Reb Shimon Sofer is Elected to Parliament

As discussed, the Mitele Ruv z”l founded the organization Machzikei Hadas to counter the work of the Maskilim and their organization Shomer Yisroel.

Machzikei Hadas was operating on three main fronts. One, was organizing the votes of the Frum Yidden. Two, Shtadlanus at the political ranks of government including Franz Joseph. Three, the publishing of a Frum newspaper.

The Shtadlanus part wasn’t new, Yidden have been doing Shtadlanus at the highest level in government and monarchies since Greek and Roman times. The other two functions, the voting power and the newspaper, were entirely new tools being used by Frum Yidden. 

At first, some Rabbanim and leaders were hesitant at the work of Machzikei Hadas, but as time went by it reached full consensus of Galician Jewry. 

The Mitele Ruv harnessed Reb Shimon Sofer, the son of the Chasam Sofer, the Rav of Krakow, to lead the Machzikei Hadas organization. Reb Shimon Sofer was nominated the first president of Machzikei Hadas. Reb Shimon Sofer’s leadership demonstrated to everyone that the fight against the Maskilim was not a “Chasidish” thing, but all traditional Jews were under threat.

In order to be able to operate a political party and a newspaper in Austro-Hungary, permission had to be given by the government. The Shomer Yisroel organization worked tirelessly to block the permits to be given to Machzikei Hadas.

In Vienna, the wealthy banker Ignaz Deutsch, who was also the Gabbai of the Orthodox Shul, achieved much political clout with the Reichstag, the parliament of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He used all his power to strengthen traditional Judaism. Over the years he helped Machzikei Hadas immensely and he obtained the needed permits.

In 1879 – תרל”ט the Mitele Ruv assembled the first meeting of the leaders of Machzikei Hadas in Levov – Lemberg. The Mitele Ruv spent many weeks in Lemberg to prepare for the founding of Machzikei Hadas. All the Gedolei Yisroel of Galicia were invited to come, including the Chasidish Rebbes and Rabbanim and Poskim who were not Chasidim.

The gathering was a great Kiddush Hashem and Achdus in Klal Yisroel. Machzikei Hadas established its statutes and elected its leadership. Reb Shimon Sofer was elected president and Shmuel Margoszes, a dedicated and seasoned Askan in Levov, was elected vice president.

In the summer of 1879 – תרל”ט Machzikei Hadas started organizing local chapters in all of Galicia to unite all traditional Jews. Reb Shimon Sofer sent to all the Kehillos to sign a protest declaring that Shomer Yisroel does not represent the vast majority of Jewry, as they tried to claim.

In 1880 – תר”מ, Reb Shimon Sofer was elected as a member of the Reichstag. He brought tremendous Kiddush Hashem and Kavod to traditional Jewry with his presence there.

With the eye of media curious with whom he will caucus, Reb Shimon Sofer caucused with Polenklub, the party representing most non-Jews of Poland and Galicia. This was a demonstration that traditional Jews were not in line with the Revolutionists and supported the well-being of their local neighbors in Poland and Galicia.