BELKIN, SIMON


BELKIN, SIMON
BELKIN, SIMON (1889–1969), Canadian political activist, community leader, and historian. Belkin was born in Smoljanka, a small village near Kiev in the Ukraine. A committed reformer who deeply identified as a Jew, he participated in the 1905 struggle for radical social change in the czarist empire before he joined the Zionist Po'alei Zion movement. He immigrated to Montreal in 1911 but retained a strong emotional attachment to his region of origin. When, during the civil war following the Russian Revolution, the White forces organized large-scale pogroms against the Jewish communities of the Ukraine in 1920, Belkin traveled to Moscow to help organize relief efforts and arrange for the emigration of Jewish orphans from Russia to Canada. But it was Belkin's involvement in the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1919 that established his reputation as a forceful community leader and committed socialist. In the years preceding the founding of the Canadian Jewish umbrella organization, Belkin campaigned tirelessly in favor of Canadian Jewish unity and a left-wing nationalist approach to solving community problems. A spokesperson for the Yiddish-speaking Zionist population in Montreal, he campaigned for Jews to retain their culture in their new country and to express solidarity with the Zionist movement.   In 1921 Belkin became director of the jewish colonization association . The JCA was founded in 1906 as the Canadian wing of baron maurice de hirsch 's effort to resettle displaced East European Jews on agricultural lands in the New World. Although several such Canadian rural colonies predate the JCA, most were organized by the JCA. All these efforts eventually failed. By the end of World War II, most Jewish farm settlements were being abandoned as farmers moved to cities. Belkin left the employment of the organization in 1954. Belkin turned to chronicling the Canadian Jewish experience. In 1956 he published his benchmark study of the Labor-Zionist movement in Canada entitled Di Poale-Zion Bavegung in Kanade (19041920), which served to establish his reputation as a leading researcher in the field of Jewish Canadiana. To this day this work has not been surpassed in scope or in the thoroughness of its documentation. Belkin also wrote an important study on Canadian Jewish immigration history entitled Through Narrow Gates (1966). Belkin retired to California. (Pierre Anctil (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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