Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Kislev 5766 - December 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Degel Hatorah Conference — Problems and Proposals for the Chareidi Community

By B. Kahn and Y. Ariel

The Degel HaTorah National Convention ended last week with a closing session in the main meeting hall of the Eden Inn in Zichron Yaakov. All of the hundreds of convention delegates were on hand. Seated at the dais were HaRav Aharon Roter, Zichron Yaakov Moro De'asra HaRav Mordechai Abramovsky, Party Chairman Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz, Party Secretary Rabbi Moshe Gafni, Jerusalem Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky and Rabbi Yitzchok Reich, who served as chairman of the closing session.

Rabbi Reich thanked the delegates for coming from far and near, setting aside their other affairs to make time for the important convention.

HaRav Roter said the convention had two goals: to rectify the sin of sinas chinom, which led to the Destruction of the Temple, and to wage war against heretics. Both of these objectives, he said, call for unity. "The verse says, `Vayachanu shom Yisroel negged hohor' and Rashi writes, `Ke'ish echod beleiv echod,' indicating this is a condition for receiving the Torah. The Or HaChaim says no Jew can fulfill all 613 mitzvos on his own, but when Klal Yisroel is united with every individual doing his share it applies to others as well.

"We must have hakoras hatov toward Maran HaRosh Yeshiva, zt"l, who founded Degel HaTorah. You don't know—there are many young people here—what a golus we were in before Maran HaRosh Yeshiva set up Degel HaTorah, which restored our independence. Nevertheless apparently Yechezkel's prophecy, `Vekiravto es yomeicho echod le'echod vehoyu le'echodim' belongs to the Days of Moshiach. Yet this does not exempt us from being two boats tied together. One cannot carry from one boat to the other, for there is a karmelis separating them, but if there are eruvei chatzeiros between them one can carry from one to the other." He went on to speak of HaRav Shach's mesirus nefesh for the sake of Shearis Yisroel and Yated Ne'eman.

Rabbi Reich then asked HaRav Abramovsky to address the delegates. "The Ramban writes that when Yitzchok intended to bless Eisov, and Yaakov wound up receiving the blessing intended for Eisov, he then followed a path strewn with suffering. So what good did the two blessings do him?

"A blessing is not a seguloh for a serene life but rather helps a person cope with the challenges awaiting him, and with the blessing he set out on a long road. When I came to the opening session and saw the atmosphere, the spiritual elevation, the representatives from around the country, it brought back memories from my childhood. Here, in Zichron Yaakov, I used to see the yeshiva students learning at the large beis knesses in the settlement. Over the years Zichron Yaakov developed with yeshivas and Torah institutions. The development of the settlement encapsulates what the Torah world has become as manifested at this convention, with rabbonim and askonim gathering together for this important event, as representatives of the Torah world in Eretz Yisroel."

Rabbi Reich then thanked the hotel director, Mr. Eitan Goldman, and the mashgiach Rav Refoel Manat, presenting them with special certificates of appreciation. He also thanked all those who worked to organize the convention: Rabbi Mordechai Blau, Rabbi Yitzchok Bar, Rabbi Mordechai Goldberg, Rabbi Yisroel Yitzchok Golomb, Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg, Rabbi Eliezer Hochman, Rabbi Gershon Houminer, Rabbi Shlomo Houminer, Rabbi Yitzchok Helli, Rebbi Mordechai Vislovsky, Rabbi Aryeh Zissman, Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, Rabbi Tzvi Levy, Rabbi Betzalel Kahn, Rabbi Reuven Korlansky, Rabbi Shlomo Korlansky, Rabbi Dovid Kirshenbaum, Rabbi Avigdor Katzburg, Rabbi Yaakov Rosenstein, Rabbi Yosef Shetreet and Rabbi Menachem Shapira. Rabbi Ravitz then gave a special gift to the two organizers of the convention, Rabbi Moshe Shiffman and Rabbi Yosef Graz.

After Rabbi Gafni delivered closing remarks, Rabbi Reich read aloud the convention decisions (see sidebar) and then the participants were given an opportunity to make brief remarks on the decisions. At 2:00 p.m. the convention came to an end and the hundreds of delegates returned to their various activities for the sake of the public with a lofty feeling of unity after 48 hours of fascinating meetings.

