World Agudath Israel (Hebrew: אגודת ישראל), usually known as the Aguda, was established in the early twentieth century as the political arm of Ashkenazi Torah Judaism. It succeeded Agudas Shlumei Emunei Yisroel (Union of Faithful Jewry) in 1912.[1] Its base of support was located in Eastern Europe before the Second World War but, due to the revival of the Hasidic movement, it included Orthodox Jews throughout Europe. Prior to World War II and the Holocaust, Agudath Israel operated a number of Jewish educational institutions throughout Europe. After the war, it has continued to operate such institutions in 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.


Katowice Conference

World Agudath Israel was established by Jewish religious leaders at a conference held at Kattowitz (Katowice) in 1912.[1] They were concerned that the Tenth Zionist Congress had defeated a motion by the Torah Nationalists Mizrachi movement for funding religious schools.

Among the chief founders of the organization were Jacob Rosenheim (one of the leaders of German Jewry), and Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Alter (the fourth Gerrer Rebbe).[2][3] The aim of World Agudath Israel was to strengthen Orthodox institutions independent of the Zionist movement and Mizrachi organization.[4] The advent of the First World War delayed development of the organisation, however.

World War I, interbellum, World War II

During the First World War, Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Kohn and Rabbi Dr. Emmanuel Carlebach (both from Germany),[5][6][7] were appointed as the rabbinical advisors to the German occupying forces in Poland. In this position, they worked closely[8] with the Grand Rabbi of Ger, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter. As a result of this collaboration, they developed the Agudath Israel organization, with the aim of unifying Eastern European and Western European Orthodox Judaism.

Agudath Israel gained a significant following, particularly among Hasidic Jews. It had representatives running in the Polish elections after the First World War, and they won seats in that country's parliament (Sejm).[9][10][11] Among the elected representatives were Alexander Zusia Friedman, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, Rabbi Yosef Nechemya Kornitzer of Kraków, and Rabbi Aharon Lewin of Reysha.

Prominent Torah scholars who led Agudath Yisroel included the Gerrer Rebbe, the Radziner Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Elazar Leiner, and the Chafetz Chaim. In Latvia between 1922-1934, members of the Agudath Israel faction, led by Mordechai Dubin, were elected to Saeima (The Parliament). Another prominent member of Agudath Israel was Michoel Ber Weissmandl. In Lithuania, Agudath Israel was active inside of Achdus, which merged into the Jewish Economical and Religious Party, and in Czechoslovakia, Agudath Israel first founded the Jewish Conservative Party, which than merged into the Jewish Economic Party and lastly into the Jewish Republican Party [sk].

In the United Kingdom, the Agudath Israel movement was represented by the Adath Israel Synagogue, formed in 1909, and the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, formed in 1926. By 1943 Agudath Israel represented approximately 5000 families and was led by Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld. The British secretary of the Agudath Israel World Organization, the political wing of the movement, was Harry Goodman, publisher and editor of Jewish Weekly. He played a key part in maintaining the Agudath Israel organization through World War II.[12]

Post-World War II

In the post-war period, Agudath Israel was active in Europe to provide aid for Holocaust survivors. There was a branch in the World Agudath Israel World Organization in England located at 37/38 Mitre Street in London. Another branch was located in Switzerland, located at 59 Lavaterstrasseled which was led by Dr. Shlomo Ehrman. There were also branches in Allied-occupied Germany. The Central-Committee of Agudath Israel of the British Zone was led by Rabbi Yisroel Moshe Olewski,[13] Rabbi Shlomo Zev Zweigenhaft[13] and Efraim Londoner[13][14] and was located in Bergen-Belsen.[14] Yehuda Leib Girsht represented Agudath Israel on the camp committee of Bergen Belsen.[14] The Central Committee of Agudath Israel of the American Zone was led by H. Parasol and N. Braunfeld and was located at Trogerstrasse 58/4 in Munich.

Agudath Israel and the State of Israel

Main article: Agudat Yisrael

When Israel was founded, Agudath Israel reached a modus vivendi with the State of Israel, which was predominantly led by secularists. It helped secure an agreement 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 as public observance consistent with the laws of the Sabbath and Kashrut. It has 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.[15]

The Great Congress

The World Agudath Israel federation held international conferences and Torah congressional meetings known as HaKnessia HaGedolah (Hebrew: הכנסייה הגדולה, lit.'The Great Congress'), which included many of its spiritual and political leaders, from Israel and around the world. To date, six congresses have been held, the last of which was in 1980. They were in 1923, 1929, 1937, 1954, 1964, and 1980.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Haredi Judaism".
  2. ^ "Rosenheim, Jacob |". Retrieved 2022-03-03.
  3. ^ Kamenetzky, Yaakov (February 1980). "Blessings of 'Shalom' / What is an Agudist?" (PDF). The Jewish Observer: 16–18.
  4. ^ "The "Aguddat Israel" Movement". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  5. ^ "The legal publishers of this new daily were the German rabbis Pinchas Kohn and Emmanuel Carlebach of the FVIOJ..."Kalman Weiser (2011). Jewish People, Yiddish Nation: Noah Prylucki and the Folkists in Poland. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1442662100.
  6. ^ Schoenburg, Nancy; Schoenburg, ?Stuart (1996). Lithuanian Jewish Communities. Jason Aronson, Incorporated. p. 192. ISBN 1461629381.
  7. ^ "At the wedding of Rav Emmanuel Carlebach zt"l of Cologne, all the married women (in the picture) wore shaitels." "The Ashkenaz Forum :: Topic: Shaitel vs. Tichel". 13 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Stevens Institute of Technology" (PDF).
  9. ^ "Agudath Israel... In time it became a political party represented in the Sejm (Polish Parliament)." Roberto Perin (2017). The Many Rooms of this House: Diversity. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1487510619.
  10. ^ "... between the wars, none was more effective than the Agudath Israel. ... in the Polish government and was represented in the Sejm (Polish Parliament)." William B. Helmreich (2000). The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry. KTAV Publishing House. ISBN 0881256412.
  11. ^ "Agudas Yisroel succeeded in electing deputies to the Polish Sejm." "Agudas Yisroel".
  12. ^ Pamela Shatzkes (2002) Holocaust and Rescue: Impotent or Indifferent? Anglo-Jewry 1938-1945 Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 13-14
  13. ^ a b c Migdal Dovid (lelov) 2019 Edition, Toldos Hamo"l, page 92.
  14. ^ a b c Albert, Rabbi Shmuel. Hamodia, Inyan Magazine Vol. XXII No. 1059 May 8, 2019.
  15. ^ "... list made up of the ultra-Orthodox parties Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah ... United Torah Judaism (UTJ) promotes the interests of the Haredi community ..." "United Torah Judaism - The Israel Democracy Institute".