Rabbi Aharon Feldman 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In an apology speech to his students on Thursday, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, dean of Ner Yisrael Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland, retract- ed comments he previously made in which he called freshman Yesh Atid lawmaker Rabbi Dov Lipman “wicked.”
Feldman had earlier accused Lipman, a graduate of Ner Yisrael, of calling for “all yeshiva ketanos ” – schools for high-school-age students that teach exclusively Torah – to be closed.
Feldman had said that the Yesh Atid lawmaker and his fellow party members are trying to implement its policies vis-à-vis the haredi community because “they hate us.”
The rabbi went as far as to compare Yesh Atid to biblical figures such as Amalek and Haman – archetypal villains in Judaism.
In response, Lipman wrote an open letter to the Baltimore Jewish community, published in a local newspaper, in which he clarified his stance on secular education.
“The Israeli government,” he wrote, “should not fund institutions which don’t teach basic math and English.
Yeshivos which don’t do so will not be closed down but they won’t receive government funding.”
The addition of secular education to the haredi school system is aimed at helping that sector, he wrote.
“Comparing me or anyone in my party to Amalek and Haman who wanted to kill all Jews including ‘children and women’ is simply incomprehensible. We are going to help haredim sustain their families – literally feed their children – and we are com- pared to murderers?” Lipman asked.
“Ironically,” Lipman’s letter continued, “the basis for my supporting this plan...is actually Ner Yisrael.”
Ner Yisrael maintains agreements with several local universities, and the institution’s yeshiva students frequently earn degrees by taking night classes.
During Thursday’s retraction speech, Feldman said that he had been contacted by Lipman, who explained that he is acting “for the sake of heaven.” Since Lipman is only “mistakenly” doing bad, Feldman conceded, he “can- not call him a wicked man.”
“I retract my statement and apologize to him for calling him a rasha (the Hebrew term for ‘wicked one’),” Feldman said.
However, the yeshiva dean qualified his apology and argued that Lipman is “extremely misguided” and that “by introducing secular studies... [he is] destroying the atmosphere of holiness” in the yeshiva system.
Even though American haredim study secular subjects, he said, Israel is “different” and one “can’t compare the two societies.”
Lipman told The Jerusalem Post
that he accepted Feldman’s apology.