Degel Hatorah party adds Bnei Brak mayor to list

Decision to make Yaakov Asher third on list will have a considerable impact on the internal politics of the haredi world.

Yaakov Asher 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Bnei Brak Development Fund)
Yaakov Asher 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Bnei Brak Development Fund)
The Council of Torah Sages of the Degel Hatorah party, the non-hassidic half of the ultra- Orthodox United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, selected on Monday night current Bnei Brak Mayor Yaakov Asher to be the third-placed candidate on their electoral party list.
The selection has been the focus of high tensions within the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi world over the past few months, with officials of two rival camps within the community insisting on the appointment of one of their respective partisans to the number three spot.
The choice of Asher will not have significant electoral bearing since Degel’s third spot will only be placed seventh in UTJ’s combined list with the faction’s other component, the hassidic Agudat Yisrael party – and recent polls show UTJ taking only six Knesset seats.
But the decision will have a considerable impact on the internal politics of the haredi world in light of the divisions within the Lithuanian community and the disputes regarding political representation that have arisen as a result.
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The so-called “Jerusalemite faction” led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach resents the newly acquired leadership and dominance of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, who inherited the mantle of spiritual leader of the Lithuanian community following the death of previous leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
In response to its marginalization, the Jerusalemite faction registered a new political party, Netzach, and has threatened to run in the coming elections against UTJ if its demands regarding the third spot on the list are not met.
Although Netzach would in all likelihood not pass the electoral threshold, it could divert enough voters away from UTJ that it would lose one of its seats in the Knesset.
Haredi businessman and political figure Menahem Carmel was the third-placed Degel candidate in the previous elections, but Shteinman removed him from the list because of his close ties to Auerbach – a move which greatly angered the Jerusalemite faction.
Auerbach, who is a member of Degel’s Council of Torah Sages, did not participate in Monday night’s meeting.
Asher has served as Bnei Brak mayor since 2008.