Maimon (Fishman), Judah Leib

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MAIMON (Fishman), JUDAH LEIB (1875–1962), rabbi and leader of religious Zionism. Born in Marculeşti, Bessarabia, Maimon studied in Lithuanian yeshivot and, after being ordained, served as a preacher (Maggid meisharim) in Marculesti and in 1905–13 as rabbi in Ungeni. In 1900 he met Rabbi Isaac Jacob *Reines, founder of *Mizrachi, and afterward took an active part in the founding conference of Mizrachi, which was held in Vilna, and in its first world conference in Pressburg (Bratislava). Beginning with the Second Zionist Congress, he participated in all the subsequent Congresses and was for many years a member of the Zionist General Council. From 1935 he served as Mizrachi's representative on the Zionist Executive, was vice chairman of the Executive, and headed the Department for Artisans and Retail Business as well as the Department of Religious Affairs.

Maimon settled in Ereẓ Israel in 1913 and was among the founders of the educational network of Mizrachi there. At the outbreak of World War i he was imprisoned and expelled by the Turkish authorities. He went to the United States, where he was active in the effort to strengthen Mizrachi and published hundreds of articles in the press. He returned on the first ship to reach the shores of Palestine after the war and met Rabbi *Kook, with whom he became very friendly. Together they established the chief rabbinate of Palestine, and Maimon formulated the rabbinate's constitution and organized its founding ceremony. In 1936 he established the Mosad ha-Rav Kook, which published hundreds of books. His private library contained over 40,000 volumes, among them many very rare books, first editions, incunabula, and the only extant copies of many important manuscripts.

Although he maintained his adherence to the organized framework of the yishuv, Maimon often expressed his sympathy with the secessionist organizations, Irgun Ẓeva'i Le'ummi (iẒl) and Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel (Leḥi), and gave evidence on behalf of iẒl prisoners. He proclaimed the right of every Jew to bear arms in his own defense and in the defense of Jewish rights in Ereẓ Israel. When the Haganah began actively to suppress iẒl (1944–45), Maimon expressed his opposition to these activities. On "Black Saturday" (June 1946) he was interned as acting chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive. His imprisonment aroused a great furor, since the British had compelled him by force to desecrate the Sabbath, and after great pressure he was released by special order of the high commissioner.

In the first years after the establishment of the State of Israel, Maimon advocated the institution of a Sanhedrin as a supreme religious authority, but this attempt aroused opposition in many religious circles. He was appointed minister of religions and minister in charge of war casualties both in the provisional government and in the first elected one; and was a member of the First Knesset. He later relinquished his political activities and devoted himself entirely to literary work.

Maimon was a prolific author. His first work was Ha-Noten ba-Yam Derekh (1903). His second work Ḥadar Horati, a collection of articles on halakhah, Maimonides, and aggadah, was published ten years later. He also published other articles and biblical investigations. In 1907 he began to publish the talmudic-literary journal, Ha-Yonah, which was banned by censorship, however, and its publication discontinued. In 1921 Maimon founded the Mizrachi weekly, Ha-Tor, whose publication was continued for 15 years. He later founded and edited the monthly Sinai, of which he issued 50 volumes. His major work, Sarei ha-Me'ah (6 vols., 1942–47), describes the greatest Jewish scholars of the last century. His other writings include Le-Ma'an Ẓiyyon Lo Eḥesheh (2 vols., 1954–55), Middei Ḥodesh be-Ḥodsho (8 vols., 1955–62), Ḥaggim u-Mo'adim (19503), Ha-Ẓiyyonut ha-Datit ve-Hitpatteḥutah (1937), Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1959), Toledot ha-Gra (1954), and an edition of Judah b. Kalonymus' Yiḥusei Tanna'im ve-Amora'im (1942).


G. Bat-Yehudah, Elleh Toledot Rabbi J.L. Maimon (1964); eẒd, 3 (1965), 422–94 (incl. comprehensive bibl.).

[Itzhak Goldshlag]