Archival Treasures – Ultra-Orthodox Life in the Holyland

The Rebbe of Sochatchov and Rabbis of Agudat Yisrael on the Polonia Ship

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The clip documents the journey of the ship “Polonia” in 1935 from the port city of Constanța in Romania on its way to Eretz Yisrael-Palestine with a delegation of rabbis of Agudat Yisrael from Poland and Lithuania on board. The “Polonia” passengers, who are mostly religious Jews, are seen during conversations and prayer. Among the rabbis of Agudat Yisrael on board is Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, who emerges as he climbs the stairs on board (00:53); Rabbi Sorotzkin was one of Agudat Yisrael leaders in Poland, chairman of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages), and a leader of Orthodox Haredi community post WW2 in Israel. Emerging behind him on the stairs and seen briefly smoking is Rabbi Alexander Zusha Friedman; Rabbi Friedman was the secretary-general of Agudat Yisrael in Poland, the author of “Ma’ayanah shel Torah” and a community leader in the Warsaw ghetto. The most senior figure on board is the Rebbe of Sochatchov Hasidic dynasty, Rabbi Dovid Bornsztain, who is not part of the Agudat Yisrael delegation. The Rebbe of Sochatchov was one of the leaders of Polish Jewry prior to the Holocaust, and a community leader in the Warsaw ghetto. The Rebbe is seen walking on board with two men accompanying him (1:05), on the right side of the frame is Rabbi Jacob Meir Biderman, a rabbi of Polish Jewry before the Holocaust, and on the left side of the frame is Rabbi Yitzhak-Meir Levin, a leader of the Haredi community in Israel, as well as Knesset Member and Minister on behalf of Agudat Yisrael. The film presents a rare documentation of Polish Jewry’s leaders prior to the Holocaust: the Rebbe of Sochatchov perished in the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, Rabbi Jacob Meir Biderman perished in the Warsaw ghetto in 1941, and Rabbi Alexander Zusha Friedman perished in the Trawniki concentration camp in 1943. Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin and Rabbi Yitzhak-Meir Levin emigrated to Eretz Yisrael-Palestine in 1940. The archive team wishes to thank Rabbi Jacob Shlomo Levi and Dr. Chaim Shalem for their scientific consultation concerning this footage.

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