Amsalem reaches out to Anglo community

US–born Rabbi Dov Lipman to seek Knesset seat with ex-Shas maverick MK’s Am Shalem party.

By SAMUEL SOKOL, SPECIAL TO THE JPOST
May 19, 2011 06:06
3 minute read.
Shas MK Haim Amsalem

Amsalem 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Rabbi Dov Lipman, a Beit Shemesh-based community activist and educator, has announced his intention to run for a seat in Knesset under the banner of renegade Shas MK Haim Amsalem’s newly established Am Shalem party.

Lipman would serve as the representative of the party’s Anglo faction, which he currently heads.

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Amsalem generated press several months ago, when in defiance of the Shas party platform, he came out in favor of military service for yeshiva students and criticized the lack of secular content in the ultra- Orthodox educational system.

“These studies are not only important in terms of the students’ capacity to find a future in the general professions, but also for the sake of Torah study itself: You need to understand those core subjects in order to better understand the Gemara,” he told The Jerusalem Post in January. Gemara is the text of rabbinic analysis of Jewish law.

Amsalem’s positions, seemingly more suited to a representative of a National Religious Party, resulted in his expulsion from Shas and led to his establishment of Am Shalem (Unified People).

Prior to his expulsion, Amsalem issued a scathing critique of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’s spiritual guide, and told Israeli television that he wanted “to see a party with a proud constituency of people who earn a living and bring others closer to a Torah.”



Lipman, who grew up in Silver Springs, Maryland, and made aliya in 2004, follows a similar philosophy. In addition to having extensive experience in local politics, Lipman served as a self-described “liaison/mediator” between the ultra-Orthodox, nationalreligious and secular communities in Beit Shemesh, a town known for religious conflict.

“In recent years I have gotten involved in local politics in Beit Shemesh, specifically regarding the issue of the haredi community coming in and taking over the city,” Lipman wrote in a blog post announcing his candidacy.

“I have worked hard for unity and to make sure that all populations receive whatever is magiya [deserving] to them without preference to one over another. My constant theme is that we are all Jews without these boxes that we are all put in here in Israel.”

Lipman said in recent months he grew closer to Amsalem because of his desire to strengthen the nation of Israel and the State of Israel from within.

Decrying the increasing polarization of Israeli society, Lipman, who heads “Anglos for Am Shalem” and whose placement on the party’s list is dependent on the number of members he can bring to the movement, said Israel “is decaying from the inside.”

“The secular have become more secular with almost no Judaism and in some cases even little Zionism in their education.

The haredim have less and less secular education and are even more cut off from the rest of the country,” he said.

Another issue that Amsalem and Lipman consider urgent is the plight of the over 300,000 Russian immigrants of Jewish descent who “are not being allowed to convert.”

This problem, if not solved, could lead to mass intermarriage and assimilation in the coming years, constituting “another decay from within,” Lipman said.

If elected, Lipman said he would work to increase the Jewish and Zionist content in secular schools while “enabling and empowering haredim to study Torah while receiving higher education.”

Lipman also said he is “the only representative for Anglo olim and helping them with their needs.”

He said he would work for more incentives for North Americans to make aliya.

Lipman has gathered around 400 signatures, has begun setting up a network in various cities with seven municipal representatives already on board, and he said he plans on holding a “major meeting” of community representatives in Jerusalem soon.

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