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Zerach Warhaftig

Hebrew: זרח ורהפטיג
Birthplace: Vaŭkavysk, Hrodna Province, Belarus
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Yerucham Asher Warhaftig and Rivka Malka Warhaftig
Husband of Naomi Warhaftig
Father of <private> Warhaftig; Private User; <private> מימון (Warhaftig) and עמנואל ורהפטיג
Brother of Shilem Warhaftig and <private> ורהפטיג

Occupation: Lawyer, Minister of Religions, MK, politician
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Zerach Warhaftig

Zerach Warhaftig

Rabbi Dr. Zerach Warhaftig (Hebrew: זרח ורהפטיג‎, Yiddish: זרח ווארהאפטיק, also spelt Zerah Wahrhaftig, Zorach Warhaftig or Zérach Varhaftig, 2 February 1906 - 26 September 2002) was an Israeli lawyer and politician and a signatory of Israel's Declaration of Independence.


Warhaftig was born in Volkovysk in the Russian Empire (today Vaŭkavysk, Belarus) in 1906. His parents were Yerucham Warhaftig and Rivka Fainstein. During WWII Rabbi Warhaftig convinced the Japanese attache in Poland, Chiune Sugihara, to issue visas for the entire Mir yeshiva. By doing this he saved thousands of lives and families from the hands of the Nazis who by then were in control of Poland. He immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1947 and immediately got involved in politics. Initially he joined the Hapoel HaMizrachi party, a religious-zionist party, and was elected to the first Knesset as part of the United Religious Front, an alliance between Mizrachi, Hapoel HaMizrachi, Agudat Israel and Agudat Israel Workers. In 1948 he had also started lecturing in Jewish Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a role he maintained until 1963.

The party contended in the 1951 elections alone. Although it only won two seats, it was included in David Ben-Gurion's coalition, and Warhaftig was appointed Deputy Minister of Religions in the fourth government. In 1956, Hapoel HaMizrachi and Mizrachi merged to form the National Religious Party. Warhaftig led the party and retained his ministerial role until the end of the third Knesset.

After the 1961 elections (the fifth Knesset) he was appointed Minister of Religions, a position he held until 1974. In 1981 he left the Knesset.

Warhaftig was among the founders of Bar-Ilan University.


  • In 1983, Warhaftig was awarded the Israel Prize, for his special contribution to society and the State of Israel in the advancement of Hebrew law.
  • In 1989, he received the Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award from the city of Jerusalem.

Literary works

  • “A Constitution for Israel” an article in Yavne Compilation: Political Problems in Israel pgs 17-21, (Hebrew, April 1949)
  • “On Rabbinical Judgments in Israel” (collected speeches) (Hebrew, 1956)
  • “Legal Issues in the Talmud” (from lectures) (Hebrew, 1957)
  • Editor with Shlomo Zeven: “Remembrance: a Torah Collection in Memory of Rabbi Yizhak HaLevi Herzog” (Hebrew, 1962)
* “Chattel in Jewish Law” (Hebrew, 1964)
  • “Problems of State and Religion” (articles and speeches) (Hebrew, 1973)
  • Edited: “Religion and State in Legislation: A Collection of Laws and Rulings” (Hebrew, 1973)
  • “The Declaration of Independence and Orders for the Order of Government and the Judiciary (1948 and Problems of Religion and State” in The Book of Shragai (Hebrew, 1982)
  • “Refugee and Remnant during the Holocaust” (Hebrew, 1984)
  • “Researches in Jewish Law” (Hebrew, 1985)
  • “A Constitution for Israel – Religion and State” (Hebrew, 1988)

Education: Law at University of Warsaw; Doctor of Law from Hebrew University

Knesset Terms:

  • Knesset 1-7: 4.2.1949 - 15.12.1969 (Knesset 7, Partial tenure)
  • Knesset 8-9: 21.1.1974 - 20.7.1981

Roles in the Government:

  • Knesset 2, Govt. 4. From 05/01/1953, Deputy Minister of Religions
  • Knesset 3, Govts. 7 & 8: Deputy Minister of Religions
  • Knesset 5, Govts. 10, 11, 12 - Minister of Religions
  • Knesset 6, Govts. 13 & 14 - Minister of Religions
  • Knesset 7, Govt. 15, Minister of Religions

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Zerach Warhaftig's Timeline

February 2, 1906
Vaŭkavysk, Hrodna Province, Belarus
September 26, 2002
Age 96
Age 95