Streetwise: Rehov Harav Ze'ev Gold, Jerusalem

Rabbi Ze'ev Gold made aliya in 1935, and in 1946 testified before Congress, calling for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Harav Gold street 88 248 (photo credit: Maya Spitzer )
Harav Gold street 88 248
(photo credit: Maya Spitzer )
With your eyes, ascend the Jacob's Ladder sculpture at the entrance to Jerusalem's Givat Mordechai neighborhood. Step by step seek your own stairway to heaven in this lovely neighborhood. A short distance after you make your way into Givat Mordechai, Rehov Harav Ze'ev Gold appears. The street may not be lengthy, but it leads to major educational institutions, quite noted in their own right. Founded in 1955 by a group of Mizrahi activists who later set up the National Religious Party, Givat Mordechai is named for Maxwell Abell, the grandfather of Jerusalem Post columnist Jonathan Rosenblum. A noted philanthropist in the early years of the state, Abell and his wife underwrote the Chagall synagogue at Hadassah University Medical Center, Ein Kerem. Young modern Orthodox couples form the basic nucleus of the Givat Mordechai population. The residential area is bordered on the west by Sderot Menachem Begin and to the south by the Pri-Har Valley, home to gazelles and other wildlife. Ze'ev Gold (1889-1956) was born in Europe and studied in various yeshivot until he was ordained at 16. Two years later he immigrated to the United States and became a pulpit rabbi. His first position was in South Chicago and then he made his way east to the Linden Street Synagogue in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In this community he built his reputation as a fine orator and a Mizrahi activist. As World War I began, Gold took a position with a congregation in Brooklyn, where intense political activism and Zionist fervor abounded. He was instrumental in bringing Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan to America. Since Gold had become president of American Mizrahi, these two dynamos worked very closely to develop the clout of the movement. Bar-Ilan and other Zionist leaders, such as David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, remained in America during the war. They helped to broaden the foundation of the Zionist movement in the US. American Mizrahi published a Hebrew weekly to which 5,000 people subscribed. With all his efforts, Gold became a household name in the organization's ranks. REHOV HARAV Ze'ev Gold is lined with synagogues and flows directly from Rehov Shahal, a main thoroughfare of the community, to the Amalia girls' high school. A walk down to the campus will bring you to the school and the synagogue. Continuing on from Amalia for another 400 meters, you arrive at the Hebron Yeshiva. Following the 1929 riots, the yeshiva moved to the center of Jerusalem, and 36 years ago it relocated in Givat Mordechai. The yeshiva is considered one of the best in the country. Make one more stop by going west back over Rehov Shahal and you will see the expanse of buildings of the Jerusalem College of Technology, outstanding both for its scientific studies and Torah learning. Interestingly, Gold began pursuing his dream of aliya in 1921 when he came to Palestine. Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook appointed Gold as the traveling rabbi to spiritually service a large group of moshavim. It soon became clear that Gold's hopes had been squelched. So he went back to the US and took a pulpit in San Francisco. He did battle with the Reform community but he was befriended by Rabbi Martin Meyer, a Reform rabbi but an avowed Zionist. As a result Gold was able to establish a teachers' college, the first in the western US. In 1927 he was called to a prestigious pulpit in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and remained there until 1935 when he was able to make aliya. His attendance at World Zionist Congresses and his proficiency in Torah educational training made him a candidate for a WZO position in Jerusalem. Once he received authorization to head the Torah Education department in the Diaspora, located in Jerusalem, he moved his family here in 1935. IN PALESTINE, he worked closely with Rabbi Yehuda Maimon in bolstering Mizrahi and its worldwide branches. Well remembered is his return to the United States in 1943 where during the Rabbis' March on Washington he read a petition on the steps of the Capitol in Washington calling for president Franklin D. Roosevelt and congressional leaders to take action to save the Jews of Europe. Three years later, after World War II was over, he was sent to Washington again. He testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. Gold has the distinction of having his name on Israel's Declaration of Independence. There is a special twist which adds meaning to his being a signatory. On May 13, 1948, Ben-Gurion sent a one-passenger Piper Cub from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to pick up Rabbi Maimon for the May 14 ceremony. Gold and one other person were left without room on the plane, so they experienced the birth of Israel in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. Space was left for Gold's signature on the document. Several months later when the Declaration of Independence was brought to Jerusalem, arrangements were made for the additional signings. His name is in the right hand column in his characteristic Hebrew script. Following his death, the Machon Gold seminary for girls was established in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem branch of the Fire and Rescue Services is based in Givat Mordechai, only a short walk from Rehov Harav Ze'ev Gold, and visits to the site are encouraged. Children come with their teachers and are given a new perspective on fire prevention and fire control. Givat Mordechai is proud to house this important municipal service.