Thousands at burial of Rabbi Menahem Porush

Peres: Former MK "as much a part of Jerusalem as stones in Western Wall."

By BY GREER FAY CASHMAN
February 23, 2010 02:27
4 minute read.
The funeral of Rabbi Menahem Porush (Ariel Jerozol

porush funeral 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

 
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Thousands of mourners flocked to pay their last respects to Agudat Israel leader, former MK and deputy minister for labor and social affairs Rabbi Menahem Porush on Monday.

A seventh-generation Jerusalemite who was a prominent figure in a dynasty of community activists, Porush, born April 2, 1916, died on Sunday evening of cardiac arrest.

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He was buried on Monday at Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Givat Shaul.

Several roads were closed by police in anticipation of the enormous funeral procession, resulting in heavy traffic congestion.

Porush was married twice, and outlived both his wives.

A journalist, public speaker, educator, social welfare administrator, politician, real estate developer and hotelier, Porush, despite his advanced age and his difficulties in walking, continued to be active up until the final moments of his life.

Among those who came to the Porush home in the capital's Pines Street to participate in purification rites and to accompany the deceased on his final journey was President Shimon Peres, who knew Porush well from almost 35 years of working together in the Knesset. Porush served from November 1959 to June 1994, taking a two-year absence from 1975 to 1977.



Peres said that although Porush's great and compassionate heart had stopped beating, his deeds would remain a lasting legacy. Peres described him as one of the most energetic and active Israelis, "always doing, always giving and always helping the needy."

His activities within his own community, said Peres, helped to strengthen the Torah world and to disseminate Jewish heritage to a wider public. He worked diligently towards greater understanding and tolerance between the secular and religious sectors, and was a faithful servant of his people.

"He was a rare individual, a great Jew and as much a part of Jerusalem as the stones in the Western Wall," said Peres, who also eulogized Porush as a man of vision and hope with regard to the future of the Jewish people. Peres remembered him as a man who was generally pleasant, lived life to the full, worked towards Jewish unity, was a living bridge between the diverse elements of Judaism, and who in his persona symbolized the state, the people and the Jew.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also eulogized Porush, saying: "Rabbi Porush was a pillar of the haredi community. Israel and the Jewish people have lost a dear, wise and warm Jew who loved Israel and was among the best public servants we had."

Educated in Etz Haim Yeshiva, Porush was the son of Rabbi Moshe Glickman-Porush, and in the course of time, followed his father into serving on the Jerusalem City Council, eventually becoming deputy mayor. One of his seven offspring, Meir, followed him into politics, first to the Jerusalem City Council where he also served as his family's third successive deputy mayor and then to the Knesset where he also served and continues to serve as a deputy minister.

Although they take on ministerial responsibilities, members of Agudat Israel never take on full ministerial positions in case the government should decide to do something which is in violation of Jewish law. As ministers they would be compromised. As non-ministers they are not part of the government's decision-making process and therefore their consciences may remain clear.

In 1932, Porush, who was barely 16 at the time, was expelled from Etz Haim for unseemly conduct at a Purim party, where he allegedly slighted Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine under the authority of the British Mandate.

The young Porush, who had a gift with words, went abroad to work for haredi newspapers and returned home in 1938.

In 1949 he was appointed assistant editor of the Kol Israel newspaper, remaining in the post till 1963. Concurrently he edited the official Agudat Israel publication and served for a year as editor of Hamevasser, which later became defunct. It was revived towards the end of 2008 by Meir Porush when Hamodia, the religious daily controlled by the Ger Hassidim, opposed him in his run for mayor against Nir Barkat.

His work as a writer and editor did not deter Porush from political involvement in the interests of his community. He was both a founder and administrator of the independent religious education system. He passionately fought against autopsies, which are forbidden by Jewish law. He led the struggle to keep missionaries out of Israel and haredi girls out of the National Service program, and was extremely vocal about excavations in areas thought to contain human remains as well as desecration of the Sabbath by municipal and government bodies.

It was he who persuaded former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin that Rachel's Tomb, the symbol of the return of the Jewish People to its ancient homeland, must remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Within his own camp, he served as chairman of Agudat Israel and of World Agudat Israel.

He established a network of child day care centers, and founded Kiryat Hayeled, an educational center for religious children, especially those who were Holocaust survivors.

He also built apartment complexes for young haredi families and the Central Hotel not far from Mahane Yehuda, which not only served the needs of haredi tourists, but also provided Passover seders for the city's poor and was a meeting place for political figures who did not want to be seen in places frequented by paparazzi.

Menachem Porush had excellent relations with rabbinical leaders in Israel and around the world and frequently worked as an envoy for these rabbis.

He also enjoyed warm relations with foreign diplomats, to whose receptions he was often invited, and with Jerusalem's business community. He made it a point to attend nearly all economic forums that convened in the capital, and was an ardent advocate for the city's development.

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