Yisrael Meir Friedman Ben-Shalom Is Born
Rabbi Yisrael Friedman Ben-Shalom pictured in Gilo, Jerusalem. Photo: YouTube screen grab via Times of Israe

November 8, 1923
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Friedman Ben-Shalom, a sixth-generation descendant of Rebbe Yisrael of Rizin, is born in Bohush, Romania, to a Hasidic and Zionist family.

Friedman Ben-Shalom joins Hashomer Hatzair, the secular Zionist youth movement, while maintaining a religious life and studying Torah. His belief that a Jewish national home should be established in the Land of Israel differs from the opinions of many Hasidim at the time, most of whom believe that the establishment of a Jewish state must await the arrival of the Messiah. In addition, Hashomer Hatzair favors a national Jewish identity that rejects Jewish law and customs. But Friedman Ben-Shalom manages to balance his position between two Jewish worlds.

In 1946, Friedman Ben-Shalom marries Zipporah Hager, and the couple smuggle themselves into Palestine. By 1948, the couple and Romanian and Bulgarian Holocaust survivors create a secular kibbutz called Reshafim, where Friedman Ben-Shalom and his wife live for 18 years even though their religious life is restricted to their home. After his father-in-law’s death in the 1970s, the family moves to the religious kibbutz Sa’ad, in order to maintain a closer relationship with their religious roots and community. In retirement, they move to the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
He becomes the Pashkaner Rebbe, part of a Hasidic dynasty, and appeals to all kinds of Jews with his scholarship, charisma and authenticity. He dies May 1, 2017, the 5th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, the anniversary of the declaration of the state of Israel.