Unique haredi group stages Remembrance Day event

The event was organized by activists from a unique haredi community.

A haredi man embraces a youth from the Orthodox community who has joined the army (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A haredi man embraces a youth from the Orthodox community who has joined the army
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
For the second year running, a group of haredi men and women held a Remembrance Day ceremony in what the organizers hope will become a regular feature of the community’s calendar.
The event was organized by activists from a unique haredi community which began life as a Facebook group called The Torah Hub for young men and women who are integrated to a greater extent into Israeli society than other components of haredi society.
Modern-Ultra-Orthodox if you will.
Several speakers addressed the audience at the event in Jerusalem, which numbered some 150 people, including former Israel Air Force chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel, while people who lost family members who served in Israel’s wars also spoke.
The group, numbering some 1,300 members, has now become an active community with regular events in which several dozen people participate, while vigorous debates about matters affecting the haredi community on The Torah Hub forum.
Neta Katz, one of the community members and activists, said that the initiative for a haredi Remembrance Day ceremony began within the forum, after a post asking if members had relatives who died serving in the IDF garnered numerous affirmative responses.
Katz, who also helped to found the IDF Shahar program for haredi soldiers, said the group was surprised by the number of people who said they had an uncle, a brother, a cousin and even a son who had been killed in one Israel’s wars.
He noted that Remembrance Day is widely ignored in the haredi community, and that members of The Torah Hub are seeking to find their place in the story of Israel’s historical and ongoing efforts to defend itself from its external enemies, and the price that has been paid in so doing over the years.
Katz also rejected arguments heard within the haredi community that Remembrance Day is not rooted in Jewish tradition and therefore not something which religious Jews should participate in.
“There is no traditional way of remembering the fallen soldiers of the IDF, and so there is no reason not to participate in the framework established by the State of Israel,” said Katz who spoke at the event.
“And it is basic Jewish value to show gratitude, especially for recognizing the sacrifice of those who have died for us and our families.
“The very, absolute minimum we can do is to mark Remembrance Day, especially people who never severed in the army,” Katz said.
Racheli Ibenboim, a feminist activist from the Gur Hassidic community, was another of the speakers at the event.
Ibenboim noted that her grandfather, also from the Gur community, was enlisted to the nascent IDF following the Declaration of Independence in 1948, and was killed in action during the campaign to retain control of Jerusalem.
“Today it sounds almost unbelievable, but back then you could be 100% haredi, and from Gur, and show that there is no contradiction in such an identity and fighting for our existence here,” said Ibenboim.
“We have a feeling of obligation for those who sacrificed themselves for us, and feel that we cannot let this evening pass without expressing this,” she explained in reference to the Remembrance Day ceremony.
She also said that it was important for members of The Torah Hub group that the general population know that there are haredi men and women who observe Remembrance Day and show their gratitude for the sacrifice of those who died defending the country.
Speaking more broadly about the group, Ibenboim said that it was an effort to create a space for haredi men and women whose horizons are broader than those in the mainstream of the community, and also to provide something of a support group for such people who are trying to live in both the haredi world and that of modern Israeli society.
“There is a lot of optimism among us, but also concern, such as the fear of losing our haredi, if we somehow fail to bridge between these worlds in the right way,” said Ibenboim.