A new website is offering millions of Jews and non-Jews a friendly explanation about Judaism, styled as a modern, easy-to-access encyclopedia. The Jewish Tradition website is based on the content of a book with the same name, by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva.
“The goal of this book is to tell the story of Jewish tradition, a tradition in which halacha [Jewish law] and Jewish history reflect divine ideals and values,” Melamed wrote in the introduction to the book and the website.
“I was inspired to write the book after hearing a talk by Prof. Meir Buzaglo, who spoke about the value of the Jewish tradition and how wonderful it would be if it were made available and accessible to all.
“It struck me that no book to date, in Hebrew, successfully summarizes and presents the faith, values and laws of Jewish tradition. A number of rabbis involved with conversion, mainly Rabbi Haim Drukman, asked me to write a book that would clearly explain the fundamentals of Jewish faith and Jewish law.”
In June 2020, Melamed participated in a dialogue with French Reform Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur at an online conference for the Makor Rishon newspaper. Melamed was criticized by some of his colleagues in the broader Orthodox community for recognizing Reform ideology. In November, some of the most senior rabbis in the conservative wing of the religious-Zionist community condemned all contact between Orthodox and Reform rabbis, describing any such relations as “a terrible desecration of God’s name.”
Yaakov Weinberger, CEO of Har Bracha Yeshiva Institutions, explained that the new site is based on a book that was published in Hebrew and four additional languages: Spanish, Russian, French, and soon, in English.
In honor of the launch, the yeshiva created a short video that “describes the enormous influence of Judaism on the entire world and the blessing it brought to the world and the vision of tikkun olam through Judaism,” Weinberger explained.
The video invites viewers to learn about the Jewish tradition on the yahadut.org site. It shows a mock United Nations discussion, where one of the speakers talks about Ha’ivrim (the Hebrews) or the Jews. This word means “people from the other side.”
The moderator explains that “from the very beginning, they have been different. Their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, walked a different path than the rest of the world, unwilling to take part in the ancient culture of idolatry and child sacrifice,” and he expands on monotheistic beliefs. “As time goes on, the influence of these Hebrews, this different people, remains the foundation upon which the Western world stands,” the moderator says.
Investment of over NIS 1 million in new site establishment
THE HAR Bracha Yeshiva has invested more than NIS 1 million in the site. What sets this site apart from other portals with Jewish content is that most of it is static and already on the site; only specific content that is related to the core of Melamed’s book will be published from time to time.
An additional difference, Weinberger explained, is the fact that Melamed actually posits a national religious or religious-Zionist worldview “that sees all values such as science, work, the State of Israel, the IDF, attitudes toward women or conversion, as a positive attitude toward modernity.” He added that “the issue of military and economic development is a Torah value, and the Torah considers it one of the tasks of the People of Israel.”
Asked who the target audience is for this new site, Weinberger explained that it is first for “Jews from all circles of life and sectors, who want to know more about the Jewish tradition.” In addition, there are also those who aren’t Jewish and are interested in Judaism. “When you take into account that gentiles will also come in and be able to study” they can also benefit from it as well,” he said.
“This is Judaism through the eyes of someone with a worldview in Judaism such as Rabbi Melamed sees it.”