Decisions Published after the Degel HaTorah National Convention

* The Convention thanks Borei Olom for the success and siyata deShmaya we have seen during the conventions in the merit of maranan verabonon gedolei Yisroel shlita, who light our path and who encouraged and blessed the convention for the sake of Heaven.

* The Convention voices its support for lomdei Torah everywhere, in whose merit we exist, as stated by the Novi, "Im lo berisi yomom volailoh chukos Shomayim vo'oretz lo samti," and stands by the roshei yeshivos and the roshei kollelim who bear the heavy burden of maintaining the Torah institutions.

* The Convention calls on Degel HaTorah representatives to continue standing firm at the side of the institutions and the lomdei Torah and to resist any attempt to harm the fortresses of Torah

* The Convention has decided not to allow any harm to come to the spiritual, educational and physical independence of chareidi education of all types and for all ages. Any attempt by the government or the local authorities will meet up against a sturdy, uncompromising wall on the issue which is so holy and dear to us—the education of our sons and daughters according to the age-old Jewish tradition, based on the directives and guidance of gedolei Yisroel.

* Meanwhile the Degel HaTorah Convention calls on the heads of the secular education system, who are witnessing the collapse of an education system lacking in Jewish values, to return to the path of refined Judaism which has proven itself in the past and in the present, and, be'ezras Hashem, in the future as well, as the perpetuator of the glorious chain from Maamad Har Sinai to the end of the generations.

* The Convention heard with great concern about the ongoing harm by legal figures at the various government ministries who, under the guise of "legal authority," strike out maliciously at chareidi Torah, education and culture institutions. Degel HaTorah representatives call for the masks to be removed from the faces of these legal figures who are undermining their right to the equal treatment in funding matters to which they are entitled based on justice, law, morality and public policy.

* The Convention calls on the government to clearly and unambiguously announce that religious services in the Jewish state are an integral part of the obligation to provide services to citizens in the State of Israel, and demands the rabbonim, religious council employees and workers at holy places receive their due wages immediately. The Convention turns to Degel HaTorah representatives to bring appropriate legislation in the Knesset for a religious services law to improve the provision of these services, to raise the status of the rabbonim and employees and to prevent the division of religious services funding between the various authorities.

* The Convention calls on heads of government, both central and local, not to harm [the budgets for] kodshei Yisroel, the soul of Judaism, for in its merit we exist as a nation and live here in the Holy Land.

* The Convention condemns the attempts made by various legal and antireligious figures to drain the country of the whole of the Jewish heritage, chas vecholiloh, and calls on Degel HaTorah representatives to continue struggling against compromise and against these dangerous trends, which pose an existential threat to the Jewish people.

* The Convention calls on Degel HaTorah representatives everywhere to see to inexpensive housing for young couples and large families, increased government mortgage loans and the restoration of settlement grants in the various small towns, and meanwhile to continue the momentum in finding solutions for suitable employment at decent wages.

* The Convention backs all those involved in the holy task of reaching out to bring Jews closer to Torah and Judaism, which is an unsurpassed testament to the Divine promise [that Am Yisroel will not be forsaken]—"Ki lo sishochach mipi zar'o" and "Lo yidoch mimenu nidach." The Convention calls on Degel HaTorah representatives everywhere to see to the necessary resources for this holy and blessed activity. The Convention calls for the strengthening and nurturing of the blessed activity among youth and by all of the organizations involved.

* The Convention has decided to rejuvenate and strengthen Degel HaTorah institutions according to the following plan:

A. Convention participants will be members of the National Council

B. Degel HaTorah representatives at the local authorities and post holders commissioned by the party will be members of the National Secretariat

C. The Convention has decided to approve the existing Degel HaTorah board

* The Convention has decided to set up committees that will function as Degel HaTorah institutions in the following areas:

A. An Education Committee headed by Rabbi Binyomin Cohen

B. An Institutions Funding Committee headed by Rabbi Menachem Schwartz

C. In light of the decision reached in the matter, an Organizing and Mustering Committee headed by Rabbi Mordechai Karelitz

D. A Municipal Committee headed by Rabbi Yaakov Guterman and Rabbi Yaakov Asher. Rabbi Guterman will attend to regular political problems in every location and Rabbi Asher will attend to providing professional assistance and guidance to our representatives at the local authorities in municipal matters

E. Housing and employment committee headed by Rabbi Tzvi Herbst

F. A Communications and Jewish Information Committee headed by Rabbi Moshe Lachover and Rabbi Shlomo Korlansky. (Each committee will have 15-20 committee members and we call on delegates interested in participating to make themselves available and call the Degel HaTorah offices.)

