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Tse‘ire Mizraḥi

Youth movement of the Mizraḥi religious Zionist movement. The movement combined Mizraḥi’s religious Zionist vision with a call for productive labor and for the construction of a new and just society. Tse‘ire Mizraḥi’s social revolutionary views, which were influenced by the secular Zionist labor movement, were presented by Mizraḥi as religious values. The organization also incorporated elements from Hasidism and the German neo-Orthodox Torah ‘im Derekh Erets (Torah Study and Secular Culture) movement.

The first associations of Tse‘ire Mizraḥi in Poland were established in 1916. Activities expanded with the strengthening of Mizraḥi, and in 1922 the organization had approximately 10,000 members in 100 associations. In the same year, under the influence of its leader Shemu’el Ḥayim Landau (1892–1928), Tse‘ire Mizraḥi decided to adopt the slogan “Torah va-‘Avodah” (Torah and Labor). In 1925 it became part of the World Federation of the He-Ḥaluts veha-Po‘el ha-Mizraḥi youth movement, and in 1932 it united with the ḥaluts (pioneer) and youth organizations of Mizraḥi in the Torah va-‘Avodah movement.

Among the movement’s leaders were Elimelekh Neufeld (1899–1956) and Zeraḥ Warhaftig (1906–2002). Tse‘ire Mizraḥi associations conducted cultural activities and functioned as social clubs, and as such were regarded as instruments in the fight against secularism. Alongside them there was a girls’ youth movement, Beruryah, established in 1929, whose local branches numbered more than 40 in 1935. Beruryah and Tse‘ire Mizraḥi chapters often conducted joint activities.

Members of Tse‘ire Mizraḥi established their first groups of agricultural labor pioneers (ḥalutsim) in 1916. Agricultural activity was institutionalized in 1924 with the founding of the He-Ḥaluts ha-Mizraḥi (Mizraḥi Pioneer) movement, which numbered approximately 1,000 pioneers after a year. After 1927, its activities waned due to a halt in immigration to Palestine, but they revived in the peak years of the Fifth Aliyah (1933–1935), during which Tse‘ire Mizraḥi members accounted for 15 percent of the pioneers who immigrated. Female pioneers were for the most part directed toward housekeeping work, though separate groups of women were trained to work at agricultural and textile jobs.

In the 1920s, Tse‘ire Mizraḥi established different youth groups whose activities were institutionalized in 1930 with the founding of Ha-Shomer ha-Dati centers (in Congress Poland and western Galicia) and Bene Akiva (in eastern Galicia). These movements, which had 8,500 members in 1934, enjoyed stability and were not influenced by periodic crises in the Zionist movement. They promoted values similar to those of the scouting movement and were considered to be a barrier to secularization, though their members at times strayed from accepted norms in Orthodox society, principally with respect to relationships between the sexes. The movement also encouraged labor pioneering and established collective agricultural training centers, whose members were trained to live on kibbutzim. After World War II, the Torah va-‘Avodah movement established associations and agricultural training centers in Poland; these activities were ceased in 1949.

In Romania, Tse‘ire Mizraḥi was active in Transylvania and Bucovina from 1921; their first central convention was held in 1927. In 1932, Berit ha-No‘ar ha-Mizraḥi (Federation of Mizraḥi Youth) was established, which included different groups of young people and had 5,000 members. Concurrently, the Bene Akiva movement was established; its ranks numbered 210 pioneers in 1934. Tse‘ire Mizraḥi’s activities were intensively renewed following World War II and spread to 59 cities until it was stopped in 1949 by order of the authorities.

In Hungary, individual branches were active in an irregular manner from 1918. Only in 1932 did they convene their first national conference, which was followed by pioneering activities. In the same year, the first conference of Bene Akiva was convened, which united the youth groups that were functioning under different names. The organization, which had socialist tendencies, devoted much effort to agricultural training, and in 1939 its pioneers numbered 40 percent of the total number of pioneers from Hungary.

Suggested Reading

Menaḥem Zevi Kaddari, “‘Ha-Idi’ologyah’ shel tenu‘at ha-no‘ar ‘Bene Akiva’ be-Hungaryah ‘al rek‘a ‘ikare toldoteha,” in Me’ah shenot Tsiyonut datit, ed. Avi Sagi and Dov Shvarts, vol. 2, pp. 339–356 (Jerusalem and Ramat Gan, 2003); Asaf Kaniel, “Ha-Mizraḥi be-Polin ben shete milḥamot ha-‘olam” (Ph.D. diss., Bar Ilan University, 2004); Penina Meizlish, “‘Ha-Mizraḥi,’ ‘Torah ve-‘avodah’ u-tenu‘ot ha-no‘ar shelahen be-Polin uve-Lita’ be-tekufat ha-sho’ah ve-aḥareha, 1939–1949,” in Me’ah shenot Tsiyonut datit, ed. Avi Sagi and Dov Shvarts, vol. 2, pp. 189–244 (Jerusalem and Ramat Gan, 2003); Yizḥak Raphael and Shlomo Zalman Shragai, eds., Sefer ha-Tsiyonut ha-datit, vol. 2 (Jerusalem, 1977); Alexander Ron, “Ha-Tenu‘ah ha-tsiyonit be-Hungaryah ben shete milḥamot ha-‘olam” (Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1996).



Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen