Rabbi Sonnenfeld is renowned as one of the foremost leaders of "the “old Yishuv” in Jerusalem. Such a term is often used to refer to those Jews who lived in Eretz Israel prior to the Zionist movement. Sonnenfeld was very instrumental in establishing a variety of schools and orphanages throughout the land, as to strengthen the Zionist cause. Apart from numerous other rabbinical leaders, Sonnenfeld was not only known by the Jewish community as a dynamic rabbinical leader who worked as a moderate for peace between the Jews and Arabs, but he was also greatly revered by the Arab community as an individual who strove for peace.
It is recorded that whenever the saintly Rabbi Joseph Chaim Sonnenfeld used to walk from his home to the synagogue or house of study in Jerusalem, the Arabs in the market would rise as he walked by. They could sense that there was something special about him!
Rabbi Sonnenfeld also preached for the separation of the Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities, and became the first rabbi of the Separtist Orthodox community in Jerusalem. At the same time, he was a strong supporter of the resettlement of Eretz Israel and the use of Hebrew as the official language.
Sources: Jewish History, Rabbi Yaacov Haber's: Paths to Spiritual Growth