||Polemic over the warm eulogy delivered by a representative of Agudat Israel for Joseph Sprinzak, first speaker of the Knesset. This is a rare and unusual item for several reasons. The praiseworthy eulogy was delivered by a representative of the religious party Agudat for Sprinzak, a labor leader with diametrically opposed views on basic issues. The eulogy begins with the verse “but he refused to be comforted” (Genesis 37:35), and continues the sages said concerning Jacob when he mourned for Joseph, a man does not accept consolation for the living. The decree is only for the deceased who are forgotten from the heart. It refers to Sprinzak as cherished and and living in the eyes of all. A paragraph at the end, however, brings the pertinent halakhot from the Shulhan Arukh on how to mourn the wicked. On the last page are contrasting quotes from the leaders of Agudah and Da’at Torah, such as, respectively, Sprinzak lives and did not die, and, the wicked while alive are called dead (Berakhot 18b).
Joseph Sprinzak, (1885–1959), Israel labor leader and first speaker of the Knesset. Sprinzak was born in Moscow, where his father, Dov Ber, allowed to live there as a manufacturer, was a member of Hovevei Zion, and was active in Jewish community affairs. In 1891, when the Jews were expelled from Moscow, Sprinzak's family moved to Kishinev and then to Warsaw. His father's house was a center of young Hebrew writers and active Zionists. Sprinzak's own Zionist activity began in 1903, when he took part in organizing the Zionist group Ha-Tehiyyah, led by Yizhak Gruenbaum. In Warsaw he worked for a while in the Hebrew publishing house Ahi'asaf, as well as on Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers. In 1905 he returned to Kishinev, where he was a co-founder of the Ze'irei Zion movement in southern Russia, and in 1906 he participated as its delegate at the Helsingfors Conference of Russian Zionists, after having formulated the Ze'irei Zion program together with Hayyim Greenberg.
In 1908, after spending several months in Constantinople, where he was in touch with world Zionist leaders who tried to influence the new regime of the Young Turks - David Wolffsohn, Menahem Ussishkin, Nahum Sokolow, Vladimir Jabotinsky and others - Sprinzak went to Beirut to study medicine at its American university. Later in the same year, however, he was asked by Ha-Po'el ha-Za'ir to discontinue his studies and become the party's secretary. He was active in the absorption of the Yemenite aliyah, which arrived in the wake of Shemuel Yavnieli's mission to Yemen. At the 11th Zionist Congress in Vienna (1913), Sprinzak organized a faction of 41 delegates, consisting of members of Ha-Po'el ha-Za'ir and Ze'irei Zion. During World War I he remained in Erez Israel and was instrumental in organizing help for the yishuv in general and the Jewish workers in particular. After the war he played a decisive role in creating the framework of the world movement Hitahadut, which encompassed Ha-Po'el ha-Za'ir and Ze'irei Zion. At its founding conference in Prague in 1920, together with A.D. Gordon, S. H. Bergman, and E. Kaplan, he was the moving spirit of the Ha-Po'el ha-Za'ir delegation from Erez Israel. Chairing the conference's meetings, he summed up its deliberations, after it intentionally refrained from drawing up a written platform. At the 12th Zionist Congress in Carlsbad (1921), he was elected to the Zionist Executive, the first representative of the labor movement in Erez Israel to achieve this position. For seven years he served on the Executive as head of the Labor Department and later of the Aliyah Department as well. In the 1920s Sprinzak was a co-founder and leading member of the Histadrut, a member of the Tel Aviv municipality, and an initiator of the comprehensive democratic framework of the yishuv (the establishment of the Asefat ha-Nivharim and the Va'ad Le'ummi). In the 1930s he served as the head of a department in the Histadrut executive and played an important role in the formation of Mapai through the merger of Ahdut ha-Avodah and Ha-Po'el ha-Za'ir. In the 1940s he became a leading member and eventually the chairman of the Zionist General Council and the general secretary of the Histadrut.
After the establishment of the State of Israel (1948), he was elected to chair its legislative bodies, from the Provisional State Council (1948) to the First, Second, and Third Knesset (1949, 1951, and 1955, respectively). As the Knesset's speaker during its first ten years, he greatly influenced the nation's democratic character and molded the written and unwritten rules of its parliamentary life, enjoying general confidence and respect from all sectors of the public. In his official capacity, Sprinzak often fulfilled the function of acting head of state, when the president was out of the country. Sprinzak's visits abroad, particularly to Argentina and Uruguay (1950), but also to Britain, France, and Belgium (1953) and as the head of a Knesset delegation to Holland and Belgium (1958), became the occasions of ceremonial acts of friendship between those countries and Israel. His outstanding features as a public figure were intimately connected with his friendly, warm, and moderate character, as well as with his deep-felt identification with every "simple Jew," whether in Erez Israel or in the Diaspora. His sense of humor and spiritual sensitivity enabled him to overcome temperamental conflicts and bridge differences of principle and ideology. His concept of Zionism was based on a humanist, undogmatic socialism, which regarded the process of national regeneration as an evolutionary broadening of the workers' self-initiative in creating the new social fabric through agricultural collectives and urban cooperatives. A collection of his articles and speeches, Bi-Khetav u-ve-Al-Peh, was published in 1952. In 1965–69 three volumes of his letters were published under the editorship of Yosef Shapira.