By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

This summer represents the 100th anniversary of Agudath Israel in America.

So here is the historical background behind it.

It all began on May 27th, 1921. A delegation of the National Convention of the World Agudah Movement arrived on the shores of the United States in New York City with two purposes:

  • The first was to establish a strong Agudath Israel Branch on these shores.
  • The second was to raise money to strengthen Agudath Israel.
  • The delegation was headed by HaGaon haRav Meir Don Plotzky zt”l. Rav Plotzky zt”l (1866 – March 27, 1928) was a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and the president of Kollel Polen, and the author of the Kli Chemdah, a commentary on the Torah. The delegation had gone first to England, and then made their way to New York City.

    There is a wonderful young man who could use our assistance. Please read it and help. https://thechesedfund.com/zechornilah/ayeshivastudentneedshelp

    In the picture above, Rav Meir Dan Plotzky zt”l is the middle. To his right are Rav Asher Spitzer and Rabb Dr. Meir Hildesheimer (with the bowtie.) To his left are Rav Yoseph Lev and Rav Nathan Birnbaum. The picture was taken shortly after their arrival.

    Rav Plotzky arrived in New York City on the S.S. Adriatic from Southampton on May 27, 1921 (under the name Majer Don Plocki, age 54). He had travelled together with Rabbi Josef Srul Lew and had a 3 month visa.

    According to U.S. records, their trip was financed by the “Israel World Organisation.” The destination was 194 Henry Street, New York.

    The delegation included six others:

    1. Rav Asher Lemel Spitzer, Rav of Kirchdorf
    2. Rav Dr. Meir Hildesheimer, Rosh Bais Hamedrash LeRabbanim in Berlin
    3. Nosson Birnbaum
    4. Rav Yosef Lev
    5. The Ozerover Rebbe, Rav Moshe Yechiel Epstein
    6. And Rav Yitzchak Meir Levin, son-in-law of the Imrei Emes.

    The delegation visited four cities in all: New York, Baltimore, Boston and Cincinnati. New York was visited in June of 2021. Afterward, in mid-July, the delegation went to Baltimore. On Shabbos the 16th of July, the spoke in five different shuls. The delegation returned to New York to further plans. While back in New York, they spoke at numerous venues and succeeded in inspiring hundreds of listeners to join in support of Agudath Yisroel.

    The delegation then left New York and arrived in Boston on August 5th. The last city was Cincinnati, Ohio, at the end of September. On the 29th of September, 1921, Rav Meir Don Plotzky and Rav Yoseph Lev spoke at a meeting arranged at the home of Reb Hirsh Manischewitz in the upscale Avondale, community of Cincinnati. It was at this last meeting that a network of Agudah associations was attempted to be formed.

    From a fundraising perspective, the group was slightly disappointed. But this was the beginning of Agudath Israel in America. Initially, many of its supporters were also members of Mizrachi.

    As a direct result of the delegation’s activities in New York, in September of 1922, the Agudath Israel Youth Council of America was formed. This was the main and most active branch of Agudah. It was comprised of a small group of young idealists on New York’s Lower East Side. In Hebrew, they called themselves Zeirei Agudath Israel. Their offices were located at 131 West 86th Street. The committee heads in 1927 were Nathan Horowitz, Charles Fogel, Fishel Eichenthal, Hirschel Berliner, Joseph Fogel, Abba Gleicher, and Joseph Weinrib. Their first annual dinner was held in 1927.

    In 1929, the Second Knessia of the World Agudah movement was held in Vienna, and there were a number of American delegates.

    In 1932, the fifth annual convention of the Zeirei Agudath Israel of America was held. Isaac Strahl was elected president then. The convention was held at the Institutional Synagogue.

    Other officers elected then were: Israel Widdiker, vice-president; Moses Bauman, secretary, and H. Weiner, treasurer. The convention approved a resolution calling for the raising of a fund to send 25 Chalutzim to Palestine. Reports delivered indicated that the activities of the organization have shown a greater advance this year than at any time in the existence of the body.

    Speakers at that convention included Rabbi Leibovitz, Dr. D. D. Stern, Isaac Strahl, Rabbi Schor, Nathan Hausman, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, Rabbi L. I. Kahana, and Messrs. Tress, Bauman and Hirsch.

    In 1937, the third Knessia was held in Marienbad, Chekoslovakia from August 18th to August 23rd. Numerous American Jewish delegates and spectators attended.

    Reb Laizer Silver zt”l later officially formed the organization called, “Agudath Israel of America” in the late 1930’s. However, Mike Tress had worked under the Tzeirei group at first. The work that they did saved many thousands of Jews and we owe this organization and the Vaad Hatzolah a huge debt of gratitude.

    Later, Mike Tress’s younger cousin, Rabbi Moshe Sherer z”l, helped grow Agudah into the remarkable organization that it is today.

    The next Agudah Convention is scheduled to be held in November of this year from the 18th to the 21st at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut. This author would recommend that the visits to the four cities 100 years ago during this summer be commemorated somehow.

    As reported by Vos Iz Neias