A Chief Rabbi of Israel

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon and David Ben-Gurion, 1959

Credit:Hans Pinn/GPO

A Rabbi and Zionist

Born in 1875 in what was then the Russian Empire, Yehuda Leib Maimon studied to be a rabbi before starting the Mizrachi movement, a Zionist movement of the time.

First attending the Zionist Congress in 1909, Rabbi Maimon continued to be a fixture there until Israel won her independence. Still, the imperial Russian leaders did not appreciate the rabbi’s Zionist message, and arrested him on many occasions.

Making Aliyah

Rabbi Maimon first made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land) in 1913, when the Ottomans still ruled. The Ottomans expelled the rabbi, and he took his Zionism to the United States while World War I raged.

After the war, Britain gained control of what was then British-mandate Palestine. Rabbi Maimon returned, becoming an important leader and founder of the Holy Land’s Chief Rabbinate.

An Independent Israel

The British did not treat Rabbi Maimon much better than the Turks had. Once when arrested by the ruling Brits on the Sabbath, the rabbi objected to riding in a car on the holy day of rest. Uncaring the British forced him into the car despite his protests.

But the British didn’t rule the Holy Land forever. As Israel prepared for her independence, Rabbi Maimon helped write the Israeli Declaration of Independence, then was one of its signers. And once the modern state of Israel had been formed, the rabbi not only served on the first Knesset (Israel’s parliament), but as the nation’s Minister of Religions and Minister of War Victims.

And now you know a bit about this week’s Israeli You Should Know, an Israeli just as important to the modern Jewish state and Zionism as founding fathers such as David Ben-Gurion, with whom Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon can be see in the above photo from 1959, three years before the rabbi’s passing. May his memory be a blessing.

Tags: History Israel Israelis You Should Know Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon

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