Contested Children: World War II Refugees and the Emergence of Israeli Orthodoxies

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In February 1943, several hundred Polish Jewish refugee children who had escaped the Holocaust in Europe and sojourned for several months in Tehran arrived in Palestine. The arrival of these “Tehran children” triggered bitter debates in the Yishuv, causing particularly caustic political fights between the two major Orthodox political movements, Agudat Yisrael and Mizrahi. These clashes provide a valuable lens onto the transition of the center of traditionalist Jewry from prewar east-central Europe to pre-state Palestine and the transformation of Orthodox politics in accordance with radically changed postwar realities and the establishment of a Jewish state. Against this backdrop, this article uses the episode to trace some of the broader developments in Orthodox politics during the first half of the twentieth century and their impact on the emergence of two distinct Israeli milieus: ultra-Orthodoxy and national-religious Judaism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-157
Number of pages34
JournalJewish Social Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • 20th century
  • Agudat Yiśraʼel
  • Children
  • Children & youth
  • Children and war
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Eretz Israel -- Politics and government -- 1917-1948 British Mandate period
  • History
  • Holocaust
  • Jewish children in the Holocaust
  • Jewish children in the Holocaust -- Poland
  • Jewish people
  • Jewish refugees -- Eretz Israel -- History -- 20th century
  • Jewish refugees -- Iran -- Tehran -- History -- 20th century
  • Jews
  • Judaism
  • Orthodox Judaism
  • Orthodox Judaism -- Israel
  • Palestine
  • Poland
  • Political leadership
  • Political movements
  • Politics
  • Post World War II period
  • Refugees
  • Relations
  • Religion
  • Religious orthodoxy
  • Szold Henrietta
  • Transformation
  • War
  • Watzman Haim
  • World War II
  • World War 1939-1945
  • Zionism


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