US oleh Rabbi David Fine to run in Religious Zionist primaries - interview

The Modi'in resident, former community rabbi of Kansas City and Milwaukee, advocates for helping olim integrate and training community rabbis.

 Rabbi David Fine (L) is seen shaking hands with Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich. (photo credit: Yechiel Radutsky)
Rabbi David Fine (L) is seen shaking hands with Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich.
(photo credit: Yechiel Radutsky)

Rabbi David Fine, an Orthodox immigrant from the United States who lives in Modi’in, on Friday announced his candidacy for the Religious Zionist Party primaries ahead of the upcoming Knesset elections.

Fine, 54, served as a community rabbi in Kansas City and Milwaukee before making aliyah in 2008. The father of four is now a pillar of the large Anglo community in Modi’in.

Helping out immigrants is something for which Fine has long advocated. He believes he can help advocate for olim and help them integrate into Israeli society, and the Religious Zionist Party, he says, is a good place for him to do that.

“I believe that the Religious Zionist Party is a very big tent and has a wide range of people who are running for the primaries. I’ve seen [party leader MK] Bezalel Smotrich do a lot of important work and it’s the party I identify with. I also believe the Religious Zionist Party can be a home for olim and, assuming that I win, I personally will be able to take care of olim and help them with a lot of issues they have in integrating,” Fine told The Jerusalem Post.

This is also in line with his views on Anglo advocacy, for which he founded the Anglo Vision initiative.

 Rabbi David Fine (credit: MORDECHAI GORDON) Rabbi David Fine (credit: MORDECHAI GORDON)

Helping out olim is just one part of his goals, however. Fine also believes in bolstering Israel’s ties with the Diaspora. It is a role he thinks should be helmed by an immigrant intimately familiar with Diaspora Jewry.

“When it comes to the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, I think it should be led by somebody from there,” he explained. “Since the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, and the largest source of olim, is the United States, it would be good if the Diaspora affairs minister was an oleh.”

"There are a lot of ideas from outside Israel that would be useful in Israel. Communal rabbis would be a good model to replicate."

Rabbi David Fine

Communal rabbis

One of his more interesting goals is to replicate a feature of Diaspora Jewry that Israel lacks: communal rabbis.

This is something Fine has advocated for with Barkai, an organization founded by him and Modi’in community leader Rabbi Shlomo Sobol a decade ago. The organization works to build communities in Israel and train communal rabbis.

Currently, Barkai consists of 75 different communities spread throughout Israel. It recently completed the fifth cycle of their community rabbinical training program.

Fine explained, “There is a more communal aspect to Jewish society outside the State of Israel. The whole notion of a rabbi leading a community outside of a synagogue is sort of absent from Israel. There are a lot of ideas from outside Israel that would be useful in Israel. Communal rabbis would be a good model to replicate.”

Fine noted that this would not be the same as it is outside of Israel. In fact, it can’t be, as there are already a number of historical reasons rabbis leading communities are absent from Israel.

“It would need to be adjusted, but it is something we want to do,” he said. “People don’t really have communities here. We want to give it to them.”

Smotrich's statement

In a statement welcoming Fine’s candidacy, Smotrich praised his work with Barkai and noted his role as a voice to Anglo immigrants in the religious-Zionist movement.

“The Anglo community in Israel has 400,000 people, but today, there isn’t a single Anglo representative in the nationalist camp,” Smotrich explained.

“Rabbi Fine is coming to give a voice [to his community], understanding their needs and recognizing their values. I am happy and proud of the fact that he is putting his trust in us, the Religious Zionist Party, the greatest concentration of the values of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.”

The announcement of Fine’s candidacy came just days after the Religious Zionist Party launched a campaign geared toward attracting Anglo voters.