Lubavitch Hasidic Sect

   A movement founded in eastern Europe in the 18th century (around 1734) by Israel Ba'al Shem Tov. Emerging as a conservative backlash to the liberal enlightenment (Haskala) beginning to prevail among the European Jewish intelligentsia, it emphasized a spiritual and emotional renewal of the connection between Jews and God. Beginning in 1764, small groups of Hasidim made their way to Palestine, establishing Ashkenazi communities in Safed, Hebron, B'nai Brak, Tiberias, and Jerusalem. The first Hasidic rabbinical court in Jerusalem was established in 1855. Most Hasidic leaders, with the exception of extremist groups, welcomed the Balfour Declaration. Among the most active proponents of Hasidic immigration to Palestine was the influential Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter of Gur (the Gur Rebbe). Nevertheless, the leaders of some Hasidic sects were anti-Zionist in orientation (based on the belief that Jewish national renewal only was possible when the Messiah arrived) and actively opposed aliya.
   The Holocaust caused a practical acceptance of Zionism by most Hasidic leaders, and the postwar years witnessed a significant growth in the Hasidic movement in Israel. Among the most important aspects of this growth was the establishment in 1949 of Kfar Habad under the auspices of the Lubavitch Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson. Under the leadership of his successor, Rabbi (The Rebbe) Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the influence in Israeli politics of the Lubavitch Hasidim grew tremendously, impacting the outcome of several elections in the 1980s and the 1990s. The political interests of the movement are represented for the most part by Agudat Israel.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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