Verity Steele

DipRAM, LRAM, LTCL, BSc Econ (Hons), MA(Mtpp), MRes

Brit Chalutzim Dati'im 

ברית חלוצים דתיים

Acronym: Bachad (בח"ד)

Translation: The Alliance of Religious Pioneers

Photograph: Edith Hepner, c.1949
Used with permission

Thank you for visiting my website. Its purpose is to alert you to my PhD research into the Bachad movement, sponsored by the University of Southampton. I hope it will inspire any former Bachad members out there - or family members - to get in touch to share memories or documentary material in order to enhance this research and to enable the eventual historical account to be as accurate as possible. I am also interested in two other organisations with a close relationship to Bachad: Torah Va'Avodah and the Mizrachi movement.

For more about my research, please scroll down or use the buttons below to navigate.

(The other pages on this site (under construction) will include a music page (I'm a violinist and pianist by background), a resumé of my life-journey to date and a blog. Use the links in the top header for these).

Research Background

The Jewish youth movement, Brit Chalutzim Dati'i'm (hereafter referred to as Bachad), came into existence in Germany in 1928. The prime reason for its formation was that young people of Orthodox Jewish background who had committed themselves to 'hachsharah' (preparation for going on Aliyah to Eretz Israel) were limited to joining largely secular movements such as Hashomer Hatzair, Hechalutz, Beitar and Gordonia. A movement catering for the needs of observant Jews was required to allow them to keep the Mitzvot (religious commands), especially the keeping of Shabbat (the Sabbath day of rest) and Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws). Bachad's Modern Orthodox approach was open-minded, outward-looking and ambitious in terms of aspiring to the high ideal of applying Torah to the whole of life. Members aspired to a high level of education - not only in the field of agriculture and the study of Judaism, but literature, culture and the Hebrew language. All this was put into practice within the socialist framework of small proto-kibbutzim - hachsharah farms - mainly in Germany to start with, but Bachad later expanded to other European countries, the U.K. from 1938 and even North Africa.

My research will trace the development of Bachad's ideology from its early years in Germany, including the influence of the Hildesheimer Rabbinerseminar in Berlin and will follow the movement's responses to life in Germany under Nazi rule, Kristallnacht, the Kindertransport, WW2, it's post-War refugee work and eventually the Aliyah of most (but not all) of its members in Eretz Israel.

If you are puzzled as to how I, a non-Jewish lady got into researching this subject in the first place, click on either of the links below



Bachad established a number of hachsharah farms in Germany during the 1930s for the purpose of equipping young Jewish men and women with the skills needed for a future life in Palestine (Israel 1948 - ). These were run in much the same way as a kibbutz - everyone contributing their skills and in return, receiving what they needed - food, clothing and a place to live. Amongst the hachsharot in Germany were: Rodges, Batzenrod (Baetzenrod), Geringshof and Steckelsdorf. Often, in lieu of suitable land being available, work-placements were found with local farmers. After the violence of Kristallnacht (9-10 November, 1938), all but two of these closed - and these only continued under very restricted conditions under the supervision of the Gestapo.

Bachad leader, Arieh Handler, who had previously been granted permission by the Gestapo to travel to the various hachsharah farms (including to Bachad's centres elsewhere in Europe), happened to be out of the country when Kristallnacht took place. He received a telegram informing him of the violence and arrests that had taken place and instructions not to come back. At the suggestion of Henrietta Szold in Palestine, Arieh proceeded to London with letters of introduction to key figures in the Jewish community. There, from an office in Woburn House, the HQ of the Refugee Movement in London, he set about networking and organising. The need to find placements for Orthodox children amongst the 10,000 children permitted to enter the U.K. via the Kindertransport schemes from early 1939 tested Handler's organisational skills to the limit - he was determined to provide places of refuge (ideally, hachsharah training farms) for as many of the children from observant families as possible. 

The first hachsharah was at Grwych Castle, followed by others at Whittingehame, Scotland, St. Asaph, Rosset, Castleton (Thornham Fold Farm), Millisle (Co. Down, N. Ireland), Bromsgrove (Kibbutz Shivat Tzion), Buckingham, Kinnersley, Ollerton, Dockenfield Manor and Thaxted, Essex.

Below are a few photographs of the hachsharah farm at Thaxted:



The living accommodation at the Bachad Farm, Thaxted.

Photograph: Edith Hepner

Right: The late Mr. Edmund Leeder (a distant cousin of Verity's and farmer of adjacent land) talking to Aaron Ellern (ז"ל), the first manager of the Thaxted farm and another Bachad member with the old farmhouse in the background.


One of the farm buildings at Thaxted. Take note of the sign on the gable end - 'Handler Rd'!  In 1942, Arieh Handler gathered together a group of London-based Jewish businessmen to form the Bachad Fellowship under the chairmanship of Oscar Philipp. They served as guarantors for the loan taken out by Bachad to buy the Thaxted farm and were in reality Bachad's executive committee, shaping policies and taking the big decisions. The hachsharah farm at Thaxted was the first farm actually owned by Bachad, providing the long-awaited opportunity to run an establishment in line with their beliefs and values.

If you have further information or comments, please use the contact form below.



I look forward to hearing from anyone

who can shed further light on this important, but little-known history.