Chabad to remain apolitical in elections

Media reports of negotiations with Agudat Yisrael are false.

haredi 88 (photo credit: )
haredi 88
(photo credit: )
It is unlikely that Chabad will throw its considerable weight behind any particular party, said Thursday Rabbi Menahem Gluckowsky, deputy secretary of Chabad's Rabbinic Court, the senior decision-making body for the Chabad Hassidim in Israel. Gluckowsky was reacting to media reports that Chabad was mulling support for Agudat Yisrael, which is part of United Torah Judaism. "Chabad is not a political movement," said Gluckowsky. "The rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] rarely supported any particular party. He always told to us to vote for the party that was the most God-fearing." UTJ, Shas and the National Union-National Religious Party all fit into that category, said Gluckowsky. "Chabad belongs to everyone," said a respected Chabad figure who preferred to remain anonymous. "As soon as you come out in support of any particular party you exclude a part of the Jewish people." According to a report in the haredi weekly Bekehila Rabbi Tovia Bloi, a Chabad Rabbi in Jerusalem's haredi Nave Ya'acov neighborhood, sent a letter to Agudat Yisrael promising Chabad support if Aguda would obligate itself to oppose any future territorial compromises. Bloi is known to be in favor of pulling Chabad closer to the haredi movement. He has voiced concern in the past that Chabad has become too influenced by religious Zionism. However, on the Internet site, which is run by the more messianic stream of Chabad followers who believe the deceased Schneerson is alive and will return as the Messiah, the possibility of support to Aguda was rejected. "There is no truth in the reports," wrote the site. "Chabad learned its lesson after supporting Binyamin Netanyahu in the summer of 1996." The site was referring to the failed "Bibi is good for the Jews" campaign. "Also, Chabad would never support a party that sat in the government while thousands of Jews were expelled from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria." But Menachem Geshayd, an Aguda spokesman, confirmed that there were advanced negotiations between his party and Chabad. In the past month there has been growing pressure on Chabad leadership to recommend a particular party. "A lot of Chassidim are asking the rabbis to recommend a political party," said Menachem Brod, official Chabad spokeman. "People are confused. They want the rabbis to decide." All three possibilities are problematic. Support for Shas is unlikely due to the Sephardi party's support for territorial compromises in the framework of a peace process. The ideological divide between religious Zionists and the haredi Chabad and the fact that the NRP sat in the government during the preparations for disengagement make it less attractive. "One thing is for sure," said Gluckowsky. "No Chabad Hassid should waste a vote. That's why I recommend not voting for Baruch Marzel. The rebbe always said that every vote is important and must not be wasted."