Rabbi Elyashiv speaks out against haredi integration

Top Ashkenazi spiritual leader says haredim shouldn't serve in the army, study secular topics.

Haredi orthodox Jewish men protest 311 (R) (photo credit: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
Haredi orthodox Jewish men protest 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most respected spiritual leader of the Ashkenazi Lithuanianharedi world, expressed his opposition on Tuesday to the participation of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) youth in army programs and the integration of secular studies within their Torah learning framework.
In a letter to haredi newspaper Yated Ne’eman, Elyashiv said that “the secret and foundation of the Torah world and the community of those who fear God and live a life of Torah and holy purity is through complete isolation from all aspects of the secular world, and from those who have thrown off the yoke of Torah.
“We know how much the [spiritual] leaders of Israel struggled against this phenomenon,” he continued.
“They warned that the purpose of these programs is to change the spirit and essence of the haredi world and to subvert it with all different types of other influences, nationalist and enlightenment ones, which are not the values of our fathers.”
He called on the haredi community to follow only in the footsteps of ancient tradition and not be enticed by the blandishments of the secular world.
“Haredi educational institutions must be under the control of the rabbis, must be directed by them and must exclude all paths that lead to national service, secular studies or the army, even if they have a special programs for haredim. Such a programs put haredim under the control and culture of secular Jews.”
In response, Rabbi Uri Regev, director of the religious freedom activist group Hiddush said that Elyashiv’s letter was further proof of the crisis of lack of leadership in the haredi community.
“The zealotry and poverty in haredi society threatens to bring disaster on the State of Israel, and economic forecasts are pessimistic. But their number one leader is trying to prevent yeshiva students [from] gaining an education and going out to work.”
He added that he hoped that a new community of haredim which is growing and developing will be able to deal with the crisis in the community of those who only study Torah, and will lead them to combine their yeshiva studies with national service and employment.