We Are All Emanuel

letter-447577_1280

by Dovid Landesman

Events in the last twenty-four hours have caused my inherent uncertainties about life in Israel to resurface. This afternoon I attended the mass demonstration [peaceful and orderly, thank God] in support of the parents from Emanuel who were sentenced to jail terms for contempt of court in refusing to re-enroll their daughters in the local Beis Yaakov as per the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court. My conflicts began as I made my way toward Rechov Yirmiyahu where the rally was to take place. I passed a young man wearing a knitted kippah, holding a placard that read “sinat chinam” (needless hatred). I asked him to whom he was referring and he answered, “the demonstrators.” The early afternoon sun was brutally hot, so it was critical that I try hard not to loose my cool. I calmly asked him, “Do you really feel qualified to make that kind of accusation against Rav Elyashiv and Rav Aron Leib Shteinman?” Noticing his perplexed demeanor, I walked away, wondering why he did not understand what I wanted from him.

Permit me to share my feelings and fears with you. As a caveat, I am convinced by evidence that I have personally witnessed through the years that there is a great deal of prejudice within the Ashkenazi Torah world against Sefaradim. That said, it has become clear to me that the issue in the Emanuel case has nothing to do with classical discrimination. If I wanted to enroll my daughter in the Chassidishe Beis Yaakov there, I have no doubt that she would be denied entry – despite her impeccably pure, white blood! Moreover, I accept that the school would be justified in their refusal.

The school – and it does not matter whether or not you agree with the criteria which they have set for admission – established objective requirements which relate solely to lifestyle issues. An argument might be raised that in a small community like Emanuel establishing such criteria might be economically unfeasible and given the limited number of potential students, compromises should be expected. However, this suggestion was never presented as a factor to the court nor was it mentioned as a basis for the court’s ruling.

Actually, a percentage of girls of mixed or Sefaradi lineage [up to 30%] were enrolled in the Chassidic school because their parents were willing to accept the stringencies of the school’s codes of conduct. The court refused to acknowledge this – basically labeling these parents as Uncle Toms. It is far beyond the purview of this discussion to examine why these parents would want their daughters to attend the chassidic school. It is also none of my business.
Interestingly, the organizers of the demonstration cleverly emphasized the point that the school was integrated by reciting selichot according to the Sefaradi custom, pronunciation and niggun. Additionally, the parent chosen to speak on behalf of those being incarcerated was Sefaradi.

It is extremely difficult to estimate how many people took part in the demonstration. I am sure that the numbers that will be quoted in Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post will be significantly lower than the number cited in HaModia or Yated. By all accounts, however, there were many thousands there. What concerns me is that the crowd was so homogeneous. There was a vast sea of black hats – Borsalinos and chassidic – with but a paltry few kippot serugot. Where was the bulk of the Mercaz/yeshivot hesder crowd? [Reportedly, Rabbi Ezra Melamed shlita of Beit El did encourage participation.]

Why would I think they would participate in a demonstration that dealt with an issue involving the chareidi world? Because a statement by Justice Levi of the Israeli Supreme Court succinctly focused on the real issue that the Emanuel case raises. Levi, one of the three jurors on the panel and ostensibly a religious Jew, remarked during the deliberations: “No court verdict requires the approval of any rabbi.” It is apparent that in his view, if there is a conflict between Torah and the decisions of government bodies, one is obligated to follow the latter.

You and I might feel that in this case there is no such conflict and nothing would happen if the chassidic girls attended an integrated school. Nevertheless, in the eyes of those involved – primarily Slonimer chassidim following the instructions of their rebbe – this is clearly a situation where the court is demanding that they make compromises in areas that are of critical importance to them. The essential problem is that an avowedly secular court feels no constraints in issuing decisions in areas in which they should not be intervening. This has transpired a number of times in the history of the State – e.g., the mihu yehudi [who is a Jew] question where the court felt that it was competent to decide an issue that is clearly halachic. This is as absurd as having Arab members of the Knesset vote on legislation regarding the validity of conversions to Judaism!

The fundamental issue – and it is here that I would expect the dati leumi crowd to be equally concerned – is the primacy of Torah within the State. Some of this came to fore during the disengagement from Gush Katif when a number of rabbinical figures within the dati world ruled that halachically the withdrawal was prohibited and that soldiers were therefore duty bound to refuse to follow orders. Inevitably, in a democratic society there will be conflicts between the interests of the majority and the rights of the minority. How is a minority – whose position is supported by the halachic authorities whose decisions they follow – supposed to act when there is an irreconcilable conflict between Torah and secular law? Can they in good conscience compromise their fealty to halachah?

