Powerful ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi dies at 93

: By KAROUN DEMIRJIAN | Associated Press Writer - JERUSALEM Menachem Porush, a well-known Israeli rabbi and longtime leader of one of the most influential ultra-Orthodox parties in parliament, has died. He was 93.

Porush served for more than 30 years in Israel's parliament, acting twice as deputy labor minister. He was known for leading the minority ultra-Orthodox Jewish community's efforts to slow secularization in Israel, leading epic battles for legislation to enforce strict Jewish laws that sparked charges from critics of "religious coercion."

The Jerusalem-born Porush also founded several religious education centers for ultra-Orthodox children.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogized Porush, who died Sunday, as "a dear, wise, and warm man" and one of Israel's "most dedicated public servants."

Thousands attended a funeral Monday for Porush, who retired from politics in 1994.

During his three decades in public life, Porush led many high-profile campaigns, including a drive to close a main road passing through Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities on the Jewish Sabbath and a mass demonstration against the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 after that body issued rulings allowing some shops to stay open on Saturdays and for non-Orthodox rabbis to preside over conversions to Judaism.

During his political career, Porush was affiliated with the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party in which his son, Meir Porush, is now a central figure.

Porush, a widower, is survived two sons, two daughters and more than 100 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.