A year-long series of commemorations marking the 120th anniversary of the modern religious Zionist movement launched this week with a visit of 50 World Mizrachi leaders and representatives to the very site in Vilna (Vilnius), Lithuania, where the movement began.
In February 1902, seventy religious Zionist delegates gathered in the Great Charity Hall (Beit Agudat Tzedakah Hagedolah) in Vilna, as local Jews called it, and founded the Mizrachi Movement as part of the World Zionist Organization.
This was the first formal gathering of religious Jews in a Torah-driven movement officially aligned with the World Zionist Organization.
The following year, the same venue was the scene of a visit by Theodor Herzl, where he was warmly welcomed by religious leaders in the city famed for its rich rabbinic tradition. That visit served as an informal “stamp of approval” linking many religious figures to modern Zionism through the Mizrachi movement, allowing for the sustained growth of Religious Zionism over the course of the ensuing decades.
This past Tuesday, a mission of about 50 participants of World Mizrachi gathered at the site, led by executive chairman Rabbi Doron Peretz.
“Even the most visionary thinkers could have never anticipated the impact that Religious Zionism would have on the development of modern Zionism and the founding and flourishing of the State of Israel.”Rabbi Doron Peretz
“Even the most visionary thinkers could never have anticipated the impact that Religious Zionism would have on the development of modern Zionism and the founding and flourishing of the State of Israel,” Peretz said.
“Like a soul to the body, so is the Torah to the Jewish people,” he said. “The spiritual and national aspects are complementary and this synthesis of religious Zionism has, since then and until today, played a transformative role in nearly every aspect of Jewish life in Israel and Jewish life across the Diaspora.”
The week-long World Mizrachi mission visiting Jewish history sites in Eastern Europe
The highlight of the commemorative events will be the first-ever World Orthodox Israel Congress organized by the World Mizrachi Movement to take place in Jerusalem on April 24-26, in conjunction with Israel’s 75th year of independence.
The Congress will consist of a series of high-level meetings, sessions, site visits and entertainment events.