In the period immediately preceding the declaration of the State, Ben Gurion reached an accord with R. Yitzchak Meir Levin zt”l [the status quo agreement] delineating certain limited areas where the State would recognize the primacy of Torah over secular norms – most notably in family law. Ben Gurion understood, as his subsequent silent agreement to accept the Chazon Ish’s view on giyus banot (conscription of women) would suggest, that there were areas that demanded that the secular majority forego its natural rights, perhaps recognizing that the State would only be viable if it gave Torah a visible role. Many have speculated about Ben Gurion’s motivations; whatever they were it formed the basis for a modus vivendi that held up for a considerable number of years.

The present court, however, seems to feel that it has no reason to continue the gestures of the majority toward the minority. On the contrary, it seems to feel that the unwritten constitution of the State which it seeks to impose despite not having any legal right to do so, gives the court the right to render decisions on any issue that it decides is within its purview. The justices feel that they are uniquely qualified to render decisions on these issues; as per Judge Levi’s comment. I would expect this to frighten every Torah observant Jew around the world.

In my heart, I suspect that this might have been part of the motivation of the Satmar Rebbe zt”l in vociferously rejecting the idea of statehood before the coming of mashiach (the Messiah). There are problems that might well be unsolvable without mashiach – conflicts that no amount of good will can resolve. Is there any logical reason why a secular Jew should accept restrictions on his personal freedoms so as to pacify his religious brother? Perhaps he might be willing to do it for a limited period of time and in clearly defined areas. But why should he, for example, forego the right to marry a divorcee because his father was a kohen? On the other hand, how can an observant Jew compromise on issues that the Torah and our rabbis clearly consider halachic? Can we allow Jews who deny the authority of Torah to make decisions that have halachic ramifications? The rebbe zt”l held that this could not be done, and now sixty two years after the declaration of statehood, the issues that seem to crop up daily lead me to speculate that we may soon reach the point where we will have to make some very tough decisions. Can we, the religious world, continue to support the State based on the present political and judicial climate? I shudder to consider the answer.

[Rabbi Dovid Landesman resides in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he comments on the foibles of living in Eretz Yisrael. He recently published THERE ARE NO BASKETBALL COURTS IN HEAVEN – a collection of essays on Jewish themes.]

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47 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Unfortunately, the High Court of Justice is well known for an animus to Charedim and RZ, as well as on national security issues, that is not confined to its decisions, but can be referenced to in bigoted off the record comments by its members at public speaking engagements, which were chronicled quite well in “Real Jews”. It is a court designed to protect the interests of post Zionist secular Ashkenazim that picks its owwn successors and IMO is the functional equivalent of a Jum Crow court in the Deep South. The real issue IMO is not discrimination but comparing Charedim to the Amish in the US, who also fought successfully for the right to supervise the education of their children in the US Supreme Court.

  2. cvmay says:

    Shachar, your POV is shared by a majority of Charedei Jews in America. Satmar has & will never be an option for the masses.

    Cooperation, compromise, & accommodations is the only solution till we hear the ‘Loud Blast of the SHOFAR’ which is approaching mighty quickly.

  3. dovid says:

    Shachar Haamim: “Most Jews living 100 years ago would have – literally – given up their right hand and have their tongue glued to the roof of their mouth …”

    Can you document one such claim? After all you wrote “literally”.

  4. Shachar Haamim says:

    Most Jews living 100 years ago would have – literally – given up their right hand and have their tongue glued to the roof of their mouth to live in the situation we now live in in Israel. To suggest that one decision – or even a series of them – bad as they are, makes one become a Satmar chossid and move to Kiryas Joel – or even some moderate charedi version of anti-zionism such as pre-state Hirschian torah im derech eretz view of Jews as world citizens with exile a positive value – is simply preposterous.
    Where is the simple Kakaras HaTove to God Almighty for having the ability to go to jail in a Jewish country wearing banners written in Hebrew riding on a platform at the head of a kiddush hashem parade – and to get cholent and kugel in jail (there are some folks formerly of Postville, Iowa who ain’t gonna get shabbos warmers and urns and hot cholent and kugel in jail in their country…).

