FINKELSTEIN, CHAIM


FINKELSTEIN, CHAIM
FINKELSTEIN, CHAIM (1911–2000), educator and Zionist leader in Argentina. Born in Brest Litovsk (Brisk), Poland, he studied in a secular Jewish school of CYSHO and in a secondary Tarbut school. Member of the Borochov youth movement, at 17 he became its local secretary. Without pedagogical training he started to teach children and gave evening courses for young people. Failing to obtain a certificate of immigration to Palestine, he immigrated in 1930 to Argentina. In 1931 he started to work as a teacher in one of the Borochov schools in Buenos Aires. When in 1932 the Federal Police closed the Borochov schools that were suspected of communism, Finkelstein was arrested together with other teachers and activists. After being released from jail he started to promote the establishing of an organization of modern Jewish secular, left and Zionist schools. In January 1934, TZVISHO – Tzentral Veltlech Yiddishe Shul Organizatzie was founded as a new central secular and Zionist school organization. TVISHO and the schools Sholem Aleichem that it established, identified with Left Po'alei Zion. At the end of the 1930s Finkelstein convinced the school activists that a new and modern building was needed for the school. With the economic support of large Jewish sectors and of the Hevra Kadisha (the Ashkenazi Community), they built a new school that was inaugurated in 1942 – the first modern Jewish school in Buenos Aires with its own new building. Finkelstein opened a teacher-training course with officially accredited teachers and formed a team that elaborated a new study program in Yiddish. Finkelstein introduced the study of Hebrew in 1947 in the upper classes of the primary school, and it gradually expanded to all the grades. In the 1960s it became the main language for Jewish studies. Finkelstein and his colleagues established as part of TZVISHO a summer camp, Kinderland; student clubs; and other enrichment programs. In the 1960s they also established the first TZVISHO day school – Ramat Shalom. Finkelstein was secretary general of the Ahdut ha-Avodad – Po'alei Zion party in Argentina. From 1946 he participated in the Zionist Congresses and from 1950 he was member of its Va'ad Ha-Poel (General Council). Following his election as head of the Department of Education and Culture in the Diaspora and the Executive of the World Zionist Organization (1968–1978) he settled in Israel. He also headed the Beit ha-Tanakh Ha-Olami (World Bible House, 1978–1994) in Jerusalem and Beit Rishonei Po'alei Zion in Tel Aviv. (Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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