Agudath Israel of America Archives
The original Agudath Israel movement was established in Europe in 1912 by some of the most famous Orthodox rabbis of the time, including Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagen (the Chafetz Chaim), Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski of Vilna, the Radziner Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Elazar Leiner, the Gerrer Rebbe (the Imrei Emes), and the Chortkover Rebbe. It grew during the 1920s and 1930s to be the political, communal, and cultural voice of those Orthodox Jews who were not part of Zionism's Orthodox Jewish Mizrachi party.
Rabbi Eliezer Silver, an Eastern European-trained rabbi, established the first office of Agudath Israel in America during the 1930s, organizing its first conference in 1939. Some of the early rabbinic leaders of the organization included Rabbi Mordechai Shlomo Friedman, Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, Rabbi Leo Jung, Rabbi Herbert Goldstein, Rabbi Joshua Bäume, and Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik. After the Holocaust, some prominent rabbis who made their home in America established a moetzes ("supreme council") known as the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and the movement began to grow rapidly, with the rise of the yeshiva-based and Hasidic Orthodox communities.
Mike Tress led the expansion of the movement during the early 1940s as its chief lay leader, until his death in 1967. His cousin Rabbi Moshe Sherer then took the reins as president, and the organization flourished further in size and accomplishments. After his passing in May 1998, he was succeeded by Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, as Executive Vice President. In 2008, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, having served Agudah as general counsel and director of government affairs, took over as Executive Vice-President. In 2016, his salary was $220,000.
In April 2020, Agudath Israel of America head Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, 89 years old, died after contracting COVID-19.
Mandates/Sources of Authority
Agudah's policies and leadership are directed by its Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages), composed primarily of rosh yeshivas (the chief spiritual and scholarly authority in a yeshiva) and Hasidic rebbes (who head Hasidic dynasties and organizations). The Moetzes sets all major policies and guides the organization according to its precepts of Da'as torah (Hebrew: דעת תורה), generally translated as Torah knowledge/direction. Rabbi Yaakov Perlow (recently deceased), who was the Novominsker Rebbe and a member of the Moetzes, was appointed as the Rosh Agudat Yisrael ("Head of Agudath Israel").
The executive staff includes Rabbi Yitzchok Ehrman as COO, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel as the Executive Vice President, Rabbi Labish Becker as the Executive Director, and Rabbi A.D. Motzen as the National Director for State Relations.
There are close to one hundred Agudah-affiliated synagogues across the United States and Canada.
Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication
Checklist of Jewish materials in archives of Agudath Israel of America. New York, N.Y. : Orthodox Jewish Archives of Agudath Israel of America, [1980?]
Agudath Israel of America website