    Yes we have to work to improve the State. Yes, the Charedim will have to come up with some sort of modus vivendi with the modern world – including outlining what they see as normative in a constitution – rather than just repeating ad nauseum that the Shulchan Aruch is their constitution – and BTW according to the SA and nosei kelim a school in a town has to take all comers…

  5. dovid says:

    Tal: “Both would provoke outrage.”

    Wake up, Tal. We are in galus, whether you live in Medinat Israel, the European Union, the US, or even in Monsey, NY, or Monroe, NY. Survival in galus requires us to recognize our condition, know our place, and husband our few resources wisely. You still can eat meat to your heart’s desire (it may cost more in the EU if the ban is enacted), and you can educate your children as you see it fit, but know the rules, keep open your lines of communications with the politicians who need your vote, and play by the rules. The situation is far better and it’s much easier to be a Torah-observant Jew today than 100 years ago. I trust you won’t argue that their Torah observance was far superior to ours, despite much more onerous political conditions. So, no reason to panic or complain. I will give you an extreme example to make my point. (I can document the incident.) A yeshiva in Monsey, located in a residential area decided to show the bachurim how sh’chita is done on a behama gasah. Without a second thought, they brought a cow and slaughtered it in the backyard, with the cow bellowing and trying to escape, all the affair with lots of blood and something else, all this in the full view of the frightened and outraged neighbors. Zoning violation? What zoning? How about MY freedom of MY religion? Sh’chita is an integral part of MY religion. Who are those ‘anti-Semitic’ nobodies to tell ME how to conduct MYself? Muslims slaughter sheep in London unopposed above the sewer grates for their halal meat requirements. If they can do it, I also can do what I need or want. Act like this and guaranteed you generate hilul Hashem, ill will, hatred, and excuses for violent reactions against members of the community, most of whom had nothing to do with the incident. Plus, courts in the US will certainly rule against you. Shelves with tons of meat in Jewish supermarkets testify that sh’chita is permitted in the US. The numerous yeshivos and beis yaakov schools of all types testify that you can educate your children as you see it fit. But if you want the bachurim to see sh’chita first hand, don’t bring the slaughterhouse to Monsey. Rather, take the boys to the slaughterhouse.

    Maybe, after all, the people involved in the Beis Yaakov Chasidi affair didn’t act wisely. It’s possible that due to financial constraints as L. Oberstein pointed out, they had no choice but to stay in the same building and risk giving the Supreme Court and excuse to display their obtuseness and hatred of anything Jewish.

  6. L. Oberstein says:

    The more I read about this case, I realize it is symbolic . There is a committee that decides if a family can move to a town like Kiryat Sefer. They don’t have to discriminate in the school,they keep them out of town altogether.Emnauel is a dinky little hick town that has floundered since its original builders went bankrupt. There is no selection commttee because only poor people with few alternatives want to move there. Thus,some less than ultra frum people have moved in. The Slonimer Chassidim are a small group and they probably don’t have enough kids to form a real and viable alternative public school so they tried “tracking” but their methods were too visably disturbing. If you don’t let a child play on the playground with another child, that is a cause for life long hurt. I know it from my own child who was once told “I’d like to be your friend but my father says you’re too modern”.This was in third grade.
    Then a son of a great rabbi got into the act as a way of demonstrating how awful the Ashkenazim are. He isn’t alone, he just had the motivation and this case gave him the opportunity.
    The judges overplayed their hand and gave the chareidim a cause celebre to rally around. I don’t think anyone wins in this situation, only sort term tactical victories.There is no Bull Conner, no martin Luther King,Jr. and no osa Parks in this story, just a bunch of Jews fiddling while Rome is burning. I care a lot more about that Iranian ship headed towards Gaza and this Imanuel sitaution has to be toned down and dealt with and we have to move on.

  7. cvmay says:

    ATTENTION TAL: “In fact, the school in question is a Chinuch Atzmai school. Most of its funds are private”.

    When living in Yerushalayim, I had a daughter at Chinuch Atzmai Beis Yakov and a son at Chorev middle school (with other children in chadorim, yeshivos, etc.). Only Chorev had a hefty monthly tuition since it is PRIVATELY FUNDED, while the CA BY was free of charge, receiving the bulk of its funding from the government. This may have changed over the years, yet I believe not…

  8. Tal S. Benschar says:

    [H]ow is the Supreme Court’s decision different in its practical consequences from the decision EU is considering to ban sh’chita in Europe?

