The Israeli-American Council (IAC), a nonprofit organization based in the United States supporting Israeli-Americans, earlier this month held its annual conference in Florida, called "Israel. Together."
The event was the first in-person event held by a major American Jewish organization since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization noted, adding that measures have been taken to curtail the spread of the virus at events.
Headlining the event was David Hagar, a founder of the Israel Defense Forces' Netzah Yehuda "Nahal Haredi" Battalion, a unit composed entirely of ultra-Orthodox conscripts who forwent their exemption from the draft in order to serve in the military.
The conference also featured businesswoman Jasmine Lukacs and media personality Miri Michaeli, who, together with Hagar, spoke with the heads of charities in a panel format.
Hagar emphasized that haredim who are unable or unwilling to devote all their time to studying in a yeshiva ought to enlist in the IDF:
"I do not want a question about people sitting and studying for 10-12 hours a day leaving the yeshiva," he said. "If there is a child who studies only two hours a day, for the benefit of the child and for the benefit of the people of Israel, he must enlist in the IDF. Especially when in Netzah Yehuda there are all the appropriate conditions for the ultra-Orthodox."
Hagar added that the battalion and other ultra-Orthodox units include a program in which the final year of the soldiers' service is spent studying the Liba core curriculum and receiving a matriculation certificate. He described an enthusiastic email from a soldier who graduated, reading: "Today is the happiest day of my life and I am sending you the email to say thank you. I did not dream that it could happen. In addition, I decided to take my tzitzit off so that others can see that the ultra-Orthodox have another option."
Recently, Netzah Yehuda has been expanding housing for haredi lone soldiers, who cannot live in regular lone soldier houses, Hagar said, adding that the organization was planning to open a large house for "hundreds of soldiers."