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Rabbi Moshe Ze’ev Feldman, Agudat Yisrael leader, is dead

JERUSALEM, Feb. 10 (JTA) — Rabbi Moshe Ze’ev Feldman, a former Knesset leader of the fervently Orthodox Agudat Yisrael Party, has died. He was 67. He passed away Sunday after a 12-year battle with cancer. He was laid to rest the same night in a funeral attended by thousands of students and admirers in Jerusalem. Feldman served until his death as chairman of Agudat Yisrael in Israel. A noted Torah scholar and dean of the Imrei Emeth Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Feldman was a lifelong member of the Gur Chasidic sect. In 1988, he was selected by the Chasidic movement as its representative within Aguda, and therefore, by custom, the leader of the party’s Knesset faction. As a result of Aguda’s membership at the time in the governing coalition, he was elected chairman of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee. He served in those roles for four years, winning wide respect from Knesset colleagues and adversaries alike for his quiet effectiveness in representing the fervently Orthodox constituency. He was forced to step down from his Knesset roles when the late Rebbe of Gur, Pinchas Menachem Alter, acceded to the demands of the former head of the Aguda faction, Avraham Shapira, who successfully sought to be re-nominated to those positions. Feldman retired from active politics with good grace, explaining that he had never viewed himself as a career politician. He returned to head his yeshiva, where he gave lectures until very close before his death.