After months of infighting and internal bickering, the haredi (ultra-Orthodox)
United Torah Judaism party kicked off its election campaign in earnest this week
under the slogan “We are all haredim.”
On Tuesday, the rabbinic leaders
of two of the largest hassidic communities in the country called on the haredi
community to enlist in the electoral campaign to increase the community’s
Earlier this week, spiritual leader of the
non-hassidic haredi world Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman declared that it was
obligatory for the ultra-Orthodox community to fight the creation of laws than
ran contrary to the Torah.
Haredi political and rabbinic leaders alike
have been concerned about the numerous political fault lines that have cracked
open in the run-up to the January poll, and there is a concern within UTJ ranks
that the divisions will lead to decreased grassroots activism, a split of the
haredi vote and poor voter turnout on election day.
“Our slogan reflects
the fact that we want all parts of haredi society to come together for these
elections,” a UTJ official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
a lot of critical issues which are facing us. Whether it’s about Torah study, or
the housing crisis, or [national service] enlistment, we want everyone to feel
connected and everyone to come together.”
The desire for a collective,
communal effort to shore up the haredi community’s political influence
manifested on the front page of Tuesday’s Yated Ne’eman newspaper, the
biggest-selling haredi daily.
The paper published two “holy
pronouncements” from the rebbes of both the Viznitz and Belz hassidic sects,
calling on the haredi community as a whole to take part in the election campaign
“This [election] campaign will be especially fateful for our
children,” said Viznitz’s Rabbi Yisroel Hager, whose hassidic dynasty is the
second-largest in the country after that of Ger.
“The wars for religion
at the moment are over everything. The terrible decrees that are on our doorstep
obligate every single person to enlist for the campaign, to increase their
participation in order to increase the power of UTJ... to increase the strength
of our representatives who fight our wars,” Hager declared.
The rebbe of
Belz, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, made similar comments in his decree, calling
on all haredim to work for the campaign and to vote for UTJ to ensure the
largest possible number of haredi MKs.
Yated Ne’eman is the mouthpiece of
Degel Hatorah, the non-hassidic party of the UTJ Knesset faction, so the
publication of the hassidic leaders’ pronouncements was itself a symbolic
message of unity within haredi circles.
At a Degel Hatorah conference in
Or Yehuda on Sunday, Shteinman, too, emphasized the notion of collective
responsibility to vote for UTJ.
During his speech to the gathered party
activists, he repeatedly stressed the obligation of all members of the haredi
community to work for the campaign in whatever capacity they could, and to vote
for the haredi party.
“There is a fire, may God have mercy on us!” he
declared. “There is danger, and if we do not [act], then they can make laws
contrary to the Torah, God forbid.”
He stated that “every day, there are
secular and other representatives [MKs] doing things not in accordance with the
way of the Torah, and we need to struggle all the time against this so that they
will not succeed.”
He urged the haredi community to use the elections as
an opportunity “to influence matters, because if one does not do so, then one
transgresses the Torah prohibition, ‘Do not stand by as your brother’s blood is
The calls to action came against the background of a split in the
haredi world that has emerged and grown since the death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom
Elyashiv back in July.
Elyashiv was the acknowledged rabbinical leader of
the non-hassidic haredi sector, but a leadership struggle between Shteinman and
Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach following his death has created bitter animosity and
political divisions between the rabbis’ respective supporters.
also mounting within UTJ about the party’s failure to increase the number of
Knesset seats it gains, despite the high rate of the haredi population’s growth.
The “We are all haredim” tag is also directed at haredim who might be thinking
about voting for a non-haredi party.