Rabbi Yosef Sheinberger dies at 87

Meshi-Zahav: His death ushers in a "new era of rudderless haredi zealotry."

Rabbi Sheinberger 298.88 (photo credit: )
Rabbi Sheinberger 298.88
(photo credit: )
The passing of Rabbi Yosef Sheinberger, the mythological political leader of the anti-Zionist Edah Haredit marks a new era of rudderless haredi zealotry, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, Chairman of ZAKA (Disaster Victims Identification), said Wednesday. Sheinberger was 87. "Sheinberger never allowed the more extreme elements in the Edah to run the show," said Meshi-Zahav, who is Sheinberger's grandson. "He knew how to walk between the raindrops. Throughout the 60 years during which he formulated the Edah Haredit's ideological line, he never broke ties with Agudah," said Meshi-Zahav. "But today we are witness to small extremist groups commandeering the Edah." Meshi-Zahav pointed to recent incidents as examples of the lack of political leadership within the Edah Haredit. One example was the resent bodysnatching of a Beit Shemesh woman. The body was reportedly held overnight in a slaughterhouse refrigerator by the more zealous members of the Edah Haredit, who feared a state autopsy. Meshi-Zahav also pointed to the appearance of a fringe group within Natorei Karta at the recent Holocaust denial conference in Iran as a sign of a weak leadership. Israeli ultra-Orthodoxy is split into two major political camps: Agudah, which is considered more pragmatic and in many ways pro-Zionist (two of its members signed Israel's Declaration of Independence) and the Edah Haredit, which saw the establishment of the state of Israel as a rebellion against God. Sheinberger fostered ties between the two camps and was a lifelong friend of Menachem Porush, one of Agudah's leading politicians. "Yosef Sheinberger was the Edah Haredit and the Edah Haredit was Sheinberger," said Shmuel Popenheim, editor of Ha'edah, the official weekly mouthpiece of the Edah Haredit. "He was the one who enlisted the rabbis, he was the one who led the struggles against Shabbat desecration and immodesty, he was the one who did the fundraising abroad." Yitzhak Weiss, a reporter for Der Yid, Satmar hassidism's Yiddish-language mouthpiece in the US, said that Sheinberger's pasing leaves a vacuum. "Rabbi Sheinberger was a creative strategist who transformed the Edah Haredit into a major force in haredi Jewry," said Weiss. "Today there is no single ideologue who comes anywhere near to Sheinberger." Sheinberger was the mastermind behind a number of pivotal and sometimes controversial decision during his 60 years at the helm. He organized massive welcoming ceremonies for the Satmar Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum. In 1979 he brought Rabbi Yitzhak Ya'acov Weiss, a major halachic authority, to the Edah Haredit from Manchester, despite opposition to his appointment by zealots who claimed Weiss was pro-Zionist. In 1981 he issued a decree that all educational institutions that accept state funding were off limits for children of the Edah Haredit. Sheinberger's family was directly related to the Sanz Hassidic dynasty.