Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The State of Israel

The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, with the support of Agudas Yisrael, presented a great challenge to the Rav’s strongly held views of austritt, which were at the core of his Hirschian upbringing. A Torah community must maintain total separation from any organized movements, such as Reform and Zionism, that deny the eternal truths of the Torah.


While Rav Schwab always appreciated the haven the new state provided for the dispersed and suffering Jews, victims of the Holocaust, he worried that spiritually, it would bring overwhelming challenges to Torah-observant Jews. The Rav was concerned from the very beginning that the state of Israel was founded by secularists with the intention of fundamentally redefining the essence of the Jewish people and weakening Torah observance. In the weeks and months following the establishment of the medinah, while everyone was celebrating, Rav Schwab felt no pleasure. He found no sympathizers for his grave concerns.

Sometime later, he had the opportunity to visit Eretz Yisrael, and he went to see the Chazon Ish. He asked him, “What heter did Agudas Yisrael have for joining the government?” The Chazon Ish answered simply, “I don’t know, they did not ask me.” While the Chazon Ish shared his concerns, he cautioned Rav Schwab that because there was such frenzy over the newly founded state, when he returned to America he should keep his thoughts to himself.

“Remain silent,” he said, “because people will consider you an apikores,” a heretic, for denying that the medinah is the beginning of the geulah. The Chazon Ish suggested that he express himself only “b’akifin,” in a roundabout way, hinting at the challenges to a Torah life created by the newly established state.


[i] The Jewish Observer, Summer 1995, “The Ish Ha’emes” by Rabbi Eliyahu Klugman


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Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He then taught as an adjunct at Stevens until 2014. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at [email protected].