G. The National Board Election Staff will serve as the election staff. Other members will join the staff to man the various bureaus

* The Convention calls for peace between the different parts of Torah-true Jewry and cooperation against those seeking to destroy Kerem Beis Yisroel

* The Convention agrees, as per instructions from maranan verabonon shlita, to allow Degel HaTorah representatives to conduct negotiations with Agudas Yisroel representatives leading toward a joint slate for the next elections, based on mutual respect, cooperation and full equality, to sanctify the Name of Heaven.

* The Convention supports all of the communal institutions and organizations founded by Maran Rabban Shel Kol Bnei HaGoloh the Rosh Yeshiva, zt"l, including Shearis Yisroel and Yated Ne'eman.

* Convention delegates pray to Borei Olom to take pity upon and safeguard the nation dwelling in Tzion, imperiled from without and within, in gashmiyus and ruchniyus, and calls on our Jewish brethren in Eretz Yisroel and abroad to draw closer to Our Father in Heaven, to keep mitzvos and the Holy Torah and to perpetuate the Jewish tradition that has united all of us into a single nation under the banner of Torah.

* All Convention decisions are subject to the approval of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.

Attempts to Harm Chareidi Education Among Focal Points of Degel HaTorah Convention

by Betzalel Kahn and Y. Ariel

The education workshop held on the second day of the Degel HaTorah Convention was devoted to the tasks placed upon today's educational institutions and the attempts by government officials to undermine the pure Jewish form of education.

Rabbi Tzvi Baumel, director of the Netivot Moshe Foundation and deputy director of Chinuch Atzmai, opened the session saying Avrohom Ovinu received promises from HaKodosh Boruch Hu "Ki yedativ lema'an asher yetzaveh es bonov" (Bereishis). Therefore he merited "and I will make you into a great nation." He was the first educator and the very fact we exist as a nation is because generation after generation, from Avrohom Ovinu to the present, we provide our sons and daughter chinuch. Without the chinuch handed down to us from generation to generation we do not have the merit to exist."

He said on the periphery there are baalei teshuvoh and even secular Jews who have become disgusted with the education offered at secular schools and are choosing to send their children to chareidi schools. "The Education Ministry is the primary funding provider for our education system. That's a fact. The establishment is trying to drive its way into our pure educational system and to insist on introducing things that do not belong in it. Letters are constantly being sent to the office of Rabbi Meir Luria at Chinuch Atzmai and to the seminary principals, where the Education Ministry is trying to nibble away at and dig its claws into pure Jewish education. We are stopping the breach, not allowing foreign elements to force their way in, based on instructions from maranan verabonon shlita.

"An overcrowded school in the heart of the Sharon Region was producing exemplary students, despite having to make do with temporary structures that cost nearly NIS 100,000 per year. In the nearby town a government-religious school closed down. The Education Ministry offered us the building, promising not to interfere with our curriculum—neither the teachers nor the oversight. Everything would be based on taharas hakodesh, but the teachers would receive their salaries directly from the Education Ministry. We went to Maran HaRav Eliashiv, shlita, to ask whether we should accept the offer, which would have allowed us to accept hundreds of additional students. His firm reply: If so, then close down the school. This tampers with the independence of chareidi education.

"Once there was a proposal to bring in a chareidi principal who had spent years in the government-religious school system, to instruct teachers in the chareidi school system how to teach math. HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita, said since she had spent years in the government-religious school system, even though she was chareidi the proposal should be turned down.

"The most painful problem is not accepting students at [chareidi] institutions. Sometimes parents go through [extremely trying experiences] before they manage to get their children into educational institutions. Whether because of various rumors about these families, rumors that are unfounded, or because of their last name. On the other hand one sees thousands of children in moshavim, kibbutzim and villages riding buses every morning to Chinuch Atzmai schools," said Rabbi Baumel.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Rabbi Uri Maklev, who led the special education workshop, said the chareidi educational system has over a quarter of a million children enrolled, kein yirbu. Jerusalem alone has 85,000 children age 18 and under. Bnei Brak has nearly 55,000. In Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit and Beit Shemesh there are tens of thousands more, not to mention the students over the age of 18.

