Orthodox Jewish Archives Acquires Rare European Documents

The Orthodox Jewish Archives, an institution founded by Agudath Israel of America, has recently added to its collections the personal papers of two Orthodox figures who played significant roles in the fortunes of European Jewry in the years leading up to, and including, World War II, it was announced here by Agudath Israel.

One set of the new materials includes written exchanges of Rabbi Azriel (Ezra) Munk of Berlin, associated with the Rabbinischer Landesrat, the supreme rabbinical council of the Agudath Israel in Germany.

The other consists of a part of the 1944 correspondence of Dr. Yaakov Griffel, an activist working in Turkey with Agudath Israel and other Orthodox agencies toward the rescue of Jews from the fires of the Holocaust. Both of these collections, containing original documents, are now available to scholars and researchers for the first time, Agudath Israel reported.

The archives has also obtained a microfilm copy of a substantial portion of the published editions of “Dos Vort,” a major Orthodox weekly issued in Vilna from 1925 to 1939, serving the community of the world-famous Torah leader and “posek,” Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. The acquistion is part of an effort to gather all such records of pre-War religious life in a central Orthodox archival resource.

According to Agudath Israel director Rabbi Moshe Kolodny, researchers will find an abundance of material in the newly acquired records that will “shed light on the realities” of Orthodox Jewish life in Germany, Lithuania, and Poland before the war. The Rabbi Munk papers for instance, deal with problems in areas such as kashrus and shechita, Sabbos observance for public school students, women’s issues, “blue laws”, and yeshiva curricula.

CONCERNS AFFECTING ORTHODOX JEWS

Reflective of the concerns affecting Orthodox Jews in Germany of the time are rabbinic responsa in the documents, dealing with questions of nationality — Is the Jewish people a “folk” or a “nation”? — and cultural tensions — Can interest in opera be reconciled with the prohibition of “kol isha?”

The “Dos Vort” microfilm, which covers some 60 percent of the issues of the periodical, opens up new perspectives on the life of the Torah community in Lithuania and Poland. Included, for instance, is a piece on the dedication ceremonies of the building of the yeshiva of Kletzk, complete with a description of its young rosh yeshiva, Rav Aharon Kotler, who later was the foremost Torah leader in America.

An unusual angle on the infancy of Torah institutions in the United States, from the viewpoint of Eastern European writers, is projected in articles on the development of Mesivta Torah Vodaath and Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon, and on the fortunes of the Maitzhiter Illui in America.

The Archives is headquartered at 5 Beekman Street in New York, and arranges photographic exhibitions periodically at other locations.

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