Po'alei Agudat Israel

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PO'ALEI AGUDAT ISRAEL (pai), ḥaredi workers party, affiliated to the World Union of Po'alei Agudat Israel. pai was founded in Lodz, Poland, in 1922, as an outgrowth of *Agudat Israel. Its central ideal was the application of the social principles contained in the Torah in daily Jewish life. In its struggle for social progress, pai clashed with the Jewish industrialists in Poland, from whom it demanded better treatment of the workers, and eventually with Agudat Israel over the same issue.

pai started to operate in Ereẓ Israel in 1925, after the arrival of young Orthodox settlers, but broke up after a short period. It was reestablished in Tel Aviv in 1933, under the leadership of Benjamin *Minz, who had arrived from Poland, and who after the establishment of the state became a member of the Knesset, and Jacob *Landau, who arrived from Germany. Histadrut ha-Po'alim ha-Ḥaredit (Federation of Ḥaredi Workers), which had been formed in Petaḥ Tikvah, joined the new party. pai continued to operate in Ereẓ Israel in close cooperation with Agudat Israel, and was close to it in its religious approach and the aspiration to establish in the country a society run on the basis of the halakhah. However, unlike Agudat Israel it also advocated cooperation with the secular Jewish population in Ereẓ Israel on national issues. At the third Kenesiyah ha-Gedolah (Great Synod), held by Agudat Israel at Marienbad in Czechoslovakia in 1937, pai advocated support for the establishment of a Jewish state on the basis of the Peel Commission Report, and the setting up of kibbutzim with the assistance of Zionist funds. The Great Synod rejected pai's proposals. A breach with Agudat Israel occurred when pai established a youth movement called Ezra, to which Agudat Israel strongly objected. Members of pai settled on Jewish National Fund land in May 1944 and established kibbutz Hafeẓ Ḥayyim. It later established kibbutz *Sha'albim and several moshavim. In 1945 Minz was elected political leader of pai, and the following year the World Union of Po'alei Agudat Israel was founded in Antwerp. This step was regarded as pai's final secession from World Agudat Israel, following which members of pai joined the *Haganah, while Minz became a member of the yishuv' s security committee.

Shortly after the establishment of the state, pai joined the trade union section of the *Histadrut. Despite all of this, it continued to accept the authority of Agudat Israel's Mo'ezet Gedolei ha-Torah (Council of Torah Sages).

pai ran in the elections to the First Knesset on a joint list with Agudat Israel, Ha-Mizrachi and Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi, receiving three of the list's 16 seats. In the elections to the Second, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Knessets it ran independently, in the elections to the Third, Fourth, and Eighth Knessets, it ran in a joint list with Agudat Israel, in the elections to the Eleventh Knesset within the framework of Morashah, and in the elections to the Twelfth and Thirteenth Knessets it ran as part of Agudat Israel, even though to all effects and purposes it ceased to exist as a separate party. The largest number of Knesset seats it ever received was three. pai joined the coalition after the elections to the Second Knesset in 1951 without assuming any ministerial post, but then left in September 1952 over the issue of the drafting of girls to national service. In July 1960, in contravention of a decision by Mo'eẓet Gedolei ha-Torah it joined the government, and Minz served as minister of postal services until May 1961.

After the death of Benjamin Minz in 1961, Rabbi Kalman *Kahana became the party's leader. After the Ninth Knesset pai's last remaining representative in the Knesset was Rabbi Avraham Verdiger.

In the United States

Po'alei Agudat Israel of America was a ḥaredi organization founded in the U.S. in 1948 for the purpose of educating and preparing young people for aliyah to Israel, and supporting the institutions of the parent movement in Israel. pai remained a relatively small organization, with only five branches located in Brooklyn, New York. Its lack of popularity was due to lack of approval by the heads of yeshivot in the U.S., which rendered pai incapable of providing an effective alternative to the anti-Zionist Agudat Israel in the U.S. pai's women's division, Neshei Po'alei Agudat Israel, supported six children's homes and villages in Israel, with a population of more than 2,000 children. pai published the periodicals Aḥdut, pai-Views, and Yedi'ot pai. On issues affecting Israel, it generally followed the Israel parent party line. Domestically, pai was one of the few Jewish organizations to support the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which authorized the provision of federal funds to aid students in private schools. The organization, though small, was headed by Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, past president of the Rabbinical Council of America. The organization is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.


Po'alei Agudat Yisrael be-Ereẓ Yisra'el: Berur Devarim be-Kesher le-Hiẓtarfutah shel Po'alei Agudat Yisrael la-Ko'aliẓiyah ha-Memshaltit (1960); H. Seidman, History of a Movement and a Man (1963).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]