Zerach Warhaftig

Zerach Warhaftig (Hebrew: זֶרַח וַרְהַפְטִיג, Yiddish: זרח װאַרהאַפֿטיק, also Zorah Wahrhaftig; 2 February 1906 - 26 September 2002) was an Israeli rabbi, lawyer, and politician. He was a signatory of Israel's Declaration of Independence.[1]

Zerach Warhaftig
Zerach Warhaftig - D709-075.jpg
Ministerial roles
1961–1974Minister of Religions
Faction represented in the Knesset
1949–1951United Religious Front
1951–1955Hapoel HaMizrachi
1955–1969National Religious Party
1974–1981National Religious Party
Personal details
Born2 February 1906
Volkovysk, Russian Empire
Died26 September 2002(2002-09-26) (aged 96)


Zerach Warhaftig was born in Volkovysk, in the Russian Empire (today Vawkavysk, Belarus) in 1906.[1] His parents were Yerucham Warhaftig and Rivka Fainstein. He studied law at the University of Warsaw, and later became a Doctor of Law from the Hebrew University.

At the start of World War II, Rabbi Warhaftig was among those who convinced the Japanese Vice-Consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, to issue transit visas for the entire Mir Yeshiva. Warhaftig and most students of the Mir Yeshiva received a "Curaçao visa" from the Dutch consul Jan Zwartendijk, which gave them an official travel destination.[2] This allowed Sugihara to issue Japanese transit visa. By so doing, Zwartendijk and Sugihara saved thousands of lives and families from the Nazis who had occupied first Poland and then Lithuania. In 1940 Warhaftig and his family travelled east from Lithuania to Japan. On 5 June 1941 the Warhaftigs left Yokohama on the Japanese ocean liner Hikawa Maru and on 17 June they landed at Vancouver, Canada.[3] He described the trip as "a summer vacation and with the war seeming to be so far away" although, he said "I didn't have a peaceful mind because of the strong responsibility I had to help the Jewish refugees with the troubles they faced."[3]

In 1947, Warhaftig immigrated to Mandatory Palestine. Initially he joined the Hapoel HaMizrachi party, a religious-zionist party, and in 1949 he was elected to the first Knesset as part of the United Religious Front, an alliance between Mizrachi, Hapoel HaMizrachi, Agudat Yisrael and Poalei Agudat Yisrael. In 1948-1963 he taught Jewish Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The party contended in the 1951 elections alone. Although it won only two seats, it was included in David Ben-Gurion's coalition, and Warhaftig was appointed Deputy Minister of Religions in the fourth government. In 1956, Hapoel HaMizrachi and Mizrachi merged to form the National Religious Party. Warhaftig led the party and retained his ministerial role until the end of the third Knesset.

After the 1961 elections (the fifth Knesset) he was appointed Minister of Religions, a position he held until 1974. In 1981 he retired from the Knesset.

In 1970, he was elected chairman of the curatorium of Bar-Ilan University.[4][5]

Awards and recognitionEdit

  • In 1983 Warhaftig was awarded the Israel Prize, for his special contribution to society and the State of Israel in the advancement of Hebrew law.[6]
  • In 1989 he received the Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award from the city of Jerusalem.[7]

The Dr. Zerah Warhaftig Institute for Research on Religious Zionism at Bar Ilan University is named for him.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Zerach Warhaftig". Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2020.
  2. ^ "Jan Zwartendijk. - Collections Search - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum".
  3. ^ a b Warhaftig 1988, p. 239.
  4. ^ "Warhaftig, Zerah". www.encyclopedia.com.
  5. ^ "Warhaftig, Zerah". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org.
  6. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1983" (in Hebrew).
  7. ^ "Recipients of Yakir Yerushalayim award" (in Hebrew). Archived from the original on 2013-10-22. City of Jerusalem official website
  8. ^ Zerah Warhaftig Institute for Research on Religious Zionism Archived August 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine

Published worksEdit

  • “A Constitution for Israel” an article in Yavne Compilation: Political Problems in Israel pgs 17-21, (Hebrew, April 1949)
  • “On Rabbinical Judgments in Israel” (collected speeches) (Hebrew, 1956)
  • “Legal Issues in the Talmud” (from lectures) (Hebrew, 1957)
  • Editor with Shlomo Zeven: “Remembrance: a Torah Collection in Memory of Rabbi Yizhak HaLevi Herzog” (Hebrew, 1962)
  • “Chattel in Jewish Law” (Hebrew, 1964)
  • “Problems of State and Religion” (articles and speeches) (Hebrew, 1973)
  • Edited: “Religion and State in Legislation: A Collection of Laws and Rulings” (Hebrew, 1973)
  • “The Declaration of Independence and Orders for the Order of Government and the Judiciary (1948 and Problems of Religion and State)” in The Book of Shragai (Hebrew, 1982)
  • “Refugee and Remnant during the Holocaust” (Hebrew, 1984)
  • “Researches in Jewish Law” (Hebrew, 1985)
  • “A Constitution for Israel – Religion and State” (Hebrew, 1988)
  • Warhaftig, Zorach (1988). Refugee and Survivor: Rescue Attempts during the Holocaust. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. ISBN 9789653080058.

External linksEdit