web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



In Manhattan, Panelists Try To Narrow The Israeli Cultural Divide

(L-R) Ethan Bronner, Rabbi Avi Shafran and Ilan Geal-Dor

(L-R) Ethan Bronner, Rabbi Avi Shafran and Ilan Geal-Dor

It’s been over a year since global headlines featured Naama Margolese, eight years old at the time, being spit on and verbally assaulted by several haredim in Beit Shemesh for not adhering to their standards of modesty. Understandably, the image of a young girl being called “prostitute” during her walk to school evoked the ire of thousands. The rift between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews grew in size and depth. Demonstrators waved signs criticizing the invective at Naama, and a Facebook page titled “Protecting Little Naama” quickly garnered 10,000 likes.

As deplorable as this episode was, it did accomplish one feat: shedding light on a dilemma that had been waved away under the shadow of more demanding national concerns like security, Hamas, and Iran. Israeli politicians, secularists and Orthodox Jews suddenly endeavored to find a delicate equilibrium between the sects, a coveted unity and a necessary harmony. Various organizations have become increasingly motivated to seek an answer to this predicament. For instance, Gesher, an Israeli-American organization, has been specifically formed to bridge the gaps between different segments of Israeli society.

In partnership with Israel Talks, Gesher hosted a dialogue on April 23 at the 92nd Street Y called “Resolving Conflict with Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Community.” Ari Goldman, a professor at Columbia University, author, and former New York Times reporter, was the dialogue’s moderator. Participants included Ethan Bronner, Rabbi Avi Shafran, and Ilan Geal-Dor.

Bronner, a former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, initiated the conversation and, as he promised, laid out the problem. He discussed the secularists’ grievances toward haredim. First, many haredim choose not to work despite having large families. Haredim insist on learning in yeshiva and relying heavily on the government’s financial support, he said. Secular Israelis are perturbed that their tax money is being distributed to men who sit and sway in Torah study halls.

The second gripe, Bronner continued, involves the haredim’s ambivalence toward the state of Israel. Anti-Zionist sentiments cause haredim to resist joining the army or partaking in national service. Instead, they believe they add a spiritual defense to the nation through learning.

Cultural differences also cause bickering between secular and ultra-Orthodox citizens, Bronner said. Secular Israelis celebrate public women like Golda Meir and Tzipi Livni while haredim seem to them to be misogynistic and segregation-obsessed.

Yet how are we expected to smooth out the terrains that separate two ideological and political counterparts? Rabbi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel North America, believes that although it may seem like a herculean task, each party must try to comprehend the other. “Are we here to listen to ourselves, or are we here to listen to other people? We must see how the ultra-Orthodox view secular Jews and vice-versa. Oh, and please don’t think that I just say this here in Manhattan. I say this in my own community too,” Rabbi Shafran said.

Rabbi Shafran validated the ultra-Orthodox conviction that Torah study is one of Israel’s best insurance policies. “The Gemara in Tractate Bava Basra tells us that the Torah scholar does not participate in the payment for watchmen to protect the community because the Torah itself is his fortification/protection,” he said. “We also believe that modesty is not misogynistic, but a vital part of our religion – just like charity or prayer.” Ultimately, he said, compromise will only result when each group seeks to understand the other’s core tenets and values.

Similarly, Ilan Geal-Dor, Gesher’s CEO and founder of the Beit Shemesh Roundtable Forum, affirmed that healthy dialogue is the blueprint for peace. The Roundtable is planning a monthly meeting with Beit Shemesh’s haredi and secular community members. Optimistic about Gesher’s and Roundtable’s efforts, Geal-Dor said, “In this way, problems can be settled in advance.” He asserted that the average ultra-Orthodox Israeli is more open to conversation than most would expect. (This includes Shmuel Pappenheim, the Toldos Aharon haredi famous for rallying against the violence of extremists, who proclaimed, “I’m anti-Zionist, but I also have to be practical.”)

When Goldman, the moderator, asked Geal-Dor what pragmatic steps existed to get haredim to amalgamate with the rest of Israeli society, he replied, “We must find a way for them to learn a profession at an early age.” He also said that the “Israeli government should cooperate with the haredim and create military units that provide strictly kosher food, and [they should] separate the genders.”

Rabbi Shafran countered that radical ideological changes among haredim, and their sudden enlistment in the army, can worsen the conflict. Bronner, agreeing with Rabbi Shafran, said, “I think it’s highly unlikely that ultra-Orthodox Jews will serve in the army. Their leaders don’t want them to. They’re very afraid of assimilation with secular Jews.”

The evening conjured mixed reactions. Some audience members enjoyed the conversation’s mellow nature, while others had hoped for less thinking-out-loud and more concrete answers to the conflict.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “In Manhattan, Panelists Try To Narrow The Israeli Cultural Divide”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Canadian policeman at scene of terrorist attack in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Terror: US Pledges Support for Canada but Tells Israel to Stay Calm
Latest News Stories
Canadian policeman at scene of terrorist attack in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Kerry still thinks Muslim terror in Israel is different from elsewhere.

The Shabbos Project: South African Jews show their unity with Toronto.

This Friday, millions of Jews in 340 cities around the world will be ‘keeping it together.’ The 7th day. Shabbat.

Passengers waiting for a train in Tel Aviv.

After decades of using diesel-powered locomotives, Israel Railways is going “electric.”

The face of terror is the same in Ottawa as it is in Jerusalem,says Lieberman.

The real news will be when the West wakes up before it won’t be able to wake up.

Were you on the plane? Let us know what really happened.

Terror? Of course not. The Arab driver lost control of his steam shovel after being prematurely shot.

The first intifada began with Ishmael 3,500 years ago and never ended.

The funeral for Chaye Zisel Braun began at midnight Wednesday night.

Al-Shaloudi was the nephew of the former Hamas chief and bombmaker Mohiyedine Sharif.

Arab media describes Hamas vehicular terrorist attack as ‘Palestinian ‘shot dead’ by Israeli police.’

Police tried to reach the home of the driver in Wednesday’s attack.

Hundreds of Jewish leaders from around the world who are part of the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governor will convene in Ashkelon, one of Hamas favorite targets for rockets and missiles, next week. The Board had been set to meet in Mexico as part of its annual rotation amongst the world’s Jewish communities, […]

With all due respect to the IDF, since when is drug smuggling not linked to terror?

A demonstration by 10,000 in Isfahan for women’s rights has morphed into a protest against Iran’s regime.

Syria says it bombed the jets as they were landing in Aleppo.

More Articles from Rebecca Mordechai
Mordechai-082214-Armoire

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Curious as to whether Sophie’s Bistro is able to host events like a sheva berachot or a pidyon haben, I asked about party rooms. Amar answered with a broad smile and a display of Sophie’s party room, which is at once spacious and intimately elegant.

Jews from this Persian city were not only cruelly attacked by mobs, but also forced to convert to Islam.

It’s been over a year since global headlines featured Naama Margolese, eight years old at the time, being spit on and verbally assaulted by several haredim in Beit Shemesh for not adhering to their standards of modesty. Understandably, the image of a young girl being called “prostitute” during her walk to school evoked the ire of thousands. The rift between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews grew in size and depth.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/in-manhattan-panelists-try-to-narrow-the-israeli-cultural-divide/2013/05/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: