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A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Menachem Av 5777 - August 10, 2017 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Anti-Democratic New Israel Fund Against the Chareidi Community and Lifestyle

by Yaakov Ehrlich

Often the chareidi community finds itself attacked and threatened by well-financed efforts to undermine the fulfillment of Torah and to minimize the success of the Torah community in Israel. Although the names of those behind these initiatives are varied and diverse, with only a little research Yated Ne'eman regularly finds that the source of the money is one and the same: the New Israel Fund (NIF).

Now in a major effort on the part of researchers from Chotem has found that there is much more than has been known up until now. Chotem has found that paralleling the better-known of the NIF against what it calls the Occupation, there is a planned and systematic attack on the chareidi community. It is in many respects and real war against the Jewish identity in the public spaces of Israel and against the chareidi community of Israel as a group and even as individuals.

A Pro-Israel Fund with a Logo in Arabic?

Among its activities, it tries to diminish the status of gedolei Torah and rabbonim, to minimize the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, to destroy the foundations of the Jewish home, to promote mixed gender prayer at the Kotel, to lessen the monthly grants to avreichim Kolel, to damage the holiness of Shabbos and its observance in the public sphere, and more.

Unfortunately, in some of the efforts the national-religious community is a party, perhaps unaware of the true nature of its partners or from a shortsighted quest for temporary advantage.

We hope and expect that siyata deShmaya is much stronger than their efforts and even as they oppress us we will flourish. But nonetheless it is important to be aware of the facts and to do what we can to advance our causes.

Among the 36 the innocently termed social organizations that are supported by the NIF to the tunes of hundreds of millions of NIS, some try to counter the influence of chareidi ideas, and other attack the chareidi establishment. One of these is the Shacharis organization, led by Betzalel Cohen, that has been banned by gedolei Yisroel, that tries to work from within the chareidi community by supporting chareidi educators and opinion leaders to work with pluralistic leaders to bring about a "revolution" within that chareidi community. Among its many efforts financed by the NIF are meetings between chareidim and Reform Jews, as well as a special film produced just before the last Israeli elections to appeal to the chareidi community not to vote for chareidi political parties. Shacharis describes itself as an institute for thought and action to create new social partnerships among the difference segments of Israeli society and to build new common denominators by breaking the old dichotomies between Jews and Arabs and religious and nonreligious Israelis, and designing a post-liberal society.

A Pro-Israel Fund with a Logo in Arabic?

The Chotem report notes that Shacharis encourages its receptive chareidim to continue to self-identify as chareidi, but to change their values and perceptions to be more inclusive. Shacharis claims some success, unfortunately, in that some chareidim who cooperated with them went on to participate in various panels and to write articles criticizing chareidi traditions and rabbonim.

One of the organizations supported by the NIF is the Reform Center for Religion and the State. Its main business is legal challenges and other steps to harass the chareidi community and frustrate its efforts to promote its values. One of its stronger themes lately has been discrimination against women. As a result of its legal challenges, courts ordered the removal of all public signs promoting tznius in Beit Shemesh. A similar organization, entitled Center for Justice of Women has worked to forbid the arrangement of a special, completely voluntary, derech mehadrin for men at Meron.

The Chiddush organization, together with an organization called the Reform Movement, an another called the Conservative movement, all funded by the NIF, joined with an organization called the Forum for Sharing the Burden in court motions against draft deferments for yeshiva students.

Chiddush, whose main actor is Uri Regev, is active in many areas: trying to cancel grants to avreichim and any relief given them, trying to force chareidi schools to teach the Core Curriculum (Liba) and protesting every bus line that is mehadrin, meaning that the sexes sit separately, even if the only passengers are chareidim.

The broad support enjoyed by Chiddush from the NIF encouraged them to file requests and motions that they knew had no hope of succeeding, since doing so would nonetheless enhance their requests for future funding and generate publicity for them.

Another organization funded by NIF is Israel Chofsheet. Its head was recently appointed Executive Director of NIF in Israel. According to Chotem, "Israel Chofsheet leads an aggressive struggle whose ultimate goal is to relegate the values of the chareidi community to the fringes of Israeli society and to achieve a state free of and traditional Jewish content. To advance its goals, it conducts media and social campaigns to bring public pressure on politicians on the national and local levels... it also offers secular and pluralistic ceremonies for marriage, birth, bar mitzvah and mourning to replace traditional Jewish ways of observing these life cycle events."

The Goal: Blurring the Boundaries

Just like in politics, the NIF says that it acting for the good of Israel, but in practice it gives millions to organizations who try everything to de-legitimize the State, it also says that it is working for equality, democracy and human rights, but in practice it consistently undermines the democratic choices made by those who choose a chareidi lifestyle. Examples are numerous and include legal challenges to mehadrin bus lines, restrictions on signs for separate seating at levayas, and other customs followed in Jerusalem for hundreds of years.

A Pro-Israel Fund with a Logo in Arabic?

The destruction of the dream of the allocation of the city Charish for chareidim is also the product the efforts of organizations funded by the NIF, notably the Headquarters for the future of Charish and the Surrounding Area. When it became clear that chareidim were not going to be allowed to design and build neighborhoods according to their lifestyle, they even published congratulations on their website.

In another report compiled by Chotem together with Liba Center, they found that almost half of the court suits brought by the Reform movement were joined by various national religious organizations, including Kolech, the Torah and Avodah Faithful, and others. It should be no surprise to learn that these organizations also receive funding from the NIF. These organizations say that they see the Reform as partners and a legitimate form of Judaism.


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