Hanoch Verdinger, chairman of moderate haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party Tov,
announced on Sunday that he regularly consults the grand rabbi of the Amshinov
hassidic dynasty on public issues facing the party in
Political legitimacy for haredi parties is gained largely
through the endorsement of senior and respected rabbis.
To date, Tov has
been unable to demonstrate such support from a rabbi respected by haredi voters,
and this presented a serious stumbling block for the party. As such, Verdinger’s
announcement is a political coup for Tov and a possible turning point in haredi
The Tov party, which has had a representative on the Beit
Shemesh municipal council during the last fiveyear term, seeks to represent
members of the haredi public who are more integrated into the work force and
Israeli society than the mainstream of the community.
The grand rabbi, or
admor, of the Amshinov hassidim is Rabbi Ya’acov Arye Milkovski, who resides in
the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Vagan.
The announcement was made
Sunday morning on the haredi radio station Kol Barama.
The Tov party has
emphasized that because Milkovski has a policy, inherited from his grandfather,
not to endorse political parties, the admor has not and will not issue an
official statement in support of the party.
asserted that he has been in regular contact and consultation with Milkovski for
several years, and will continue to seek advice from him.
chairman said he was called to the admor’s house shortly before Shabbat,
whereupon the rabbi gave him permission to publicize the fact that the two are
in regular contact.
“In all public matters that we [Tov] meet to
deliberate on, I consult with him,” Verdinger said.
“If there have been
concerns that we are operating in a void, working without a ‘great rabbi’
standing with us and that there is no one giving us direction, I can announce to
everyone that we turn to, consult with, and don’t do anything in the realm of
public matters without [this] great rabbi standing with us and giving us
Kol Barama interviewer Moti Lavie was noticeably surprised at
the news and rephrased the question of rabbinic support to Verdinger several
In addition to Jerusalem, Tov is also running in Betar Illit,
where Amshinov hassidim have a strong presence, and in Beit
Yisroel Cohen, a reporter for haredi website Kikar Hashabbat,
said that he was “unsure” as to the importance or influence of the announcement,
since Milkovski is not part of the hassidic political establishment, and
expressed doubt that large numbers of the haredi public would now turn to
Cohen added however that the admor is a “special and serious figure,
accepted by the hassidic community at large.”
The Amshinov hassidic
community is part of the umbrella Agudat Yisrael hassidic political movement,
and pressure may be brought to bear on the grand rabbi. But Cohen said he
doubted whether Milkovski would in any way retract or back away from his
association with Tov.
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