New leaders take reins of ‘Yated Ne’eman’

Although old management team took legal steps to prevent ouster, haredi public seems to be shoring up new administration.

Selection of newspapers 311 (photo credit: The Jerusalem Post archives)
Selection of newspapers 311
(photo credit: The Jerusalem Post archives)
Recent upheavals at the influential haredi newspaper Yated Ne’eman, official mouthpiece of the Degel Hatorah faction of the ultra-Orthodox community, appear to have been consolidated with new management taking control of the paper.
Although the old management team took legal steps to prevent their ouster, haredi public opinion and the rabbinic leadership seems to be shoring up the new administration.
Ten days ago, the newspaper’s outgoing director Rabbi Yaakov Labin and incoming director Shimon Glick filed mutual complaints in the Ramat Gan police station, accusing each other of assault during an incident at Yated Ne’eman’s offices on Jabotinsky Street in Bnei Brak.
The details of the confrontation are disputed, but center around the fight for control of the newspaper.
The power struggle at Yated Ne’eman is a smaller battle in the broader fight for leadership of the non-hassidic Lithuanian stream of the haredi community – between Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach – brought about by the ongoing hospitalization and incapacitation of the unquestioned leader until now, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
Shteinman’s supporters have long resented Yated Ne’eman’s treatment of the rabbi, and the board and editorial inclination was more favorable towards Elyashiv and, more recently, Auerbach.
The Yatedot nonprofit organization – which controls Yated Ne’eman – succeeded in appointing Glick, a millionaire businessman and close supporter of Shteinman, as director of the newspaper.
Labin and veteran editor of the paper Nati Grossman – both of whom were appointed by the revered Degel Hatorah and Yated Ne’eman founder Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach – were ousted, despite physical and legal attempts to defy the new regime. (Degel Hatorah and the hassidic Agudat Yisrael together make up United Torah Judaism.) In last Tuesday’s edition of Yated Ne’eman, the newspaper, under the new management, published a letter from Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, perhaps the third-most senior rabbi of the non-hassidic stream and sonin- law of Elyashiv, declaring Shteinman to be the new leader of the Lithuanian community.
“The leadership of the generation is passed on today to our master the revered Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman, whose every deed is for the sake of heaven, and we have now merited to put upon him the leadership of the Yated Ne’eman newspaper,” Kanievsky wrote.
In response, a close associate of Auerbach called on all members of the haredi community to cancel their subscription to the paper, although this appeal has met with little success.
Until February, 102-year-old Elyashiv was the undisputed leader of the community, but he has been hospitalized for five months, the majority of which he has spent in critical condition.
The two rabbis vying to replace him as the spiritual leader of the community are Shteinman, 98, considered a relative moderate, and Auerbach, 85, who is closer to Elyashiv than his elder rival and considered to be more hardline.
Until now, Yated Ne’eman’s board adhered strictly to the direction and positions of Elyashiv, and of late, Auerbach.
But with Elyashiv in critical condition in the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Shteinman has taken on the mantle of leadership of the Lithuanian haredi stream.
He has convened meetings of top rabbinical and political figures regarding key issues in the ultra-Orthodox world, and has held meetings with leading politicians such as Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Interior Minister Eli Yishai to address matters such as drafting haredim into military and national service.
Shteinman, based in Bnei Brak, is seen as a pragmatist in the haredi world on issues such as joining the workforce and participating in national service.
Despite his recent opposition to an obligatory draft for haredi yeshiva students into national service, Shteinman supported the establishment in 1999 of the Nahal Haredi IDF battalion for ultra-Orthodox soldiers and sent representatives to provide input for the Tal Committee, which formulated the “Tal Law” 10 years ago, seen then as anathema in the haredi world.
Auerbach, who lives in Jerusalem, is perceived to be more extreme and less compromising on these critical issues.