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Brodt, Shemu’el

(1885–1963), rabbi and Zionist leader. Born in Łódź, Shemu’el Yom Tov ha-Levi Brodt studied at a Hasidic yeshiva, and was elected in 1907 to be the rabbi of Brisk Dekuyave (Pol., Brześć Kujawski). Prior to World War I, Brodt was the rabbi of Lipno. He joined the ranks of Mizraḥi at the end of the war, and called on it to strengthen its role in Polish political life as well as to organize immigration to Palestine.

In 1919, Brodt campaigned for democratization in Polish Jewish communities; among the issues he promoted was women’s suffrage. In 1922, he applied for the rabbinical position in the city of Tomaszów Mazowiecki and was met with harsh opposition by Agudas Yisroel, which supported David Bornstein (1876–1943), later the admor (Hasidic leader) of Sochaczew. The four rounds of elections involved harsh confrontations between Zionists and Mizraḥi, on the one hand, and Agudas Yisroel, on the other, who alternately approached Polish authorities to annul the results. In the end, Brodt won the position (in 1928), but throughout the entire period of his service, which ended in 1936, he was forced to cope with attacks by his opponents.

The bitter confrontation did not prevent Brodt from taking part in activities of the Agudat ha-Rabanim (Association of Rabbis) in Poland, and from serving as a member of its executive. He was a deputy in the Polish Sejm (parliament) from 1922 to 1930, and represented Koło, the Jewish parliamentary faction, on the Committee for Military Affairs between 1928 and 1930; he had little impact on parliamentary activity, however.

In 1931, Brodt was appointed president of Mizraḥi in Poland in place of Yehoshu‘a Heshel Farbstein. As a result of the friction he experienced in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, and because of financial hardships, Brodt left Poland in 1936 to become the rabbi of Antwerp. In 1941 he moved to the United States, where he served as a rabbi in New York, and in 1951 he immigrated to Israel, where he was a rabbinical court judge.

Brodt wrote numerous essays that appeared in the Jewish press in Poland, as well as a book, Tsionistishe problemen (Zionist Issues; 1935), that focused on the importance of the middle class in the Zionist movement. His writings supported Jewish settlement in Transjordan, and dealt with relationships between religion and state. After his death, some of his writings were collected in the text Sugyot be-Kodashim (Topics in the Mishnaic Order of “Holy Things”; 1969).

Suggested Reading

Asaf Kaniel, “Ha-Mizraḥi be-Polin ben shete milḥamot ha-‘olam” (Ph.D. diss., Bar Ilan University, 2004); Yizḥak Raphael, ed., Entsiklopedyah shel ha-Tsiyonut ha-datit, vol. 6, cols. 191–195 (Jerusalem, 2001); Abraham Wein, ed., “Lipno,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Polin, vol. 4, V’arshah veha-Galil, pp. 262–263 (Jerusalem, 1989).



Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen