Born in Bessarabia, Judah Leib Fishman studied in Lithuanian yeshivot, and after ordination, was a preacher (maggid) and then rabbi. He met Rabbi Yitzhak Reines, founder of the Mizrachi religious Zionist movement in 1900 and took part in the movement's founding conference in Vilna. He participated in the second and subsequent Zionist congresses and was a member of the Zionist General Council. He settled in Eretz Yisrael in 1913.
At the beginning of World War I, Rav Maimon was imprisoned by the Turkish authorities, and when he was expelled, went to the U.S. where he was active on behalf of the Mizrachi movement. He returned on the first ship to reach Palestine after the war. His friendship with Rav Kook led them to establish the Chief Rabbinate of Palestine. He 1936 he founded Mosad HaRav Kook which still publishes religious books. As Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, he was interned by the British on "Black Saturday" in June 1946.
After establishment of the State, he was a member of the First Knesset, as well as minister of religions and minister in charge of war casualties. He eventually gave up politics in favor of writing. Rav Maimon founded a number of institutions which are still important in modern-day Israel. Specifically, the Mizrachi organization, including its educational institutions; the Israeli chief rabbinate and Mosad HaRav Kook.
While he was in exile in the United States, Rav Maimon became a prolific writer on behalf of the Mizrachi movement for religious Zionism. Later, although he was faithful to the leadership of the Jewish Yishuv, he was sympathetic to breakaway Jewish organizations, particularly the Irgun Zevai Leumi (Etzel) and Lohamei Herut Israel (Lehi). He was clear about the right of every Jew to bear arms in self-defense and in defense of Jewish rights in Eretz Yisrael. When the Haganah, forerunner of today's IDF, began to suppress the Etzel (1944-1945), he expressed his opposition.
After establishment of the State, he advocated institution a Sanhedrin supreme religious authority, but the idea was opposed in most religious circles.
His writing ranged from halakhah (religious law) and biblical investigation to talmudic and literary works. He founded Mizrachi's weekly newspaper, HaTor, which published 1921-1936. His major work was "Sarei HaMeah", whose six volumes, published 1942-1947, describe the greatest Jewish scholars of the 19th century. Other late works included books on Jewish holidays, on religious Zionism and several figures from Jewish history.
Sources: The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente