World Agudath Israel
World Agudath Israel (The World Jewish Union), usually known as the Aguda, was established in the early twentieth century as the political arm of Ashkenazi Torah Judaism, in succession to Agudas Shlumei Emunei Yisroel (Union of Faithful Jewry). Its base was in Eastern Europe, where the Torah and its principles were strong before the Second World War and was undergoing a revivial due to the Hasidic movement, but it included participation from Orthodox Jewry throughout Europe.
World Agudath Israel was established at a conference held at Kattowitz (Katowice) in 1912 after the Tenth World Zionist Congress had defeated a motion by Torah Zionists Mizrachi for funding for yeshivas. Its aim was to mobilize Torah-loyal Jews for the perpetuation of authentic Judaism, in order to establish the supremacy of Torah in all problems facing the Jew as individuals and as a nation.
Agudath Israel gained a significant following, particularly among Hasidic Jews, and even ran in Polish elections winning seats in that country's parliament (Sejm). Among the elected representatives were Alexander Zusia Friedman, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, Rabbi Yosef Nechemya Kornitzer of Krakow and Rabbi Aharon Lewin of Reysha. Great Torah luminaries of the day at the helm of Agudath Yisroel included the Gerrer Rebbe and the Chafetz Chaim. Also in Latvia in period 1922-1934 the Agudat Yisroel faction, led by Rabbi Mordechai Dubin, was present in Saeima (The Parliament), and once Dubin also was proposed a prime-minister seat, but refused. Another prominent member of Agudath Yisroel was Michoel Ber Weissmandl.
In Britain, the Agudas Israel movement was represented by the Adath Israel Synagogue, formed in 1909 and then the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations formed in 1926, by 1943 representing some 5000 families. This was led by Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld. The British secretary of the Agudas Israel World Organization, the political wing of the movement, was Harry Goodman, publisher and editor of Jewish Weekly. He played a key part in maintain Agudist organization through World War II.
Prior to World War II and the Holocaust, Agudath Israel operated a number of Jewish educational institutions throughout Europe and continues to do so in both the United States as Agudath Israel of America and in Israel. Agudath Israel is guided by its Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Sages) in Israel and the USA.
In the post-War period, Agudath Israel reached a modus vivendi with the State of Israel, which was predominantly led by secularists, and thus the need to secure a status quo between Ashkenazi Rabbinical leaders and David Ben-Gurion which ensured Ashkenazi Rabbinical co-ordination with the state, as well as the implementation of such guarantees, such as state being Shomer Shabbat and Shomer Kashrut, and has thus established itself as an Israeli political party winning seats in the Knesset either as the Agudat Israel or in coalition with other Orthodox groups running under the name United Torah Judaism.
The World Agudath Israel Federation holds international conferences and Torah congressional meetings known as a Knessia Gdolo.
- Agudat Israel article from the Jewish Virtual Library
- Gershon C.Bacon , The Politics of Tradition: Agudat Israel in Poland, 1916-1939, The Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1996, ISBN 9652239623
- About Agudath Israel
- Pamela Shatzkes (2002) Holocaust and Rescue: Impotent or Indifferent? Anglo-Jewry 1938-1945 Basingstoke: Palgrave, p.13-14