The Bergson Group, Leadership

Portrait photo of Peter Bergson, 1940s

Part 2) of The Bergson Group, A History in Photographs

Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook)
Hillel Kook (1915-2001), who was born in Lithuania, moved to British Mandatory Palestine with his family as a child. His father, Rabbi Dov Kook, was the chief rabbi of the city of Afula; his uncle, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, was the first chief rabbi of British-ruled Palestine.

Hillel became active in the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish underground militia associated with Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and from 1937 to 1940 helped organize unauthorized Jewish immigration (aliyah bet) from Europe to Palestine.

From 1940 to 1948, Kook, using the pseudonym Peter Bergson, led the series of political action committees that came to be known collectively as the Bergson Group. In 1948, Kook moved to the newly-established State of Israel and was elected to the First Knesset as a representative of Menachem Begin’s Herut Party. He passed away in 2001.

Bergson and Alex Rafaeli, circa 1941
Bergson and Samuel Merlin, 1970s.
Bergson and Prof. David S. Wyman, in 1988










Samuel Merlin

Portrait photo of Samuel Merlin, 1940s

Samuel Merlin (1910-1996), who was born in Moldovia, served as secretary-general of the Revisionist Zionist movement in interwar Poland and worked with Irgun emissaries organizing aliyah bet. He came to the United States in 1940 and became a senior leader of the Bergson Group. Merlin worked closely with Bergson in formulating the group’s political strategy and authored much of its literature.

Merlin in the 1940s










Yitshaq Ben-Ami

Yitshaq Ben-Ami in the 1930s

The first child born in Tel Aviv, Yitshaq Ben-Ami (1913-1985) joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi and helped protect Jewish neighborhoods from Palestinian Arab terrorism in the 1930s. In 1937, the Irgun sent Ben-Ami to Europe to help organize aliya bet transports. At the end of 1938, Ben-Ami was dispatched to the United States to seek political and financial support for the immigration campaign. He established the American Friends of a Jewish Palestine, forerunner of the Bergson Group. Ben-Ami then became one of the leaders of the Committee for a Jewish Army and the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe. After serving in the United States army from 1943 to 1945, Ben-Ami returned to the U.S. and resumed his work with the Bergson Group.

Ben-Ami during his service in the U.S. Army, 1944
Ben-Ami in the 1970s















The Bergson Group
Part 1)          A History in Photographs
Part 2)          Leadership
Continue to We Will Never Die »
Part 4)          Emergency Conference
Part 5)          Rabbis March
Part 6)          Capitol Hill
Part 7)          A Flag is Born
Part 8)          Voyage of the Ben Hecht