Menu JTA Search

One of Israel’s founding fathers, Yosef Burg, dies at the age of 90

NEW YORK, Oct. 19 (JTA) – One of the founders of Israel’s nationalist religious movement died last Friday at 90. At Sunday’s funeral for Rabbi Yosef Burg, President Ezer Weizman eulogized him as a friend and national leader. Prior to the funeral, Burg lay in state at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, where he served as international chairman for many years. Burg, a founder of the National Religious Party who was known for his efforts to bridge the gap between religious and secular Jews, served in the Cabinets of successive Israeli governments for 38 years. Born in Dresden, Germany, Burg was active in religious Zionist activities while attending university in Leipzig. After he earned his doctorate and was ordained as a rabbi, he escaped Germany a few months before war broke out in 1939. Soon after Burg came to Palestine, he launched a lifetime of service to the Jewish state. Burg was first elected to the Knesset in 1949. During his long career there, he served as deputy speaker of the Knesset, and headed several ministries, including Health, Social Welfare, the Interior and Religious Affairs. He passed on his yen for politics to his son, Avraham, a member of the Labor Party who is the current speaker of the Knesset. The elder Burg supported the Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt, and opposed the war in Lebanon. “Politics is not a choice between good and evil,” he once told the Jerusalem Post. “In politics, you have to decide between evil and less evil, and that can be a cruel choice.” After the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, the younger wing of his party grew more radical, and Burg’s influence waned. In a statement, the Orthodox Union commended Burg for “his gifts for diplomacy and bridge-building among the many groups that comprise the Jewish people.” The O.U. statement also noted his “charismatic personality, the depth of his thought and creativity.

NEXT STORY