Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman: Ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader dies in Israel

Followers of Rabbi Aharon Shteinman attend his funeral in the Israeli town of Bnei Brak on 12 December 2017Image copyright

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Followers of Rabbi Aharon Shteinman attended his funeral in Bnei Brak on Tuesday

The death has been announced in Israel of one of the leading figures in ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman – who was widely regarded as “Gadol Hador” or “Leader of the Generation” – died in hospital at the age of 104.

Israel’s president said he had “carried the entire weight of the existence of the Jewish people on his shoulders”.

Thousands of people were expected to attend his funeral in the central town of Bnei Brak on Tuesday.

Rabbi Shteinman was born in 1913 in what is now Belarus. He was the only member of his family to survive the Nazi occupation of eastern Europe.

In 1945, he emigrated to British Mandate Palestine where he taught in Talmudic schools.

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Rabbi Shteinman was widely regarded as “Gadol Hador” or “Leader of the Generation”

He was seen as a pragmatic voice in the political dispute over whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should be exempt from military service in Israel, the BBC’s Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.

His leadership was sometimes controversial, our correspondent adds, being seen as trying to balance the needs of the individual with those of the religiously conservative Haredi community – many of whom shun modern technology and receive a solely religious education.

“He was a person whose wisdom was second only to his humility,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement. “Rabbi Shteinman set the path for many Jews and his departure leaves a deep feeling of being orphaned, may his memory be a blessing.”

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