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Ultra Orthodox extremists in America plan to disrupt the visit of a leading haredi spiritual leader in protest against his purportedly liberal stance on employment and army service for yeshiva students.
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Steinman, who is presently visiting haredi communities across the US, Canada and South America, together with the Gerer Rebbe, Ya'acov Aryeh Alter, was expected to encounter demonstrations and vocal protests in Montreal, Canada and Monsey, New York, two enclaves of rabidly anti-Zionist, ultra Orthodox Judaism.
According to haredi media reports, Rabbi Moshe Menachem Tirnuar, a rabbinic judge and Satmar Hassid in Montreal called over the weekend to organize a large demonstration against Steinman.
At the last minute Steinman's entourage cancelled its trip to Montreal.
Rabbi Yitzhak Levinstein, Steinman's close aide, speaking from Los Angeles, denied media reports that the reason for the cancellation was the demonstrations.
"It was a choice between Lakewood and Montreal," said Levinstein. "So we chose Lakewood." He added that Steinman might still visit Montreal on Sunday.
In Monsey, where Steinman is slated to stay for Shabbat, Rabbis such as Neturei Karta activist Moshe Ber Beck, who has supported and met with Palestinian terrorists and others associated with the more extreme elements of the ultra Orthodox community, are expected to organize demonstrations against Steinman.
Shmuel Popenheim, editor of Ha'edah, a weekly published by the rabidly anti-Zionist Edah Haredit, said those who publicly attack Steinman deviate from mainstream rabbinic opinion.
"Demonstrating in the streets and attacking a great Torah scholar is completely wrong," said Popenheim.
Nevertheless, Popenheim and other haredi sources admitted that Steinman was a very controversial figure.
"His strong support for the Tal Law and the Nahal Haredi [a special army unit for haredi soldiers] made him a lot of enemies," said a source in Degel Hatorah, the Lithuanian faction of United Torah Judaism.
"The zealots express themselves in an unbridled way," added the source. "But their basic argument is accepted by a lot of people in the haredi community."
Rabbi Steinman was severely criticized for sending his representative, Mordechai Karelitz, former Mayor of Bnei Brak, to sit on the committee that drafted the Tal Law.
Steinman was also the only member of Degel Hatorah's council of Torah sages that openly supported the Nahal haredi.