Leading rabbis call for haredi solidarity ahead of conference in US

Group seeks support in the face of “efforts to crush the honor of the Torah and those who study it.”

Dirshu conference 2012 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Dirshu )
Dirshu conference 2012 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Dirshu )
A group of leading haredi rabbis in Israel have written to their counterparts in the US to ask for support and communal solidarity in the face of recent government measures in Israel relating to the ultra-Orthodox community, which the rabbis labeled as “efforts to crush the honor of the Torah and those who study it.”
The various missives, issued separately, were sent ahead of a large conference in New Jersey of haredi rabbis in the US, organized by Dirshu, an international Torah educational network and scheduled for this Shabbat.
The purpose of the conference, said Dirshu, was the necessity for “strengthening the Torah world and encouragement of those who learn Torah around the world, and particularly in the Land of Israel, against the decrees and incitement against Torah students.”
Some 700 rabbis, rabbinical judges, hassidic leaders and yeshiva deans from across the United States will attend the conference and the main convention which will be held on Saturday night, while a delegation of rabbis from Israel is also flying out to participate in the event.
The haredi political and rabbinic leadership in Israel has since the formation of the new government been outspoken in its opposition to measures taken by the coalition to cut or condition state welfare benefits for the haredi community.
Legislation currently in the Knesset to draft haredi men in national service has also been heavily opposed by the haredi leadership.
Among the rabbis who sent letters to the Dirshu conference were the grand rabbis, or admorim, of the Viznitz, Sanz and Modzitz hassidic dynasties, as well as members of the Degel HaTorah Council of Torah Sages including Rabbi Arye Finkel, dean of the Mir Yeshiva, Rabbi Yitzhak Sheiner, dean of the Hebron Yeshiva, and several others.
“At this time when in the Land of Israel, ‘enemies have lifted up their heads’ to burden and trouble those who study Torah and yeshiva students and are are callously harming the soul of the nation,” wrote Finkel, “it is incumbent on every one to carry the yoke, and certainly to strengthen oneself and increase Torah and prayer, so that the foundation of Torah will be raised in honor and glory to the people of God throughout the diaspora.”
The Admor of Viznitz, Rabbi Yisroel Hager wrote in equally strident tones, saying that “at a time when strangers have arisen among us to restrict the Torah world in the palace of the King, to whom can we turn if not our brothers in the Diaspora to bear with us the yoke of Torah and to stand at the right hand of those who study it.”
Among recent measures taken by the government, were sharp cuts to the monthly stipend received by yeshiva students, as well as conditioning the receipt of subsidised housing and child day care on being employed, or seeking employment, for anyone fit to work.
Cuts to child care, which affect the entire population, are more heavily felt in the haredi sector owing to the low level of employment and subsequent dependence on such welfare benefits.
Yeshivot and charitable organizations within the haredi community in Israel receive significant financial support from ultra-Orthodox Jewry in America, and the cuts to welfare payments to the haredi will create greater need for such contributions.
Efforts to advance legislation for drafting haredi men into national service are also continuing, and a bill proposed and supported principally by Yesh Atid is currently being discussed in a special Knesset committee.
Although the haredi political parties have objected vehemently to this legislation, it appears now that if certain provisions of the draft law are moderated, the ultra-Orthodox parties will not call for all out opposition to it.
Speaking in the special committee on Tuesday, Shas MK Ariel Atias said that “if a fair and reasonable bill is agreed upon” the it could be possible to achieve the goals of the law.
“No-one [in the haredi parties] is going to support it, but there could be a situation where we wont fight it,” he said.