The kibbutznik rebbe who joined a secular Zionist youth movement

Rabbi Yisrael Shalom Yosef Friedman of the Ruzhiner hasidic dynasty, who joined Hashomer Hatzair and founded a kibbutz, passes away at 94.

Rafael Levi,

Rabbi Yisrael Shalom Yosef Friedman (left)
Rabbi Yisrael Shalom Yosef Friedman (left)
Barish Filmer

Rabbi Yisrael Shalom Friedman of Pashkan (may his saintly memory be a blessing) - a rebbe from the hasidic line of Ruzhin who joined the Socialist Zionist youth movement “Hashomer Hatzair” and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Reshafim, has passed away.

Rabbi Friedman was was descended from the Ruzhiner Rebbes and was the son-in-law of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe. His student Yitzchak Baruchi told Arutz Sheva about his unique life. “After World War II he joined Hashomer Hatzair in Romania, asserting that his forefathers always went with the Jews and hasidim wherever they went - and therefore he was joining Hashomer Hatzair because that’s where the younger generation was going.”

In 1946 Rabbi Friedman immigrated with his future wife to Israel, where he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Reshafim in the Beit Shean Valley. Baruchi said that he approached this undertaking with a sense of mission. In the 1960s, the Rabbi and his wife did Jewish outreach in France; from there they moved to Kibbutz Saad and later to Jerusalem.

Baruchi said that as a member of the Ruzhiner hasidic dynasty, Rabbi Friedman was well-known, such that during his studies in yeshiva high school, Baruchi met two grandsons of the Rabbi and started going to the Rabbi’s Shabbat events in Jerusalem.

He added that the Rabbi’s uniqueness lay in his warmth and love for every Jew - and his fervent Zionist belief. “He had a saintly personage; every movement, word, act of eating was done with the utmost care. He said that everything is truly part of the service of G-d, and this aspect was readily apparent in him. His face was always shining, and he was always interested in people and where they came from.”

Baruchi explained that part of the large appeal in the events at the Rabbi’s Shabbat table lay in the fact that “he was from the previous generation and knew how to bring the simplicity of older times, of authentic hasidut. There was something about him that was very easy to connect with, that cut to the core.”

“Everything was from a ZIonist place. He was very connected to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel, which is something you could find 50-60 years ago among hasidic rebbes, but which in the last generation has disappeared.”

Rabbi Yisrael Shalom Yosef Friedman also held a doctorate and was a lecturer in history; he wrote his thesis on the Jewish zealots who fought against the Romans.

Rabbi Friedman’s sons have continued in their father's footsteps, each in his own way: Dr. Menachem Ben Shalom is the author of the book “Hasidim and Hasidot in the Period of the Second Temple and Mishna” and a college lecturer. Yirmiyahu Friedman Ben Shalom is among the founders of the urban kibbutz “Reishit.” Shmulik Ben Shalom is a social activist in Negev development towns and a founder of a hesder yeshiva and women’s seminaries in Yerucham and Netivot, and Hoshea Friedman Ben Shalom, who was his father’s right-hand man, has been the Head Reserves Officer since January and heads the pre-military yeshiva in the urban kibbutz “Beit Yisrael.”




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