Hassidic leadership preparing for ‘historic’ US journey to protest haredi draft

Leading rabbis from non-hassidic haredi community in US are expected to take part in the rally.

December 26, 2013 19:17
2 minute read.
Haredi anti-draft protest in Lower Mahnattan, June 9, 2013.

Haredi anti draft protest NYC 370. (photo credit: JTA)


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The hassidic leadership in Israel is gearing up for a high profile mission to the US to galvanize support and generate solidarity among haredi Jews against legislation, currently in the Knesset, to draft ultra-Orthodox men into military and civilian service.

The grand rabbis, or admorim, of the largest hassidic dynasties in Israel are all expected to travel to the US on what is being referred to as the Council’s Voyage, including the heads of the Gur, Belz, Viznitz, Sanz, Sadigura and Boyan hassidic courts.

The council refers to the Council of Torah Sages of Agudat Yisrael, the political movement representing hassidic Jewry in Israel, which is headed by the Admor of Gur Rabbi Yaakov Arye Alter, and whose membership is comprised of 15 grand rabbis of the largest hassidic courts in the country.

In addition to the admorim, three MKs from the Agudat Yisrael political party, the hassidic half of United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, including Ya’akov Litzman, Meir Porush and Yisrael Eichler are all expected to take part in the trip.

A firm date has not yet been set although the mission is expected to depart in the next two weeks, and is being planned in coordination with the Agudat Yisrael movement in the US.

A mass rally will be held while the hassidic leaders are in the US, with organizers preparing for between 50,000 to 60,000 attendees, primarily from the local hassidic community.

The Skver and Bobov hassidic communities in the US are expected to participate in the rally, while at least one of the two branches of the radical Satmar dynasty is also believed to be prepared to join the protest.

A steering committee for the event, which has flown out to the US, has been looking for a suitable location for the demonstration, such as a sports stadium, although so far without success. The possibility of hiring a gigantic tent with a capacity for 50,000 people is also being examined.

As well as organizing the preparations, the committee has also been raising money, from donors in the US, to fund the event – that will cost several million dollars.

Agudat Yisrael in Israel has been seeking to recruit as much support for the Council’s Voyage as possible, although it appears that the non-hassidic haredi rabbinical leadership, including that of the Sephardi community, will not participate.

Leading rabbis from the non-hassidic haredi community in the US are, however, expected to take part in the rally.

Speaking on the haredi radio station Kol Barama on Wednesday Eichler said the purpose of the trip was to “enlist the Jewish community of the United States to generate diplomatic pressure on this wicked government.”

He said that “the secular regime has declared a total war on haredi Judaism” and that it prevents housing starts for haredim, demands academic qualifications for entering employment, interferes with haredi education, and is demanding that haredim are drafted into military service.

“The purpose of all of this is to take haredi youth into an evil culture,” Eichler said.

“If the government continues with these decrees, international human rights will be required to investigate the discrimination and to ask how a prospering state creates 800,000 poor children.”

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