Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld
Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, also spelled Zonnenfeld, (1 December 1848 – 26 February 1932) was the rabbi and co-founder of the Edah HaChareidis, Haredi Jewish community in Jerusalem, during the years of the British Mandate of Palestine. He was originally given the name "Chaim", however, the name "Yosef" was added to him while he experienced an illness. Sonnenfeld was born in Verbó, Hungary (today: Vrbové, Slovakia). His father, Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zonnenfeld, died when Chaim was five years old.
He was a student of Rabbi Samuel Benjamin Sofer (the Ksav Sofer), the son of Rabbi Moses Sofer (the Chasam Sofer). He was also a student of Rabbi Avraham Schag in Kobersdorf (who was himself a disciple of the Chasam Sofer); Sonnenfeld moved from the latter city to Jerusalem in 1873.
He became an important figure in Jerusalem's Old City, serving as the right-hand man of Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin and assisting the latter in communal activities, such as the founding of schools and the Diskin Orphanage, and the fight against secularism. In 1898, he refused to meet with Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany who visited the Old City because he believed that the Emperor was a descendant of the nation of Amalek. Sonnenfeld sent a delegate, a former Dutch diplomat and writer who had become a baal teshuva, Dr. Jacob Israël de Haan, to Transjordan with a peace proposal for Emir Abdullah.
Contrary to a number of distorted accounts, he had a warm relationship with and mutual respect for Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, although the two were vigorous opponents in many areas. Indeed, in 1913 the two traveled together to the Galilee to try to return secular Jewish pioneers to Torah Judaism.
- Sonnenfeld, Shlomo Zalman. 1983. Guardian of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (Artscroll History Series). Adapted from Ha-Ish Al Ha-Homah (3 vols.), by Hillel Danzinger. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 0-89906-458-2
- Sonnenfeld, Shlomo Zalman, ed. 2002. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld on the Parashah. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-723-6
- Yoseph Chaïm Sonnenfeld during the years of the British mandate.
- British High Commissioner's reception at Government House, Jerusalem, with texts of the Proclamation, 1920. L-R: Rabbis Moshe Leib Bernstein, Yosef Chaïm Sonnenfeld, Yerucham Diskin, and Baruch Reuven Jungreis.
- Yoseph Chaïm Sonnenfeld receives Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, President of Czechoslovakia, during the latter's visit to Jerusalem, 1927.
- Yosef Chaïm Sonnenfeld (left) with Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, 1930s.
- Guardian of Jerusalem, pp. 182-183.
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