolow did not know of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement and hidden British/French understanding on Middle Eastern policy matters. He believed that he must report to Weizmann that what France really meant by a "Greater Syria", taking the whole of Palestine for themselves. In a series of letters in April and May 1917, Weizmann accused Sokolow of letting the Zionists down in negotiations with France; Sokolow countered by replying that he remained totally committed to a British Palestine.

Lucien Wolf, journalist and assimilationist understood Sokolow and Weizmann's position as threatening the nationality status of British Jews. Emancipation, they thought, was their gift from Britain. A series of leader articles from Claude Montefiore, and wrote "No wonder that all anti-semites are enthusiastic Zionists". Montefiore who was President of Anglo-Jewish Association, would later be brushed aside by Weizmann as irrelevant. To Montefiore religion of the Jews was better off without the destructive intents of Palestine. But to Weizmann's philosophy, expressly practical was the realisation of a theocratic state where religion was the people and the people were the state; they were indivisible, one from the other.

The desiderata or things desired by the Jews for their new homeland - "facilities of colonization, communal autonomy, rights of language and establishment of a Jewish chartered company."[5] Sokolow eventual diplomacy triumph for Zionism in Paris "they accept in principle the recognition of Jewish nationality in the capacity of National Home, local autonomy etc. It is beyond my boldest expectations...", he wrote. They expected a quid pro quo for support against Germany, which was further made urgent by the entry of USA on April 6, 1917 to the global conflict. They now associated an Allied victory with securing "Zionist aspirations", a phrase also used by Sykes in his despatches to Balfour.[6] On 9 April, the Paris conference ended, marking a high-point in Sokolow's career. The Zionists were now open to all diplomatic rounds. Sokolov came to Rome to gain support for the plan of a Jewish state in Palestine, where he spoke to Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII. That Pope Benedict XV had vehemently condemned antisemitism a year before was seen as a good omen.

In Rome, the Vatican City were considering accepting terms. Sokolow's letters asked advice from Weizmann; incongruous the amazed Sokolow met the Pope on May 6. The Zionists began to feel more confident about their patriotism. Sokolow asked for "moral support" - a philosophical equality, and immediately wrote Weizmann about the "expressing of favour". But Weizmann was not so emotional; being tough hard-headed business-like character. He congratulated Sokolow on the success. Sokolow was called upon to stop at Paris by Jules Cambon and Prime Minister, Alexandre Ribot. They were still concerned that Zionism would cause unlimited damage to world security if unleashed in Bolshevik Russia. The Tsar had spoken the French diplomatic language: Petrograd was unsure ground for migrating Jews, intent to leave.

On May 17, Wolf, Alexander, and Montefiore issued a Conjoint Committee statement about Zionist Theory which it condemned; and the Chartered Company idea for the Palestine home land which it deplored. Wolf was accompanied by new Chief Rabbi, Joseph H Hertz, who regretted Weizmann and Gaster's Zionist statements. Wolf wanted Herzl, and also Greenberg to "bring pressure to bear upon the Zionist leaders".[7]

In 1931 Nahum Sokolow was elected President of the World Zionist Congress, and served in that capacity until 1935, when he was succeeded by Chaim Weizmann. He also served as President of the Jewish Agency for Palestine (now called the Jewish Agency for Israel) between 1931 and 1933 and was succeeded by Arthur Ruppin.

Awards and recognition

Kibbutz Sde Nahum is named for him.


  1. ^ Schneer, p.202
  2. ^ Schneer, p.202-03
  3. ^ Stein, 'Letters', letter no.313, 7335, WI - filed miscellaneous; Schneer, p.207 - makes the point that no mention; by omission meaning lost in translation. ie.Stein's account differs from the letter.
  4. ^ Sykes to Picot, Feb 28, 1917, Oxford, St Anthony's, MEC, SP, GB 165-0275/32B; Schneer, p.211
  5. ^ Sokolow to Weizmann, April 4, 1917, CZA, Sokolow Papers
  6. ^ NA, FO371/3045; Schneer, 395
  7. ^ Hertz to Montefiore, May 23, 1917, Yivo Institute, Wolf Papers, microfilm reel 3.; Schneer, p.309



  • Bauer, Ela (2005). Between Poles and Jews: The Development of Nahum Sokolow's Political Thought. Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press. 
  • Dekel, E (2000). Shai: The Exploits of Hagana Intelligence. New York. 
  • Friedman, Isaiah (1977). Germany, Turkey and Zionism, 1897-1918. Oxford. 
  • Raisin, Max (1970). Great Jews I have known: a gallery of portraits. Ayer Publishing. ISBN 0836980239, ISBN 978-0-8369-8023-3. 
  • Sacher, Harry (1916). Zionism and the Jewish Future. London. 
  • Sokolow, Nahum (1919). History of Zionism: 1600-1918. Longmans, Green & Co., London. 
  • Sokolow, Florian (1975). Nahum Sokolow. London. 
  • Wolf, Lucien (1934). Essays in Jewish History (Cecil Roth ed.). London. 


  • Rawidowicz, S (May 1941). "Nahum Sokolow in Great Britain". New Judea. 
  • Wagner, S (Aug 2008). "British Intelligence and the Mandate of Palestine: Threats to British National Security Immediately after the Second World War". Intelligence and National Security 23 (4): 435–462. doi:10.1080/02684520802293049. 

External links