September 26, 2002
Rabbi Zerach Warhaftig, a founder of Israel’s National Religious Party and a signer of the Declaration of Independence passed away at the age of 96 in Jerusalem. Born in Belorussia, Warhaftig became involved in the religious Zionist Mizrahi movement in his teens in Poland, serving as a delegate to the Zionist Congress in the early 1930’s.
He studied law at the University of Warsaw and served as a Jewish Agency official in Poland. During the beginning World War II, Warhaftig went to Lithuania and headed a delegation that in 1940 approached Japanese Consul Sempo Sugihara and asked him to help get visas for Jews trying to leave Lithuania. Sugihara issued 3,500 visas in defiance of his government and helped to rescue many students.
Zerach Warhaftig moved to Israel in 1947, serving in the Knesset from 1949-1981 and as Minister of Religious Affairs from 1961-1974, including the entire Mir Yeshiva.