Chassidut and Religious Zionism
Over the last 250 years, two extraordinary movements have revolutionized Judaism. Chassidut, a spiritual revivalist movement begun by the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples beginning in the mid-18th century, rekindled the flame of Judaism in communities across Eastern Europe, while modern political Zionism, founded by Theodor Herzl at the end of the 19th century, has inspired millions of Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael to realize two thousand years of longing and re-establish a Jewish state.
Chassidut and Zionism share much in common. Both were led by charismatic and inspirational leaders whose fervor was matched only by the passion of their opponents. Though many other movements have burned brightly for a few years and then faded away, both Chassidut and Zionism have passed the test of time. Both of these movements remain vibrant in our day and will likely play a critical role in shaping the future of our people.
Significantly, Chassidut and Zionism are more interwoven than is typically acknowledged. As Rabbi Dudi Dudkevitz writes, early Chassidic leaders who moved to Eretz Yisrael together with their Chassidim were critical forerunners to the modern Zionist movement. Generations later, as political Zionism electrified Jewish communities around the world, important Chassidic leaders joined Mizrachi and played key roles in building settlements such as Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv. Rav Kook, one of the central thinkers of Religious Zionism, was greatly influenced by Chassidut in both his thought and practice. And in the past generation, the Religious Zionist community has increasingly been influenced by Chassidut, with Chassidic teachings being incorporated into the curriculum and customs of the community.
In unique ways, each of these movements breathed new life into Judaism, ensuring not only the survival but also the continued vibrancy of our people. In this edition of HaMizrachi, we explore the synergy of Chassidut and Zionism from their historical beginnings to the present day – and to our shared future, here in Eretz Yisrael and around the world.