Jacques Torczyner, a veteran Zionist leader who helped lead support for the creation of a Jewish state before 1948 and orchestrated political support for Israel afterwards, died March 8 in Saratoga, Cal. He was 99.
Mr. Torczyner, a native of Belgium who escaped his homeland with his family in 1940, shortly after the German occupation, by climbing over the Pyrenees mountains and eventually took a boat to Cuba, then to Miami, served in executive positions of several prominent Zionist organizations in this country, including the World Jewish Congress, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, the Zionist Organization of America and State of Israel Bonds.
He was “a tremendous presence in the Jewish community,” said Shoshana Bryen, senior director of The Jewish Policy Center. He was “a continual source of comfort and stability in the sometimes tumultuous world of Jewish organizational life.” ZOA National President Morton Klein called Mr. Torczyner “a tireless and galvanizing figure in American Zionism. He knew every Israeli prime minister.”
Mr. Torczyner, who attended the 19th World Zionist Congress, in Lucerne in 1935, quickly moved up the ranks of Zionist organizations after he arrived in the United States.
In 1945, one of 18 Jewish leaders who convened for a meeting called by David Ben-Gurion to increase U.S. support for the Jewish community in pre-statehood British Mandate Palestine, he helped form the Friends of the Haganah. The next year he oversaw the North American delegate election to the World Zionist Congress, and in 1947 he was present at the United Nations session voting in favor of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
In 1970, as president of the ZOA, he criticized the State Department’s “appeasement” of Arab nations, and France for supplying 100 Mirage jet warplanes to Libya. “We are fighting against appeasement in Vietnam,” he declared in a speech to the ZOA National Executive Committee. “Why should we support appeasement in the Middle East?”
Mr. Torczyner is survived by his wife, Berthe; a son, Robert; two granddaughters, Rebecca Rountree and Elizabeth Torczyner, and two great-grandchildren, Gabrielle and Joshua Rountree.