Mahzike Hadas was an organization in Galicia and Bukovina, representing the first attempt of the Orthodox to unite for political action in order to foster its beliefs in the sphere of Jewish social life.
The organization was initiated by a meeting of the larger Jewish communities which was convened by Shomer Israel in Lvov (Lemberg), in 1878, in connection with their opposition to the founding of a rabbinical seminary and to the organizational changes in the communities. The Maḥzike Hadas society was founded primarily to ward off the dangers that lay in such new plans. It was headed by Simon Sofer (Schreiber) of krakow (son of the Ḥatam Sofer) and Joshua Rokeaḥ, the rabbi of Belz . The founding convention took place on March 13, 1879. There the statutes of the new organization were determined and the bimonthly Maḥzikei ha-Dat which appeared in both Hebrew and in Yiddish and which was directed against the publication Izraelita was founded. The organization came out with a special list of candidates for the elections of the Austrian parliament of 1879. Of the four candidates it put forward only one, Simon Sofer, was elected, Sofer joined the "Polish club" in opposition to the Jewish assimilationist representatives.
In 1882, the organization convened a large conference which was attended by 200 rabbis and 800 representatives of communities. The purpose of the conference was to protect the religious character of the communities from the reform tendencies of the progressives. The conference passed a resolution that only Jews observing the precepts of the Shulḥan Arukh were to begranted full voting rights for communal elections. The death of Simon Schreiber in 1883 temporarily weakened the movement, but in 1908 the rabbi of Belz renewed its vigor by publishing a proclamation Kol Maḥazikei ha-Dat which denounced any attempt to introduce a progressive spirit into the communities according to the patterns of Western Europe or, under the influence of Zionism and socialism, to inject into them a secular national content. The rabbi of Belz also denounced the efforts of the Vienna community to set up a central union for Austria.
After World War I, when Poland became independent, a section of the Orthodox community, under the influence of the rabbi of Belz, organized an independent political party, calling itself Maḥzike Hadas. The party was founded at a convention which was attended by representatives from 100 communities and which took place in Grodek Jagiellonski (Gorodok), on Dec. 22, 1931. Its influence was chiefly felt throughout Galicia as a rival to Agudat Israel .
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.
N.M. Gelber (ed.), in: EG, 4 (1953), 310ff.; M. Busak, in: A. Bauminger et al. (eds.), Sefer Kraka (1959), 103–7; Z. Fischer-Schein (Zohar), Be-Sod Yesharim ve-Edah (1969), 125; I. Schiper (ed.), Zydzi w Polsce odrodzonej, 1 (1932), 410; 2 (1933), 258.