Va'ad Ha-Pekidim Ve-Ha-Amarkalim

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VA'AD HA-PEKIDIM VE-HA-AMARKALIM , an organization established in 1810 for the support of the yishuv in Ereẓ Israel. Until the 18th century, the majority of the Jewish community in Ereẓ Israel were Sephardim, who were supported by the *Va'ad Pekidei Ereẓ Israel be-Kushta. Toward the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century, however, the Ashkenazi community grew in number and with it the contributions toward their upkeep from European countries. With the decline of the Turkish empire, the support coming from there diminished and the burden of the economic support of the Jewish community fell upon the communities of Europe, with Amsterdam becoming the center for the collection of the necessary funds. An additional factor was the growing interest of the European powers in Ereẓ Israel. The Va'ad was established by Western European Orthodox Jews for clearly defined ideological purposes. On the one hand there was the idea that the yishuv in Ereẓ Israel had to be supported by its brethren in Europe so that the former could study and pray for them, and on the other was the Va'ad's part in the struggle against *Haskalah and *Reform Judaism, which were spreading in Western Europe. It was based on the idea of the importance of the yishuv and the need to guard it against the spread of religious Reform.

The most prominent heads of the Va'ad were its founders, the *Lehren brothers, who headed it during the major part of the 19th century. They received authorization for their activities from the communities in Ereẓ Israel and from the Va'ad Pekidei Ereẓ Israel be-Kushta. Although their main activity was in Western and Central Europe, their influence spread to Eastern Europe. Among their activities was the incessant struggle to abolish the system of shadarim (emissaries) from the various communities in Ereẓ Israel and to concentrate the collection of funds in their own hands by improving the methods of collection. This concentration of funds gave them enormous influence. They intervened in the disputes between Sephardim and Ashkenazim as to the allocations of the *ḥalukkah, establishing a key which changed every few years as a result of pressure by the various groups. Belonging as they did to the extreme Orthodox circles, they exercised their influence in this direction. They opposed every proposed innovation in the economic, social, or religious life of Ereẓ Israel, regarding it as the last stronghold of Judaism against the inroads of Haskalah and Reform, which might pose a threat to their powers. They even intervened in such matters as the appointment of the *ḥakham bashi and came out in support of the Sephardim in their struggle to prevent the Moroccan Jews from establishing an independent communtity. Their main struggle, however, was against attempts to establish schools, hospitals, and new suburbs in Jerusalem. In their opposition to the establishment of a modern educational system, they clashed with Sir Moses *Montefiore and the enlightened Jews of Germany and Austria, and this struggle reached its peak with their campaign against the establishment of the Laemel school of Ludwig August *Frankl. Their opposition to the founding of the first hospitals was based on the fact that the initiative came from Reform circles in Germany, and they fought tenaciously against all attempts by enlightened Orthodox circles to abolish the ḥalukkah system.

These struggles must therefore be viewed in the perspective of what was happening in Jewish society in Europe during the 19th century. The special interest of the European powers in Ereẓ Israel, the establishment of consulates and the capitulations, the pluralism of the communities and kolelim, the penetration of new factors into the yishuv and finally the Zionist settlement all combined to bring about the weakening of the Va'ad's influence in Amsterdam, the Lehren brothers' deposition from the dominant position they maintained in Jerusalem, and the demise of the ideology of the ḥalukkah.


M. Eliav, in: Chapters in the History of the Jewish Community in Jerusalem (1973), 48–50; B.Z. Gat, Ha-Yishuv ha-Yehudi be-Ereẓ Yisrael ba-Shanim 1840–1881 (1963), 72, 78, 94, 98–02, 133–5, 195, 221; B.Z. Dinaburg (Dinur), in: Zion (Me'asef), 1 (1926), 85 121; L.A. Frankl, Nach Jerusalem (1859); J. and B. Rivlin (eds.), Iggerot ha-Pekidim ve-ha-Amarkalim me-Amsterdam, 1–2 (1965–70).

[Jacob Barnai]