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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Unity’

Religious Pluralism Within Orthodoxy

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Gil Student’s recent review of a book about Orthodox pluralism (R. Yisroel Miller’s In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi) got me thinking about my own view on this subject.

Pluralism begets unity or Achdus.

There are different kinds of Achdus. We can be bonded by a wide variety of commonalities. We can all be united as human beings. There is also a sense of unity that we should feel as a people regardless of our ideology.

It is also legitimate to speak of unity within a defined segment of Judaism. Indeed even within segments there is a sense of unity that is often eluded. There can for example be a right and left even within Religious Zionism.

I have always sought to unite all of Orthodoxy. This includes even Satmar Chasidim, and the right wing Yeshiva world on the right – all the way to Left Wing Modern Orthodox (LWMO) movements represented by people like Rabbi Avi Wiess and his Yeshiva, YCT. The common bond being belief in the Torah and adherence to Halacha.

One may wonder about this considering my recent very harsh criticism of Satmar. Or my occasional strong criticism of some of innovations of the left – like the attempt to ordain women. Or my strong criticism of price tag raids by settler movements (consisting of extremist Religious Zionists) in Israel. The fact is that my criticism remains but it does not contradict my belief in a pluralistic Orthodoxy.

I disagree with the ideology of those to my right and my left. But I respect them all in the sense of Elu V’Elu. For example, I understand the Satmar objection to the existence of the State of Israel. It is based on the how Satmar interprets passages in the Gemarah. I have no problem with those who have this Hashkafa.

Nor do I have a problem with the belief of those religious Zionists who believe that we must settle all the land of Israel; that it is Halachically forbidden to cede an inch of the holy land that is now in our hands; and that we must risk our very lives to retain it. That is based on interpretations of Halacha.

Even though I disagree with both of those positions, I respect them. My only problem is when they act on them in ways that impinge on the rights of others or create a Chilul HaShem. It is trying to impose one’s religious values upon others that upsets me. Not the ideologies themselves. Ideologies, yes. Bad behavior, no.

Achdus, unity, or pluralism is not about agreement. It is about tolerance and acceptance… and the humility to understand and accept that we might just be wrong and someone else might be right.

This does not mean that one has to be apologetic about one’s strongly held views. One can argue his views with those of different Hashkafos and try and convince them of the rectitude of their own. Perfectly legitimate. I would even go a step further that if one has strongly held beliefs one ought to be able to make the case for them to a friend with different ideologies. At the same time, one must respect he views of others even if you think they are wrong. They too have thought things through and have arrived at a different conclusion that you have. In other words it is all about respecting the wisdom of others even when disagreeing with them.

On this level I respect the Hashkafos of Haredi thinkers. And I respect the Hashkafos of LWMO thinkers even though I disagree with them and agree with Centrist thinkers. Elu V’Elu is what it’s all about for me. My harsh criticism is reserved for extremist behavior that is a result of those Hashkafos – even if it is from my own.

Many in the Satmar community’s behavior with respect to sex abuse or right wing Religious Zionist settler behavior that results in a Chilul HaShem will raise my hackles every single time. Not the beliefs that generate them. One can be a principled pluralist – to use Gil’s expression – without rejecting the Hashkafos of others. There is no need to try and reconcile such wildly disparate views.

And Now for Something Completely Different: Accountability and Unity in Israeli Politics

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The National Union will choose its list for the fifth time. I’ve been around for all five cycles and unity in our nationalist camp is more important now than ever.

I have been doing my best over the past couple of months to use my “neutral” position as the Manager of the National Union Knesset Faction, as well as the position of the next MK in line on the National Union list, to unify the ideological, nationalist parties for a joint run in the 2013 general elections.

Years ago, in 1999, I had the privilege of standing alongside Rechavam Ze’evy, Rav Chanan Porat and Benny Begin when they joined together to form the original National Union (HaIchud HaLeumi). Subsequently, as the Chair of the Moledet Party’s Executive Board, I constantly fought for running for Knesset on united lists, against those who, in each election cycle anew, demanded that we break away and run on our own as a soloist party, even at the expense of my own seat. As such, I feel that it is of the utmost importance that we all work together to make sure that the National Union, in its entirety, runs together with the Bayit Yehudi-Mafdal HaChadasha in the upcoming elections.

In 2006, I supported the joint list with the National Religious Party even though that meant my slot as 3rd in Moledet meant 16 on the joint list. I supported running with them in 2009 and I support running with them now in 2013. Once again, I have turned down opportunities to run on a breakaway list because I believe it is crucial to maintain unity in the national and national-religious camp, this time it was the option of running with MK’s Eldad and Ben-Ari. I remind our friends in the nationalist camp that it was these very political splits that enabled the advancement of the Oslo Accords.

Today, the Tekuma party will choose the National Union’s list for the 2013 election. I have decided to run because I feel that I bring three things to the table that no other candidate does – Unity, Experience and Anglos.

With Eldad and Ben Ari choosing to run on their own, it is of the utmost importance that Moledet, the only other constant in the National Union, choose the side of unity versus divisiveness. Only political alliances and running on joint lists will give us the power we need to have a real influence on the decision making process in Israel. This is the very clear lessons of the 1992 and 2009 elections. Together, we are strong. Divided, totally impotent.

I am among a handful of veteran political Knesset parliamentary experts. I started working in the Knesset in 1996 and have held just about every appointed job in Knesset or government, including top level parliamentary and senior ministry positions. There are few people like myself who can step into the position of Knesset member without the need for any on-the-job training or grace period.

I have been the National Union’s official English-speaking candidate for the last three general election campaigns. I was number 10 in the Liberman led list of 2003, number 16 in 2006 and number 5 during this term, in which the National Union won 4 seats. I have been one of the most recognized English-speaking candidates for over a decade.

My friend and neighbor, Jeremy Gimpel, dedicated his high-profile Bayit Yehudi campaign towards connecting with the large voting block of English-speakers in this country. Gimpel’s attempt at bringing accountability to the Knesset echoes my same attempts of the past and is not lost. Although he did not win a realistic slot in Habayit Hayehudi, I hope the National Union chooses me in a high spot to be the strong Anglo candidate that the nationalistic camp knows and deserves. There is no doubt that an Anglo at a high spot will translate into more votes for the party.

If I am selected to a high enough spot in the joint National Union-Bayit Yehudi list, I will be in a position to continue to work towards unifying the joint list with MK’s Eldad and Ben Ari. I will also work towards being your “Congressman” in the Knesset, with the level of connection and accountability that Anglos are accustomed to. Who knows? Maybe some of that will finally even rub off on my Israeli colleagues…

To Unite the Nat’l Religious Camp, U.S.-Born Candidates Offer Themselves as a Sacrifice

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

As the prospects for a merger between the two National Religious parties – the Jewish Home and the National Union – fall apart, the American-born candidate team, Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel have said they would be willing to sacrifice their own potential spot on the Knesset list for the sake of unifying the national-religious camp.

“Our primary goal has never been to make it into the Knesset” but instead uniting the national-religious camp, the two said in a statement released to the press today.

Therefore they will not “endorse a leadership candidate that refuses to support unity between the factions within the religious Zionist camp”

In an e-mail statement they went further, cryptically stating that their support for unity may cost them a spot in the Knesset, but stating that it is “a price we are willing to pay.”

What’s the Hold up to Unity?

The unmentioned hold up to the potential merger referenced by Abramowitz and Gimpel is likely newcomer Naftali Bennett, who, according Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post, said in a private meeting last week that if he were elected to the leadership of the Jewish Home, he would not allow three of the four Knesset Members of the National Union to run with the Jewish Home.

This would make it extremely unlikely that the National Union would agree to join with the Jewish home during the general elections.  It would essentially mean agreeing to disappear to make way for the Jewish Home, even though they currently have four Knesset seats to the Jewish Home’s three.

Unsurprisingly, the National Union’s Knesset Members did not react well to the alleged statements.

Bennett’s campaign told The Jewish Press over the phone today that no such statements were ever made.

Bennett, who is competing for party leadership against current party chairman Minister of Science Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz and MK Z’vulon Orlev, posted a statement on his facebook page today stating that “To remove all doubt, I support and urge the unity of the camp and to unite with the National Union party. I will work towards it with all my might. I won’t bar a single person. Period.”

The origin of the prospects for merger of the Jewish Home and National Union began earlier this year. When shortly after Pesach it seemed that early elections were imminent, the parties signed an agreement to run as a united list.

Since early elections didn’t occur, the agreement no longer applies. Nevertheless, there are many who want the joint list, including National Union Chairman MK Yaacov Katz.

Katz is one of the three MKs whom Bennett reportedly said he would not allow to run with the Jewish Home. The others were MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michal Ben-Ari. Bennett would reportedly be alright with MK Uri Ariel, the remaining National Union member.

The three on Bennett’s blacklist are considered to have bombastic political temperaments, unwilling to censor themselves, and Ben Ari and Katz in particular make a point of sticking it their opponents.

Ben Ari, for example, brought illegal African immigrants to swimming pools in posh areas of Tel Aviv. During the debate over his proposed “Arrangement Law” Katz said that anyone voting against the bill had “a heart of stone.”

But according to a political strategist who wished to remain anonymous, Bennett is not concerned with the party’s image, but making room on the list for his own political allies.

“Bennett has made many colossal errors,” the strategist said, “the biggest of which is that he has too many people that endorsed him – too many people he owes favors to.”

For Israeli politicians, who are chosen not in general elections, but by internal party mechanisms – often, but not always, primary elections, the real contest is securing a realistic, if not high spot on their party’s list.

If for example, a party gets 12 seats in the Knesset (10 percent of the vote), unlucky candidate number 13, will not get into the Knesset, no matter how popular he may be among the general public. The higher the candidate is on the list, the more likely he is to get into the Knesset and the more likely he is to be named a minister in the government if his party joins the coalition.

Netanyahu and Mofaz Announce Center-Right Coalition, Elections Cancelled

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

In an overnight drama worthy of a Hollywood thriller, the leaders of Likud and Kadima, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz concluded a deal for a broad coalition government led by their two factions, and the cancellation of the early, September 4 elections.

The new coalition agreement which had been galvanized secretly between Likud and Kadima over the past few days, Mofaz will serve as Deputy Prime Minister and a Minister without a Portfolio. A Kadima MK will continue to chair the Knesset Foreign and Security Committee, and will receive, in addition, chairmanship of the Finance Committee.

Both leaders envision devoting their term in office to changing Israel’s system of Governance and to the issue of drafting Haredi Jews.

The Next elections will be held as scheduled, in November, 2013.

The daily Ma’ariv noted that Netanyahu arrived at the Knesset for his dramatic announcement to his membership accompanied by his former chief of staff, Nathan Eshel, who was forced to resign following allegations about his involvement in the sexual harassment of a female employee. Eshel served as Netanyahu’s liaison in the secret communication with Kadima.

Both the Likud and Kadima faction in the Knesset approved the new coalition deal, with only one objection, on the part of Likud MK Danny Danon.

PA-Hamas unity deadlocked

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Despite PA President Abbas’s claim of no differences anymore between Hamas and Fatah following a reconciliation meeting this week, it appears that Abbas overstated his position. The PA and Hamas face a deadlock as they haven’t agreed on the makeup of the new unity government, without which elections are impossible. Abbas is still demanding that Salam Fayyad remain prime minister, while Hamas is insisting that Fayyad goes.

‘Unity For Justice’ Premiere

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

An unparalleled musical production featuring 39 Jewish music superstars made its worldwide debut Thursday at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. “Unity for Justice” is a unique display of solidarity for the family of incarcerated Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, whose sentencing of 27 years in federal prison last year has led to a thunderous outcry by the Jewish community and a number of government officials. The project serves as an innovative campaign for financial support of the Rubashkin Defense Fund, drawing mounting online interest by the hour.

 

From knitted kippot to lange peyos, and beards of all lengths, popular artists all across the religious Jewish spectrum converged in Brooklyn over the summer to record the heart-warming song entitled “Unity” by Mordechai Ben David, which topped Jewish music charts in 1987.

 

Leah Rubashkin, wife of the former vice president of Agriprocessors, calls the project “a very important extension of the theme of togetherness,” a theme evident in the Jewish community of Postville, Iowa, surrounding the meat-processing plant. “We have been very involved in trying to create togetherness in our small town,” she added.

 

Singers Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, Lipa Schmeltzer, and Yaakov Shwekey are among the artists, from Gerer Chassid to Sephardic Israeli, whose voices are recorded on the soundtrack. In addition to clips of the vocalists recording in the studio, there is also footage of Rubashkin’s wedding and of Sholom Mordechai smiling with his special needs son.

 

The video, Leah said, left her speechless. “I am overcome with the warmth and love shown for another Jew, whom most of these people don’t even know,” she commented.

 

            An in-depth documentary showcasing those affected by the Rubashkin family will be released before the start of 2011 and will feature a rare peek inside the personal lives of the Jewish music stars who contributed to the “Unity for Justice” project.

 

 

The assembled crowd at the “Unity for Justice” debut in the

Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights

 

 

“The Rubashkin name has always been synonymous with charity as the Rubashkins gave of themselves, both financially and otherwise, to help those in need,” recalled Yaakov Shwekey. “In fact,” he added, “Sholom Mordechai is so widely known for his acts of kindness that literally anyone who was approached to contribute to this project jumped at the chance to return the favor and do whatever he could to help the man who has helped so many.”

 

“Unity for Justice” was born when producer and director, Danny Finkelman, heard MBD’s song while in his car one day. “I had seen and was impressed with the ‘We Are The World’ video,” he said, referencing the viral YouTube video created to raise funds for Haitian earthquake relief. The remake of the original that was created to bring relief to Ethiopian famine victims showcased 80 of music’s greatest stars.

 

Sitting there in his car, Finkelman said, he thought to himself, “I wish the we had something like that – a gathering of Jewish artists for a worthy cause.”

 

“Rubashkin has united such a diverse community,” he continued; formerly, by creating an atmosphere in Postville where representatives of many Jewish lifestyles live and certify Kosher meat for their respective communities; and presently, with the surge of united support across religious communities worldwide. “There is no greater cause than this,” Finkelman stated.

‘Unity For Justice’ Premiere

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010


An unparalleled musical production featuring 39 Jewish music superstars made its worldwide debut Thursday at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. “Unity for Justice” is a unique display of solidarity for the family of incarcerated Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, whose sentencing of 27 years in federal prison last year has led to a thunderous outcry by the Jewish community and a number of government officials. The project serves as an innovative campaign for financial support of the Rubashkin Defense Fund, drawing mounting online interest by the hour.

 

From knitted kippot to lange peyos, and beards of all lengths, popular artists all across the religious Jewish spectrum converged in Brooklyn over the summer to record the heart-warming song entitled “Unity” by Mordechai Ben David, which topped Jewish music charts in 1987.

 

Leah Rubashkin, wife of the former vice president of Agriprocessors, calls the project “a very important extension of the theme of togetherness,” a theme evident in the Jewish community of Postville, Iowa, surrounding the meat-processing plant. “We have been very involved in trying to create togetherness in our small town,” she added.

 

Singers Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, Lipa Schmeltzer, and Yaakov Shwekey are among the artists, from Gerer Chassid to Sephardic Israeli, whose voices are recorded on the soundtrack. In addition to clips of the vocalists recording in the studio, there is also footage of Rubashkin’s wedding and of Sholom Mordechai smiling with his special needs son.

 

The video, Leah said, left her speechless. “I am overcome with the warmth and love shown for another Jew, whom most of these people don’t even know,” she commented.

 

            An in-depth documentary showcasing those affected by the Rubashkin family will be released before the start of 2011 and will feature a rare peek inside the personal lives of the Jewish music stars who contributed to the “Unity for Justice” project.

 

 


The assembled crowd at the “Unity for Justice” debut in the

Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights

 

 

“The Rubashkin name has always been synonymous with charity as the Rubashkins gave of themselves, both financially and otherwise, to help those in need,” recalled Yaakov Shwekey. “In fact,” he added, “Sholom Mordechai is so widely known for his acts of kindness that literally anyone who was approached to contribute to this project jumped at the chance to return the favor and do whatever he could to help the man who has helped so many.”

 

“Unity for Justice” was born when producer and director, Danny Finkelman, heard MBD’s song while in his car one day. “I had seen and was impressed with the ‘We Are The World’ video,” he said, referencing the viral YouTube video created to raise funds for Haitian earthquake relief. The remake of the original that was created to bring relief to Ethiopian famine victims showcased 80 of music’s greatest stars.

 

Sitting there in his car, Finkelman said, he thought to himself, “I wish the we had something like that – a gathering of Jewish artists for a worthy cause.”

 

“Rubashkin has united such a diverse community,” he continued; formerly, by creating an atmosphere in Postville where representatives of many Jewish lifestyles live and certify Kosher meat for their respective communities; and presently, with the surge of united support across religious communities worldwide. “There is no greater cause than this,” Finkelman stated.

It’s My Opinion: Unity

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

    The current crisis in Israel has been the catalyst of many rallies in South Florida.  Some of the rhetoric involved in these events has been quite shocking.  An Arab woman at a demonstration in Fort Lauderdale called for the Jews to go “back to the ovens.”  A rally in downtown Miami became violent.  Anti-Israel protesters screamed out vicious curses, hurled objects and engaged in fistfights.  One Jewish woman was hit in the chest by a bottle. 

 

  Amazingly, a very poignant and touching phenomenon has emerged as an outgrowth of this turmoil.  I witnessed it myself when I attended a Miami Beach gathering which was organized to show solidarity with Israel in the Gaza war.

 

   I saw haredi rabbis and secular Jews.  I saw men in knit kippot, velvet kippot, black hats, caps and bare heads.  I saw women with sheitels and long dresses joining with sisters in jeans and short skirts.  I saw elderly, middle-aged, and young Jews.  I saw every type of Jewish man, woman and child joining together. 

 

   They held signs.  They waved Israeli flags.  They sang, “Hatikvah” and “Am Yisroel Chai.”  They stood side-by-side.    

 

    In ancient days, the custom of Hakhel was a time that the entire Jewish nation gathered in the courtyard of the Temple. The event occurred every seven years, and included every Jewish man, woman and child. The people were encouraged to follow their Jewish obligations.  They were joined as a collective community with a common goal.

 

   In recent times, Jews have again visited the Hakhel theme with lectures and events held to rekindle this idea of Jewish unity.  Apparently Hamas rockets have, in their way, succeeded to accomplish this task.  

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community//2009/01/21/

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