Rabbi Meir Luria, one of the heads of Chinuch Atzmai and the first speaker of the workshop, emphasized the absolute independence of Chinuch Atzmai since its inception. "Ever since the first agreement that was made there have been attempts to make incursions in various ways, all of which involve substantial monetary incentives. Everyone is aware of our financial situation. Never has Chinuch Atzmai been enticed by money which carries demands that run counter to our values — not even to change one iota. We don't compromise our principles.

"There is a `ruach kinoh' over the success of the chareidi education system. Everyone is aware of the state of secular education in this country. It's much worse than what the press reports. They can't understand how our education system manages to succeed. We lose a great deal of money because of all sorts of little things.

"Take for instance special education. The High Court required schools to carry out the mainstreaming law which brought with it the setup of a district department that trains the teachers and is involved in the curriculum, and if not—no funding. And it was decided not to accept chareidi teachers who come from these district departments.

"We have difficulties with the busing system. Their goal is clear: if there is no busing available parents not from the chareidi public won't send their children to the chareidi education system. The criteria are very strict. We accrued huge debts in this matter and I must take advantage of this platform to thank Rabbi Moshe Gafni who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in this matter."

Rabbi Luria said local authorities have shaken off all their responsibilities toward Chinuch Atzmai, claiming they are private schools. "They don't pay the electricity, the water and the regular maintenance costs and we can't afford it. Neither are we willing to turn into municipal schools, because that would constitute a form of interference with our independence."

HaRav Tzvi Weissfish, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas HaRan, said the name "Degel HaTorah" demonstrates it is not a political party, chas vesholom, but a holy organization whose only aim is to wave the banner of Torah in Eretz Yisroel and around the world. "The name `Degel HaTorah' attests to a recognition the Torah is our banner. It is of the greatest importance and it is the center of our lives. Although there are many mitzvos and many chessed matters our main banner is the Torah. Everything revolves around the Torah and operates according to the Torah. Politics is essentially an outer garment but the soul of Degel HaTorah is placing the Torah at the center of life. This is Degel HaTorah.

"This foundation, like everything else, depends on education. To educate and make known this pure world view: the Torah is the banner! And like everything else education starts at home, education starts with the individual. Our aspiration is indeed to announce and introduce this throughout the entire Jewish world. But it has to start here. The beginning is among us internally. And as HaRav Yisroel Salanter said, if one chareidi Jew in a chareidi town strengthens Shabbos observance it can have an impact on the Shabbos observance of simple Jews living on the other side of the globe who are far removed from these concepts. In the workshop devoted to education we must speak and leave here strengthened on this point that the Torah is the banner. Degel HaTorah means the Torah is the center, it is the banner, and it ranks highest on the list of priorities. This call must echo from one end of the world to the other. But the initial phase is our own personal education. The education of our children. The education of our young men."

Later Rabbi Yeshayohu Lieberman, director of Merkaz Beis Yaakov in Jerusalem, explained that we must maintain our independence through our own powers and the genuine representatives in the Knesset and local authorities, and not be subjugated by various intermediaries in various government ministries.

Rabbi Zeev Wolf, director of the Bais Yaakov seminary in Bnei Brak, said purity must be maintained and safeguarded in hashkofoh and chinuch at all educational institutions. He also warned against the intrusion of foreign elements in the chareidi public, especially undesirable media entities that destroy the hearts of our youth, and from which parents must protect their children.

Fascinating Discussion on Media Extends Late into the Night

by Betzalel Kahn and Y. Ariel

A fascinating session on the media stirred lively participation by convention delegates. The speakers discussed the various problems in this area, citing numerous examples.

This session continued late into the night, keeping hundreds of delegates glued to their seats until 2:00 am as they listened to speakers and shared their remarks. The participants noted the importance of the discussion on the issue of the media and the pressing need to make improvements in this area. Even after the session ended many of the delegates remained to continue the discussion. Despite the late hour the delegates gathered into groups outside the meeting hall and continued to dissect the information they had heard.

