Community activists in Beit Shemesh have written to Montgomery County executive
Isaiah “Ike” Legget in Maryland, asking him to go ahead with a twinning project
between the two locales, despite recent violence aimed at women and young girls
perpetrated by ultra- Orthodox residents of the Israeli city.
reported earlier this week that the county’s Office of Community Partnerships
was considering shelving the partnership because of concerns raised by human
rights activists regarding the actions of extremists from within Beit Shemesh’s
Hadassah Margolis, mother of 8-year-old Na’ama – who
was highlighted in a television expose of extremist aggression directed at
students at a Beit Shemesh girl’s school – wrote to Legget asking him “not to
give up” on the sister city initiative.
“We are standing up to
bullies. We are standing up to people who are doing something very
wrong,” Margolese said in her letter. “By you being our twin city, you stand up
to these bullies and extremists everywhere together with us.”
to an associate of the county executive, Legget is inclined to continue with the
partnership but has emphasized that the correct procedures need to be
Following the news reports last week, Jewish Federation of
Greater Washington President Stuart Kurlander and CEO Steven Rakitt wrote to
Legget, saying that the violence tells “only part of the story.” While
condemning extremist ultra- Orthodox aggression and intimidation, they pointed
to several women in leading political and public roles in Israel and to the
country’s democratic values as evidence of a broader culture of gender equality
and civil rights.
Bruce Adams, director of the Office of Community
Partnerships, has said that the county will most probably follow the
Rabbi Dov Lipman, an antiextremist activist in Beit
Shemesh, met with Legget in 2007 during a visit there when the project was
initiated. He also wrote to Legget, arguing that the city has provided a model
for dealing with “religious extremism and coercion.”
“We are the example
of how an open and democratic society confronts whispers of intolerance and
fanaticism,” wrote Lipman, a Montgomery County native.Melanie Lidman
contributed to this report.
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