Shomer Israel

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SHOMER ISRAEL (Heb. שׁוֹמֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל; "Guardian of Israel"), faction of the assimilationist movement (see *Assimilation) in Galicia during the second half of the 19th century, favoring German cultural orientation. Shomer Israel was organized in 1869 as an expression of the intensified political activity among the Jews following the Austrian constitution of 1867 and the prospects of *emancipation. Its founders included Filip Mansch, Rubin Bierer, and Joseph Kohn. They published a weekly, Der Israelit, aimed to spread education among the Jewish masses and make them aware of their civic and social obligations. It appeared for 35 years, first edited by Mansch. Its political outlook was centralist and pro-Austrian with a tendency toward German liberalism. On the initiative of Der Israelit, a Jewish-Ruthenian bloc was created in 1873 for the elections to parliament in Vienna; the bloc succeeded in obtaining three Jewish seats.

The German cultural and Austrian orientation of Shomer Israel was however unable to withstand the new tendencies which gradually emerged within Jewish intellectual circles sympathetic to Polish culture and loyal to the ideas of Galician autonomy. The Jewish youth who studied in Polish schools became imbued with a patriotic spirit, which was expressed by Bernard *Goldman, who arrived in Lemberg in 1870 and laid the foundations of a rival organization named Doreshei Shalom, and a newspaper *Ugoda, which called for Polish assimilation. A new assimilationist organization *Aguddat Aḥim was also established and was active during the 1880s, when it challenged the views of Shomer Israel. Another opponent of Shomer Israel was the Orthodox sector led by Simeon *Sofer (Schreiber) who headed the *Maḥzikei Hadas society. When Sofer was elected to the Austrian parliament in 1879, he joined the "Polish Club," there; the Orthodox were particularly opposed to the conference of communities convened in Lemberg on the initiative of Shomer Israel in 1878, with the aim of reorganizing the communities. The leaders of Orthodoxy, rabbis Simeon Sofer of Cracow and Joshua Rokeaḥ of *Belz, called for a boycott of the conference because of its objectives to modernize Jewish life and its project to establish a rabbinical seminary.


N.M. Gelber (ed.), eg, 4 (1956), 309–11; I. Schipper et al. (eds.), Żydzi w Polsce odrodzonej, 1 (1932), 393; J. Tenenbaum, Galitsye, Mayn Alte Heym (1952), 31–83.

[Moshe Landau]