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Rabbi Maimon, First Israel Minister for Religious Affairs, Dies; Was 87

Rabbi Yehuda-Leib Maimon, Israel’s first Minister for Religious Affairs and one of the founders of the World Mizrachi Organization, died here last night in a hospital where he was placed ten days ago, after a heart attack. He was 87 years old. His last wish was that no eulogies be held for him at the funeral service.

Born in Bessarabia as Judah Leib Fishman, he received his rabbinical education in Lithuania and then returned to Bessarabia where he held the post of rabbi in Ungeni from 1905 till 1913. In 1913 he emigrated to Palestine. During World War I he was condemned to death by the Turkish regime which ruled Palestine, but upon the intercession of American Jewish leaders he was freed.

Although he resigned from the Israel Cabinet in 1951 in a dispute with Premier David Ben-Gurion over the education of immigrant children, he was highly respected by the Premier. In one of the letters written recently by Mr. Ben-Gurion to Rabbi Maimon, the Premier said: “If you were Minister for Religious Affairs, relations between Orthodox and non-religious Jews would be considerably better.”

An author of many books and one of the greatest world authorities on Jewish Religion, Rabbi Maimon founded the Rabbi Kook Institute in Israel which has published hundreds of books in the field of Judaica. Since his resignation from the Cabinet 11 years ago, he devoted himself primarily to writing. He enjoyed the highest esteem in Israel as a great scholar who combined vision and practical statesmanship.

Among the posts he held at various times were: chairman of the organizing committee for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; president of the central committee of the World Mizrachi Organization; vice-chairman of the Jewish Agency; and head of the Rabbi Kook Institute. In addition to many books, he also wrote hundreds of articles and monographs on religious, Zionist and general topics. He also possessed one of the most extensive private libraries here, including more than 40,000 volumes, rare editions and manuscripts.

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