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Gorfinkel, Leyb

(1896–1976), advocate, journalist, and political figure. After graduating from the Russian secondary school in Kovno, Leyb Gorfinkel (also known as Leib Garfunkel) studied jurisprudence at Petrograd University. Later he moved to Gomel and became a member of the Russian Tse‘ire Tsiyon (Youths of Zion) Central Committee. From the end of 1918 he lived in Kovno and was one of the initiators of the Union of Ha-Po‘el ha-Tsa‘ir (The Young Worker) and Tse‘ire Tsiyon in Lithuania.

In July 1919, Gorfinkel was one of the organizers of the Zionist daily Di idishe shtime (The Jewish Voice) and its editor from February 1920 to February 1922. During this period, he served as a member of the presidium and then as vice chair of the Jewish National Council of Lithuania. In 1925 and 1926, he edited the biweekly Unzer ruf (Our Call), and in 1932 the weekly Di tsayt (The Times). From 1923 to 1927, Gorfinkel was a deputy to the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament), representing the Zionists-Socialists and Tse‘ire Tsiyon, and from 1924 he served on the Kovno City Council. He was one of the leaders of the Jewish Cooperative Societies in Lithuania and from 1925 was chair of the Council of the Association of Jewish People’s Banks.

In 1940 Gorfinkel was among the organizers of the Society to Aid Jewish Refugees from Poland, and in June of that year he was arrested by Soviet authorities. During the Nazi occupation (1941–1944) he was vice chair of the Ältestenrat of the Kovno ghetto. In April 1944 he was arrested and tortured on suspicion of underground activity. With the liquidation of the ghetto in 1944 he was sent to Kaufering concentration camp near Dachau. From 1945 to 1948, Gorfinkel lived in Rome and headed the Organization of Jewish Refugees in Italy. He contributed to the periodicals Ba-Derekh (On the Way; in Hebrew) and In gang (On the Way; in Yiddish). In Israel (from 1948) he contributed to the newspaper Milḥamotenu (Our Wars) and was one of the editors of the collection Yahadut Lita (Jews of Lithuania).

Gorfinkel’s books include Der tsionizm fun di arbaytende (The Workers’ Zionism; 1919); Di yidishe natsionale oytonomie in Lite (Jewish National Autonomy in Lithuania; 1920), published also in Lithuanian and Russian; and Kovnah ha-yehudit be-ḥurbanah (Jewish Kovno in Its Destruction; 1959).

Suggested Reading

Gershon Alimor (Valkovski), “Di yidishe prese in der zelbstshtendiker Lite,” in Di yidishe prese vos iz geven, pp. 453–474 (Tel Aviv, 1975); Natan Goren et al., eds., “Garfunkel, Leib ben Tsevi Hirsh,” in Yahadut Lita, vol. 3, p. 144 (Tel Aviv, 1967); “Gorfinkl, Leyb,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 2, cols. 166–167 (New York, 1958).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson