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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘haredim’

Keeping Haredim Excited About Torah

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Many of us have heard about the books and stories coming from those who grew up haredi (ultra-orthodox), but have since adopted a modern lifestyle. But while we are rightfully concerned when these tales make headlines, in order to change the situation for the better, it is in our best interest to find new ways to infuse life and vitality into observant life; a vitality that is enduring unlike the fleeting temporarily of secular experience.

A Purim Tale

Being both highly sensitive and introverted has made living in major cities challenging. But while each and every outdoor adventure is a “stethoscope to the world” experience, this challenge also carries great potential.

It is because of this sensitivity that a story from Shushan Purim a few weeks back stuck with me. It occurred not long after my family and I moved into an apartment in Jerusalem.

The Happy Collector

When I arrived to pray and hear the megillah Shushan Purim morning, there was a collector there that stood out because of his exuberance. It is a mitzvah to give charity to the poor on Purim* day, so there he was with his basket in hand ready to collect. But there were two things different about this gentleman. The first, as mentioned, was that he was in a happy, exuberant mood. The second was that he was exclaiming that giving charity to him was an ultra-fulfillment of the mitzvah.

Now you can imagine the thought that came to mind: It is a mitzvah to give to anyone who is needy. So how exactly would giving to him be any better?

Then during prayer I received my answer. There he was again, still exuberant as ever, running around with his charity basket and … his son in tow.

That morning a father had two options. Either he could go to synagogue and collect quietly, perhaps even leaving his son at home so he shouldn’t remember Purim as the time when his father asks for charity all day. Or he could inject a healthy dose of folly, a holy spirit of folly, and make sure that even though he still had to collect, Purim should still remain an enjoyable one for him and his son.

Non-Obligatory Novelties

The thought then occurred to me: While technically giving charity to this man fulfilled the obligation like any Jewish person in need, something extra special did come from his happy behavior. That even in the face of adversity and challenge, he found a way to both remain happy himself and bring enjoyment to his son on Purim.

According to the Avnei Nezer, a child who does not know how to perform the hidur (beautification) of a mitzvah is not required to do so. For instance, whereas a child is not obligated to perform the hidur of shaking the lulav (the mitzvah is to hold it); nevertheless it is praiseworthy to teach the child to shake in order to appreciate the inner (non-obligated) life and soul of the mitzvah (see the full explanation here).

While giving charity to this father was legally the same as giving to any other person in need, through his decision to make the day happy for himself and his son, we learn a great lesson in education. Thinking back to that Purim day, his son will remember the fact that he and his father managed to enjoy a Purim during those difficult times, not whether the reasons his father gave were rational.

Teaching Novelty in Education

We started this article on how to market Torah to haredim with this story because it captures the life and exuberance that every educator should have when instructing a classroom of students.

We brought an extreme case to show that even marketing tactics can be praiseworthy under certain pressing circumstances. How much more so then in the case of an established hidur, whereby we teach it (e.g., to shake the lulav) to the child even though he is not yet obligated.

But the life of the mitzvot change from generation to generation. Therefore, a true educator has to be attuned to the new hidurim that give life and exuberance to the act of learning and performing these mitzvot.

For instance, in our generation we have been given the opportunity to learn Torah with its mathematics, the triangles and squares in the Torah. This imparts a tremendous sense of fun and enjoyment to learning Torah. Like a hidur (e.g., shaking the lulav) not knowing the Torah’s math doesn’t detract from the mitzvah of learning Torah. The child could make do with just learning the Mishnah and Talmud.

If the Torah’s math is not learnt in a particular cheder or yeshivah, they don’t have to do strange things in order to introduce it, but it’s certainly too bad, because the hidur, this way of learning, is what gives a lot of life and novelty to the learning, (for example, see our mathematical analysis of the Haggadah song, Who Knows One?).

