Israeli national religious rabbi looks to leadership of the future

Yitzhak Neriah, the co-dean of the Torah B’Tzion Yeshiva in Jerusalem, has expressed concern that there are insufficient numbers of young men in the sector who are dedicating their lives to Torah.

A man wearing a kippa (photo credit: REUTERS)
A man wearing a kippa
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prominent national-religious leader Rabbi Yitzhak Neriah has embarked on the process of creating a charitable foundation to provide financial support to aspiring rabbis and spiritual leaders in the national-religious sector.
Neriah, who is the co-dean of the Torah B’Tzion Yeshiva in Jerusalem, has expressed concern that there are insufficient numbers of young men in the sector who are dedicating their lives to the Torah which will therefore lead to a deficit of leading rabbis and arbiters of Jewish law from the national-religious community.
According to the rabbi, the national-religious sector has prioritized and given prominence to members of the community who excel in the army, in academia or in professional vocations but has ignored the importance of developing future leaders in the Torah world.
Today therefore, young men from the sector are not encouraged to pursue Torah scholarship, since other fields are considered more prestigious and better able to provide a financial future as well.
He draws comparison with the haredi world, which he says has 100,000 young men studying in yeshiva, compared to the 12,000 of the national-religious world, and the 70,000 married men studying in haredi yeshivas compared to the 3,000 such men in the national-religious sector.
Neriah’s fear is that the national-religious world will lose the ability to set the religious, ideological and spiritual agenda of the Jewish people and the State of Israel if this shortfall in Torah scholarship is not addressed.
“How will we nurture and develop the great Torah scholars and arbiters of tomorrow if students aren’t studying Talmud and spending the requisite amount of time in yeshiva to foster their knowledge and expertise in Jewish law,” said the rabbi in conversation with The Jerusalem Post.
His solution is his One to One foundation which he hopes will raise enough money to support 500 elite, married yeshiva students for a period of five years to allow them to diligently focus on nothing but their Torah studies to give them the expertise to take on the mantles of educators and leadership for the next generation.
Neriah’s idea is to select these 500 students from the entire spectrum of national-religious yeshivas  on the advice of their yeshiva deans and teachers, and provide them with a monthly stipend of NIS 3,000 to remain in the institution they are currently studying in.
The rabbi says that this approach is preferable to setting up a new yeshiva since it will ensure that young men from yeshivas which span the ideological spectrum of the national-religious community, from liberal to conservative, will be represented in the future leadership of the sector.
Neriah says that the stipend will be available to students who have served in the army and already have four or five years of yeshiva study under their belts.
The stipend will help make these five years more financially viable he says, and together with the separate stipends provided by yeshivas would make continued yeshiva study more feasible for aspiring Torah scholars.
The rabbi says that the goal will be for such students to go on to serve as community rabbis, obtain positions as municipal chief rabbis, rabbinical judges, and teachers and educators as well. 
“We are an ideological community, but if we don’t take care of the people who support us ideologically then we will have problems in the future,” said Neriah.