The media session was led by Rabbi Eliezer Rauchberger and Rabbi Aryeh Zissman, both reporters for the Hebrew edition of Yated Ne'eman whose work often appears in English in translation. Panel members included Rabbi Binyomin Rabinowitz, also a Yated Ne'eman writer, Rabbi Daniel Nassi of Manof and Rabbi Yaakov Levy, a member of the Netanya City Council and a former media figure.

Aryeh Zissman opened the session with a talk on the internal and external interests that affect the media, as well as the attitude of the chareidi public and chareidi activists. "Neither can we ignore the political involvement of the media and the question is how we can leverage it in general in favor of the chareidi public and if there is any chance of that." He posed several questions on the animosity and suspiciousness between the chareidi public and the media, asking whether this can be changed. Other issues that were raised for discussion included the damage done by interviews with individuals who claim to represent the chareidi viewpoint and whether their participation on various programs contributes positively to the image of the chareidi public or merely causes damage.

Eliezer Rauchberger, who has been following Degel HaTorah closely for the past 15 years as a writer for the Hebrew edition of Yated Ne'eman and part of whose weekly "Politica" column is translated for the English edition as well, analyzed Degel HaTorah's needs and deficiencies vis-a- vis the media—both the chareidi press and the mainstream press.

He read a long list of laws Degel HaTorah MKs initiated that have no direct connection to religion, but said for the most part the public is wholly unaware of Degel HaTorah's efforts for the sake of Klal Yisroel and instead think the chareidi MKs spend all their time involved in "blackmail" and "religious coercion."

"Not a single religious law has been legislated in the Knesset for the past 10 years. But if you ask the man-in-the- street he will tell you right away all the chareidi MKs do is legislate religious laws.

"Why is it that we have been unable to express our true aim to the public?" he asked.

He also claimed through the media other segments of the public can be reached, expanding the Degel HaTorah constituency. He even enumerated a number of practical suggestions to tackle the issue and to improve Degel HaTorah's coverage in the media.

Daniel Nassi spoke about Manof's work against the bias and generalizations in the mainstream media, citing numerous examples.

Binyomin Rabinowitz spoke about the need to confront the media with professionalism and strategic thinking in order to win over public opinion. He made a detailed proposal for internal party discussions, including consultations with media experts from both inside and outside the party. He cited numerous examples from the time he spent as spokesman for the Degel HaTorah congress 15 years ago as well as the widespread impact of the speech Maran HaRav Shach zt"l, delivered 15 years ago at Yad Eliyahu Stadium. He also mentioned Degel HaTorah's early media activity, which brought many positive results.

Yaakov Levy recalled how chareidi MKs used to meet with representatives at local authorities to formulate ways of presenting their message in the media and called for a return to this practice. His suggestion drew unanimous approval, especially when he spoke of the need to improve Degel HaTorah's coverage in the mainstream press.

Once all of the panel members had spoken the other participants were given an opportunity to address the workshop. Speakers included Mordechai Blau of Bnei Brak, Yaakov Asher of Bnei Brak, Aharon Iram of Haifa, Yaakov Hesse of Jerusalem, Eliezer Roter of Jerusalem, Dovid Birnbaum of Hadera, Yitzchok Dvoratz of Jerusalem, Rabbi Moshe Mann of Jerusalem, Tzvi Rott of Bnei Brak, Yeshayohu Smetani of Haifa and Shlomo Karlinsky of Petach Tikva.

Among the various proposals raised during the ensuing discussion were the setup of a media apparatus for the general public to regularly provide explanations on different issues, the setup of a professional forum that would meet periodically, the appearance of a regular column to be called "Emdateinu" ("Our Stance"), extensive media activity through representatives at local authorities, paying to place articles in the general press and more.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni wrapped up the fascinating discussion by describing the MKs' uncertainties in dealing with the media. He kept listeners riveted by his many anecdotes and responded to questions and proposals. He also discussed Degel HaTorah's early media activities compared to the current state of affairs in the media, providing an overview of media campaigns against the chareidi public that influenced the general atmosphere, chareidi MKs and representatives at the local authorities. In closing he reiterated the proposal to set up a media committee as soon as possible.


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