Difference between Haredi and other Jewish Schools

Presumably both haredi and modern Jewish schools would be interested in learning the mathematics behind the Torah. What then is the difference between the two?

As explained in “When Torah Goes Viral” the marketing for modern environments is to explain the unification that is taking place between the Torah and the wisdom of the world (in our case, mathematics). So whereas the way to market Torah mathematics to haredi schools is to explain this concept of a non-obligatory hidur mitzvah, for more modern environments, the selling point is the unification taking place between these two seemingly disparate worlds.

For example, so far there are over 9,000 views of this class given at a modern orthodox high school on Torah and mathematics. Notice that during the class, Rabbi Ginsburgh assumes that the students already know what algebraic expressions are. The novelty that we present to these children then is that the Torah relates to the algebra, geometry, etc… that they have already been learning. So too, when marketing to modern audiences outside the classroom, we continue along this path by asking whether they would like to know the Torah behind E=MC2, Pythagorean Triples, Pi, Euler’s Theorem, Golden Ratio, and so on …

But haredi audiences don’t know what any of these things are. For example, instead of the Fibonacci sequence, we can begin by calling it by its more accurate name (the “love series of numbers”). While the content is the same, what changes is the approach.

A Call to These “Wayward” Youth

For instance, now that these formerly haredi youths have entered the modern world it may be more appropriate to reach out to them with unifications instead of hidurim. As mentioned, teaching hidurim should begin from a young age, even before they are obligated. But now that this child has presumably entered or passed adolescence, and has studied something in university or from popular books, we should now reach out to them with the second approach.

*For simplicity, I will continue to refer to the day of the story as Purim, even though this was Shushan Purim, the day when the megillah is read in Jerusalem.

30,000 Haredim Receive Their Army Exemptions

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Since the Shaked Haredi Draft bill passed, almost 30,000 Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox), ages 22-28, have received or will be receiving their permanent exemptions from IDF army service, according to a report in Makor Rishon.

Until now, Haredim were required to be learning in Yeshiva until age 28, while they were receiving IDF exemptions.

Those 30,000 Haredim are now free to continue learning in Yeshiva, or alternatively, join the job market and support their families. They will no longer need to apply annually for an army exemption.

The ministerial committee that dealt with the draft law is also evaluating what steps can be taken to help integrate those newly exempted Haredim who want to enter the workforce, including salaried training programs and employer incentives to hire Haredim.

Furthermore, due to high demand on the part of Haredi soldiers who did complete their IDF service in one of the Haredi army units, the army is working on creating a second battalion of Haredi IDF reservists for those who want to continue to serve.

On the downside, due to active discouragement on the part of the Haredi leadership and Rabbis, enlistment of those between ages of 18-21 has sharply dropped, and the Haredi draft quotas, of only a few thousand a year, which until now were being met, may not be reached.

A sign in Jerusalem's Ultra Orthodox Meah Shearim neighborhood against serving in the IDF. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

A sign in Jerusalem’s Ultra Orthodox Meah Shearim neighborhood against serving in the IDF.
Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

The IDF and the Defense Minister recommended to the committee that lines of communications be opened with the Haredi leadership to stop their incitement against Haredi youth serving in the IDF or doing National Service. National Service is the alternative for those who don’t want to serve in the army.

Americans in Beit Shemesh Present the Better Side of Haredim

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Amid the buzz surrounding issues of religious-secular tension—such as proposed Israeli legislation to mandate Haredi enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces and a recent rally where hundreds of thousands of people protested the bill—Haredi entrepreneurship in the Jewish state doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

Critics lament the lack of Haredi integration into both the military and the Israeli workforce, but  Beit Shemesh, located 20 miles west of Jerusalem with a population of 100,000 people, is home to innovators like Rabbi Joel Padowitz, whose ventures have a direct relationship with the Haredi community.

Padowitz, 36, is co-creator of what he believes is a “game-changing” product for Israeli tourism and business called the “Israel App.” Originally from San Diego, Padowitz made aliyah in 2009 and lives in Beit Shemesh with his wife and six children. He teaches Mishnah every day at a men’s kollel in Beit Shemesh, is an avid mountain biker, and is the founder of a Manhattan-based investment bank. He has rabbinical ordination and an MBA from Bar-Ilan University, and he now is now pursuing a BA in social science from Harvard University.

The co-founder and manager of the Israel App is equally eclectic 28-year-old Yaakov Lehman, formerly from Tucson, Ariz., who is married with a newborn child. A part-time rabbinic student and part-time social entrepreneur, he has a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara in global studies, an MA from the London School of Economics in economic history, and an MA from the University of Vienna in world history. He came to Israel in 2008.

“The reason I founded the Israel App is because people come to Israel and do not get a legitimate or even meaningful presentation of this incredible country,” Padowitz tells JNS.org. “We cater to the majority of tourists who don’t hire human tour guides. We want to give them a way to appreciate more deeply all that Israel has to offer.”

The Israel App, which currently has about 6,000 users, contains GPS-guided tours for any tourist who needs to find sites or hotels or restaurants, a virtual concierge for making reservations, coupons, and background content like an “Israepedia,” a glossary covering a wide variety of historical information. Tourists can use the app without roaming charges as they travel around the country.

When Padowitz and Lehman initiated their project, they began looking for a programming team. They happened upon NetSource and its subsidiary, Concept Creative Technology, a service provider of software development. “We liked the service, the price, and their work environment,” says Lehman.

NetSource’s 48-year-old CEO, Mazal Shirem, is a divorced mother of three who grew up as an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem, where she lived until the age of 20. After 16 years with Intel and a stint in Munich, Germany, she found a business partner for her new venture whose mission “was to get Orthodox people into the employment market and give them the tools they need to learn the work environment.”

NetSource was launched in 2010 and today employs 200 people—90 percent Haredi women and 5 percent Haredi men—almost all living in Beit Shemesh. According to Shirem, the company operates so that the employees “receive the full respect of their lifestyle, including the on-site kosher kitchen, flexible work hours, and even proper subjects on which they work.”

Tamar, a 26-year-old Haredi mother of a two toddlers, is consulting with Shirem in her office. She started work there a year and a half ago as a secretary and worked her way up to an account manager.

“I really like to work here,” she says. “The girls are very nice and it’s convenient for me to work in this company because I find all the conditions which I need in order for me to go out and do my job in an appropriate environment.”

Haredim Being Drafted – to Ukrainian Army

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

If not in Israel, then in the Ukraine.

Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities received draft notices to report to the Ukrainian army draft center, according to a report in Maariv.

Yeshiva students from multiple yeshivas in Kiev, including Chabad students, were told to report to the draft center, in response to the increasing tensions with Russia.

Unlike in the IDF, Jewish soldiers in the Ukrainian army cannot get kosher food (much less, Glatt Kosher food), cannot have beards, and must work on Shabbat – which is they day they clean the base. They certainly won’t be guaranteed time for daily prayers like they would be in the IDF.

Some of the students are considering running away to Israel.

The only question is, this time, will the Jews in the Ukraine decide to run away before it’s too late, or only after it’s too late.

Hundreds of Thousands Participate in Peaceful Anti-Draft Rally

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of Haredim shut down the entrance to Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, protesting against the bill that would allow the government to put Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) draft dodgers in jail.

The protest was a peaceful one. The organizers called on participants to not join the army under any circumstances.

To Rally or Not, That is the Question

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

There were two blocks debating each other in many of the settlements this Shabbat, and both sides raised some very valid points.

On one side are the pro-rally settlers who plan to go join in the Haredi anti-draft protest.

Their positions are as follows:

1. Haredim are currently on target for the army’s annual draft expectations from the Haredi community. At this growth rate, they’ll definitely reach the army’s goals in 2017.

