The Tzohar rabbinical association is planning an extravaganza of
intellectualism, spiritualism and Torah study for the traditional all-night
learning sessions of Shavuot, which falls out on Saturday night and
A mix of speakers and educators will deliver talks on everything
from workers’ rights to Jewish unity, assimilation to whether or not the
biblical figure and Jewish convert Ruth would have succeeded in converting in
Rabbis, MKs, rabbis who are also MKs, rebbetzins, social
activists and other assorted public figures will be part of the program, which
will span the country from Haifa to Tel Aviv.
The national religious
organization has reached out to secular and religious communities alike, through
local authorities, community centers and neighborhood organizations, and is
expecting a healthy mix of the different sectors of the population to attend its
Kadima MK Otniel Schneller will be speaking on a panel in Haifa
Saturday night on the issue of Jewish education and Israeli society.
question is, are we educating our youth toward greater unity or greater
segregation?” Schneller said in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post on
“Unfortunately at the moment, we’re raising a very
ideologically divided generation which sees things in black and white,” he
continued. “I want there to be more nuance, and for us to emphasize the common
denominators which bind us all, that we’re Jewish, we’re Zionistic, we’re
Schneller, who is modern Orthodox, said that a greater
emphasis on openness to “the other” was necessary in the national education
“We need to get the religious education framework to start
teaching more theater and literature, and the secular education system to teach
more about Judaism, about the Mishna – not so that they necessarily keep more
mitzvot, but so that they can relate better to the other,” he said.
Boaz Ganot, head of Tzohar’s Community program, said that the concept of
combining Torah study with current affairs for Shavuot study sessions was
particularly appropriate for this festival.
“The Torah was given to the
entire people of Israel, and therefore it is relevant to everyone,” he said.
“The themes of the evening – social justice, dealing with the other, conversion
– these are all issues which challenge us today. These are themes relevant to
Ruth [whose story is read in synagogues on Shavuot].”
Ganot said that in
modern Israeli society, there were many dividing factors, such as culture,
social background, economic status and religion, but that the purpose of the
Shavuot study program was to focus on the similarities, not the
“Some things can’t be changed, but the way we relate to one
another, how we approach and deal with each other and our attitude toward those
not like us can be changed, and we need to increase the motivation to get closer
and not to make ourselves further apart,” he said.
Habayit Hayehudi MK
Uri Orbach will be speaking about the encumbered issue of conversion in the
country today, comparing it to the situation that Ruth encountered when she
converted to Judaism.
“Unfortunately the severe difficulties encountered
by those who would like to convert is causing the phenomenon of intermarriage in
Israel to get worse,” Orbach told the Post.
“It’s easy to be non-Jewish
in Israel, so if a potential convert is dissuaded by the obstacles presented by
the bureaucracy of the conversion system here, there is not too much to motivate
him to convert,” he argued. “This doesn’t bother the secular community too much,
and the haredi [ultra- Orthodox] community doesn’t marry outside itself anyway,
but for everyone between these poles, it’s causing an extremely dangerous
situation regarding intermarriage and the next generation of Jewish
Meanwhile, renegade Shas MK Haim Amsalem will speak about a
matter dear to his heart: the unity, or lack thereof, of the Jewish
To be one nation, he said, we have to solve a few really urgent
“The first is the issue of national service,” he told the Post.
“If there is a feeling on the part of some that they are being exploited, if
there is a situation in which some people are doing the hard work, are putting
their lives at risk for the sake of the nation while others are not, then this
can’t be called ‘am ehad,’ one people,” the MK said.
“There must be a
common partnership in the responsibilities of serving and contributing to the
state,” he continued.
“Those who are learning [in yeshivot] should be
allowed to learn, but for all the rest, they must do some form of military or
Like Orbach, Amsalem will be focusing on the issue of
conversion as well.
“If we’re not helping those who truly want to join
the Jewish people, then we’re just strengthening the divide among ourselves and
strengthening the fragmentation of society,” he said.