The funeral for Shmuel Auerbach was attended by tens of thousands of Strictly Orthodox men mourning one of Jerusalem’s most influential rabbis and the growing vacuum in their community’s leadership.
Rabbi Auerbach, who was 86, was one of two leaders in the main faction of Lithuanian Charedim. The other, Rabbi Aharon Steinman, died in December last year aged 104.
Their departures leave no clear successors ready to fill their place as leaders within the Charedi community both in Israel and across the Jewish world.
Rabbi Auerbach was the leader of the so-called Jerusalem faction, had split from the rest of the Lithuanian rabbinical hierarchy to take a more radical stand on issues including the draft of yeshiva students to the IDF.
He had directed his followers to not even turn up at the induction centres to receive their routine deferral of enlistment and, a number of times last year, sent them out to block the streets of Jerusalem in rowdy protests.
This split in the community was so extensive that it led to the establishment of a separate daily newspaper to articulate Rabbi Auerbach’s positions and those of his followers.
The Lithuanian Charedim are seen as the standard-bearers of Strictly Orthodox ideology and maintain the most prestigious yeshivas.
With the passing of their venerable leaders, there remains a generation of rabbis in their eighties and nineties who do not have the same authority that the previous generation enjoyed.
The schism within the community still exists, but it is hard to see now who will lead either group in the future, or resolve the differences between them.