||This is a polemic against the use of Hebrew for other than Torah purposes. The authors write that they feel compelled to speak out about the change in education …instead of learning the holy Torah and the carrying out its commandments, they [the ones who have made the changes] have taken for themselves “ the expression of their lips of the Hebrew language for bad and not for good".
"… a proclamation signed by the three main spokesmen of ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem of the time: Rabbi Yitzchak Yerucham Diskin, who basked in the borrowed holy aura of his father, R. Yehuda Leib Diskin known as the “Ga’on of Brisk" and the head of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community of the previous generation; Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, the advocate who drew his strength from the authority of Chatam Sofer’s renowned rabbinical seminary; and Rabbi Moshe Nahum Wallenstein, a well-known Jerusalem religious judge. The proclamation is dated Cheshvan 5679, the end of 1918, less than a year after Jerusalem had been conquered by the British. The proclamation is traditional both in its graphic format as well as its formulation, and the statement is less a plea to the public than a platform for portraying the beliefs of its signatories.
The rabbis crowned their proclamation with a daas Torah, or a judgment that obligates the reader since the proclamation has the force of a Jewish religious law, or psak halakha, although it is not based on traditional halakhic literature. The text reads:
We find in our souls the great and holy obligation, together with the highest rabbinical authorities [Ga’onim], to establish a [secondary] fence around the holy Torah. [...] Any innovation is like tainted meat, an unwanted abomination. Especially objectionable is the change that was fabricated by the so-called “renewers,” who want to exchange our entire Torah for idle talk. Instead of studying our holy Torah and observing its commandments, they took the holy language of Hebrew only to do harm, and not to do good.
In other words, Hebrew is forbidden (according to these protectors of the faith) not because of any of the intrinsic qualities but because this use is an act of innovation, and its use for “idle talk” is disrespectful in light of the abundant wisdom of the Torah."
The authors include R. Yosef Hayyim Sonnenfeld (1849–1932), first rabbi of the separatist Orthodox community in Jerusalem. Born in Verb\ (Slovakia), Sonnenfeld was orphaned at the age of four. As a child he studied both in a talmud torah and in a general school, but in his youth he decided to devote himself entirely to rabbinic study. After pursuing his studies in the yeshiva of his native town, in 1865 he went to Pressburg, where he lived in great poverty while studying in the yeshiva of Abraham Samuel Benjamin Sofer. In 1870 he received the title of honor Morenu from his teacher in a letter full of laudatory references to his great learning. The same year he went to Kobersdorf (Burgenland), where he became a pupil of A. Shag, who thought highly of him. In 1873 Sonnenfeld accompanied his teacher to Erez Israel and settled in the Old City of Jerusalem, and until the end of his life meticulously refrained from remaining outside the walls of the Old City for more than 30 days. He formed a close association with M. J. L. Diskin and was his right hand in his communal activities, such as the founding of the large orphanage and schools and the struggle against the secular schools. R. Sonnenfeld was one of the most active and influential personalities in the community centered in the Old City. He headed the Hungarian kolel Shomerei ha-Homot ("the guardians of the walls"), founded the Battei Ungarn quarter, and helped in the establishment of other quarters in Jerusalem. In 1919 he was one of a group of rabbis headed by R. A. I. Kook which visited the newly established settlements in order to influence them with regard to the observance of Judaism.
R. Sonnenfeld stood for complete separation between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox; he strongly opposed the bringing of the institutions of the old yishuv under the control of the Zionist bodies and the participation of the Orthodox in the official community, Keneset Yisrael, and fought for the statutory right of every individual to opt out of it. When the Jewish Battalions were founded in World War I he opposed enlistment of Orthodox Jews in the battalions. He was one of the founders of the Va'ad ha-Ir le-Kehillat ha-Ashkenazim ("City Council for the Ashkenazi Community"), as well as of its bet din, in opposition to the official Jerusalem rabbinate. He was also a founder of Agudat Israel in Erez Israel.
As a result of his adherence to the doctrine of separation, Sonnenfeld was one of the chief opponents of A. I. Kook, and led the opposition to his appointment as rabbi of Jerusalem, and later as chief rabbi of Erez Israel, even though on the personal level their relationship was one of friendship and esteem. In 1920 Sonnenfeld was elected rabbi of a separate Orthodox community. In his struggle for the emergence of the separatist community he was especially aided by the Dutch publicist Jacob Israel de Haan, who took care that eminent non-Jewish visitors would meet Sonnenfeld, and they were duly impressed by his personality. He was a member of the separatist Orthodox delegation that appeared, on de Haan's initiative, before Hussein, king of the Hedjaz, when the latter visited Transjordan. He appeared before the U.S. King-Crane Commission (see: Palestine, Inquiry Commissions); he also instructed his followers to meet Lord Northcliffe on his visit to Erez Israel. On all these occasions Sonnenfeld expressed a positive attitude to the Jewish resettlement of Erez Israel and the return to Zion, and in the census declared Hebrew as his language. He generally preached loyalty toward the government. He also inclined to moderation toward the Arabs of Erez Israel and strove to establish peace between them and the Jewish population.