Orthodox Union Founded, Expresses Clear Support for Zionism

June 8, 1898

In 1873, the Reform movement created the Reform congregational union.  On June 8, 1898, the Orthodox movement created the Orthodox Union.  The Orthodox Union adopted a constitution and by-laws at their meeting at Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York.

The new union was the idea of Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes.  Eleven years earlier, in 1887, Rabbi Mendes and his colleague Rabbi Sabato Morais of Philadelphia had formed the Jewish Theological Seminary.  Pereira, Mendes and the other founders of the new Union felt that the Reform movement was going too far in its abandonment of many Jewish laws, particularly kashrut.  They feared the growing popularity of the Reform movement, particularly with new immigrants from Eastern Europe.  As a result, they sought to create an organizational voice that would represent more traditionally observant communities in North America.

The Orthodox Union distinguished itself with its emphasis on Jewish education and modern Jewish scholarship in America, and with its staunch support of Zionism.  One of the resolutions adopted at the June 8th meeting reads,

We protest against the idea that we are merely a religious sect, and maintain that we are a nation, though temporarily without a national home, and furthermore, that the restoration to Zion is the legitimate aspiration of scattered Israel, in no way conflicting with our loyalty to the land in which we dwell or may dwell at any time.

The photo shows Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes.