This week marks the shloshim of Senior Dati Leumi rav Rabbi Chaim Druckman z”l, 90, known as the spiritual leader of political religious Zionism; founder and Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Or Etzion, a Bnei Akiva state religious high school; and stood at the helm of the overall Bnei Akiva movement. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook of Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, Druckman long held a far-right approach to politics, spearheading the settlers' movement with a 1968 Pesach seder in Chevron, and brokered political dealings while serving the State of Israel in the Knesset and as a deputy minister, earning him the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

Unfortunately, a second bout of Covid-19 proved too much for the Holocaust survivor, who succumbed to the virus after a 10-day battle at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. He was mourned by a vast array of political leaders, but it was Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich’s remarks calling the Jewish people “fatherless” that shows Druckman’s impact on today’s world. Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was another notable leading disciple. Druckman, who was niftar on Zos Chanukah, December 25, is survived by his wife of 65 years, Sarah (Epstein), a noted doctor, their nine children, and over 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. K'vurah was held at Masu'ot Yitzhak cemetery near Ashdod.

Druckman lived true to his ideal of filling his life with meaning and purpose and brought these feelings to New York City in June of 2012 at the annual Israel Day Concert in Central Park, definitively proclaiming to the 20,000 attendees, “There should be many states for many nations, but not in Eretz Yisrael!” taking direct aim at the evacuations of the Yehudah and Shomron regions. Afterward, Druckman posed with performers Heshy R and his former talmid Izzy Kieffer; as well as his aide Naftali Kendler; Concert Chairperson, Dr. Paul Brody; Concert Organizer, Rabbi Dr. Joe Frager; and Musical Director, Shloime Dachs.

By Shabsie Saphirstein,
photo by Barry Brown Photography