Demise of two Jewish Agency, WZO stalwarts

Elizer Sheffer and Matityahu Drobles both passed away at age 85 and 87, respectively.

Yahrtzeit candle [Illustratvie] (photo credit: ELIPONGO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Yahrtzeit candle [Illustratvie]
Two veteran stalwarts of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization – Tiberias-born Eliezer Sheffer, 85, and Warsaw Ghetto survivor Matityahu Drobles, 87 – died early this week.
Sheffer was born into a family long-established in the Holy Land. His ancestors came to the country in 1777. His father was a Karlin Hassid, but the Sheffers had no problem mixing with and befriending their Muslim neighbors.
Even though he served as a paratrooper sergeant in a reserve unit the 1967 Six Day War, and prayed on the Temple Mount soon after the capture of the Old City, Eliezer Sheffer retained his ability to befriend his Muslim neighbors. When he and his wife, Esther, later lived in the Old City, he entrusted a spare key to his apartment to a Muslim neighbor who happened to be the local grocer..
Although he worked in a variety of fields throughout his career, Sheffer was essentially a teacher and educational counselor.
After studying psychology and education at Bar-Ilan University, he worked as a senior employment consultant at the Social Affairs Ministry. While engaged in that capacity, he established vocational guidance and training networks, as well as an east Jerusalem employment bureau for Arab residents of the city.
In 1970 he was sent by the Jewish Agency to the United States, where he worked for three years as an education emissary. After returning to Israel, he set up the World Zionist Organization’s Generation to Generation Leadership Development Division.
Sheffer quickly became a member of the Jewish Agency and the WZO executive. He also headed the WZO Department of Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora, through which he initiated numerous Jewish study and leadership projects and programs throughout the Jewish world.
As head of the Center for Jewish Affairs in the Diaspora, he was responsible for a global network of seminaries for community leadership and rabbinic studies, and was the founder of the World Assembly of Orthodox (Jewish) Leadership which meets annually in Jerusalem.
He was also chairman of the World Organization of Orthodox Synagogues and Communities and chairman of the Union of Synagogues and Communities in Israel.
For almost 40 years, Sheffer was a member of the kollel of married students at Yeshivat Hakotel in the Old City of Jerusalem.
He was also a prolific writer of articles which are preserved in the archives of numerous religious publications.
MATITYAHU DROBLES was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1931. He was not yet a bar mitzvah when he became trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto. Together with an older sister and two brothers, Drobles managed to escape from the ghetto to the nearby forests, where he remained in hiding until after the war was over.
In 1946, he moved to Argentina, which ironically was a haven for Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust, as well as for Nazis who wanted to escape their past and often took on new identities. Drobles attended high school in Buenos Aires and joined the Betar Zionist youth movement, where his leadership abilities were rapidly recognized. He soon rose to become a member of the Betar national leadership and a member of the Council of Zionist Youth Movements.
After four years in Argentina, he decided to move to Israel, arriving in 1950. Not yet 20 years old, Drobles became a member of the Herut Betar settlement movement and was one of the founders of the Mevo Betar moshav. In 1962, he was elected deputy chairman of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council and remained in office until 1973. Concurrent with his work on the regional council, he was also chairman of the Mishkei Herut Betar Settlement Department, to which he was appointed in 1967. As chairman, he established settlements for new immigrants in Rafiah and the Jordan Valley from 1974-1977.
He also was an MK from 1972- 1977.
In 1978 Drobles became a member of the board of the Jewish Agency and the WZO, and served as chairman of the WZO Settlement Department from 1978 until 1992.