So why in the world is the government suddenly introducing criminal sanctions onto the Haredi community, when, despite the difficulties, they’re meeting their numbers?

2. If this were about all citizens sharing the burden, why are Lapid and friends ignoring the Arabs?

3. If this were really only about the draft, then why were Lapid and friends going after Hesder, until Bennett cut some sort of deal with him?

4. If we don’t stand with the Haredim now, when Lapid and friends go after the settlements (and Hesder), we won’t be able to count on the Haredim as allies.

5. If Lapid and friends succeed, in the next elections, they’ll be big enough to not need Bennett and the restrictions he’s placed on them, and then Hesder, the Settlements and the National-Religious community are really going to really be in trouble.

The pro-rally groups raises some very important points, that seem to indicate that this bill and the attacks on the Haredi community are more about populism, elections, hurting the Torah and the religious sector as a whole.

On the anti-Rally side, the following arguments were put forth:

1. Everyone should do the army, and its not fair to everyone else that the Haredim aren’t doing their share.

2. If the Haredi position was really only about Torah learning and how Torah learning protects the State and they’re sharing in the burden by learning – and not based on an anti-Zionist ideology, then why aren’t they at least saying the prayers for the State and IDF soldiers in their shuls.

Since they don’t, it proves this protest is not about being drafted, but rather not wanting to be a partner in the State of Israel itself and not caring for anyone else outside their community.

3. Lapid won’t be able to hurt the Hesder programs and the religious in the army, because we make up 50% of the combat units, so we don’t need the Haredim as allies for that.

4. The Dati-Leumi and Settler communities simply can’t count on the Haredim to stand by us. They didn’t stand with us during Gush Katif, and they only care about their own communities and whoever pays them enough to support their lifestyles. They don’t care about anyone else’s Torah community besides their own (see Gafni’s threats to destroy Hesder and the settlements).

We gain nothing by standing with them, and some people even said, they’re getting what they deserve.

The anti-Rally group also raises some extremely valid points – essentially the isolationist approach of the Haredi community has proven that Haredim are unreliable allies, and incapable of seeing themselves as part of the greater religious and Jewish community in Israel, and acting on that partnership, so why should we act for them, when we think they should be drafted anyway, just like we are.

What do I conclude from all this?

First of all, there’s no doubt the Haredi community has shot itself in the foot, and the Dati-Leumi community may very well follow in their footsteps.

National-Religious Rabbis to Participate in Haredi Anti-Draft Rally

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Some big name rabbis in the National-Religious (Dati-Leumi) community plan to participate in the Haredi anti-draft rally on Sunday, to show their solidarity with the Haredim.

Among these rabbis are Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, Rav Shlomo Aviner and Rav Yaakov Shapira.

The Haredim are protesting the Shaked Committee Bill, which will require that Haredim begin serving in the IDF and criminalizes draft dodging. MK Ayelet Shaked is member of the National Religious Jewish Home Party.

The position these Dati-Leumi rabbis are taking is that they will “not let the government divide the Dati-Leumi and Haredi communities… and harm Torah learning.”

Other Dati-Leumi rabbis are against the three rabbis’ participation in the rally.

Haredi MK Moshe Gafni (Yahadut HaTorah) told Makor Rishon that, to avenge the Shaked law, as soon as he is back in power, he will destroy the Hesder Yeshivas — where students both study Torah and serve in elite combat units.

MK Gafni also threatened to end all funding to the settlements, and to dry them out, as soon as he is back in a government role. For the record, his one government role so far has been, during the 12th Knesset (this one is the 19th): Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs.

In the past, in retaliation for budget cuts that hurt Haredi families, MK Gafni, who Chairs the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, also threatened to intentionally create problems the Finance Ministry would have to spend a lot of state money to fix.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/national-religious-rabbis-to-participate-in-haredi-anti-draft-rally/2014/02/28/

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