    Is this question for real? Both would provoke outrage. (Although the BGTZ decision is somewhat worse. You don’t have to eat meat, yuo do have to educate your children.)

  9. dovid says:

    How is it that this incident doesn’t bring to mind maase Bar Kamtza? We can be sure the religious practice of this modern-day Bar Kamtza, like those of his predecessor, include many hidurim and chumros, glatt kosher food, etc. Still, he snaps like the original Bar Kamtza and goes to the authorities hostile to the Torah world to presses charges. Why? The first one was unjustifiably disgraced in public, with no one present jumping to his defense and spare him public mortification. Laloum should have gone to Beis Din and submit his protest. He may have felt it would not help. Even if got satisfaction in this case, how can a psak of any beis din remove discrimination so deeply engraved within our community as the one described in Rabbi Landesman’s anecdote? He snapped and went to the authorities. Rabosai, see what shame does to a person, see how intense shame can be that people otherwise normal and decent lose their balance and destroy themselves and the rest of us! We, the Charedi public are not innocent. We must internalize the moral of this incident and desist from discriminating, from hurting people’s feelings. Even after 2000 years, we haven’t paid off the public shame Bar Kamtza suffered. Don’t we need more tzaaros?

  10. dovid says:

    Rabbi Landesman,

    I am baffled that you, Rabbi Adlerstein and most of the comments focus on the legal aspects of the decision of the Supreme Court, how and why this decision was outrageous. You and everyone who follow Torah hashkafa, from Mizrachi (even prior to the expulsion from Gush Katif) to Satmar agree that Medinat Israel is still galus. As such, how is the Supreme Court’s decision different in its practical consequences from the decision EU is considering to ban sh’chita in Europe? Why do you have higher expectations from the Bagatz? Their laws and mindset are as much in synch with the Torah world as a court of justice in Poland, Romania, Switzerland, or France. What have we always done in such circumstances? We looked for ways to upkeep Torah law while trying to stay out of trouble. Writers on this blog have identified ways to preserve the Bais Yaakov Chasidi in its pristine condition by having it in a different building renting or constructing a new one) and we have all been spared the sinnas Israel that this affair brought about. Why this insistence that we must have our way, the way we see it, w/o acknowledging we don’t run the show?

  11. Tal S. Benschar says:

    Meir Shinnar: One more comment. RDL did not respond to one major part of the comment – in the end, the reason the government got involved was that the school took public money. We can argue exactly which core values we fight for, and the value of governmental noninterference with internal religious affairs. However, if the fundamental issue is not religious freedom, but religious freedom to receive government money – then we are not all Emanuel. magia li should not be a core religious value – and raising it to such a value cheapens the true core values.

    This is simply not true. The reason the government got involved is because someone brought a petition to the Supreme Court. The Court’s decision is in no way dependent on the school’s receiving government money. Indeed, the red-line was crossed and the outrage generated by the Court’s order to the parents to send their children to the school — forbidding any other option, such as private schooling or or bussing the girls to Bnei Brak, on pain of contempt or jail.

    Had the Supreme Court limited its order to the school and left the parents free to do what they wished with their daughters (which, as I have pointed out repeatedly, is what American courts did in the integration cases) then you would not have had the demonstrations you had.

    With respect to the money issue, I would generally prefer the American system of privately funded religious schools. (In fact, the school in question is a Chinuch Atzmai school. Most of its funds are private.) But the counter-argument is that the government in Israel dominates the economy far more than it does in America. There is something unjust about a government taking almost all of the economic resources in its control (all in the name of the public good) and then conditioning its largess on religiously onerous terms.

  12. rachel w says:

    There may or may not be discrimination inthe Yeshiva world as a whole. However, that has nothing to do with this particular court case. This is judging the school in Emanuel. That school does not seem to me to have a discrimination problem (as is true with Slonimer chassidim in general). The End. They are not responsible for the problems of the whole Charedei community. They should not be bearing the entire burden of on their shoulders.

  13. dovid says:

    “Where was the bulk of the Mercaz/yeshivot hesder crowd?”

    I don’t know how representative or widespread this opinion is but someone associated with the Dati Leumi world commented that the Charedi crowd was to a great extent absent from the protests in 2005 against the evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements, that the Charedim did not empathize with the plight of the settlers who were standing to lose their homes and livelihood. Btw, most of them still don’t have a place to call it home and most of them are unemployed five years after the fact. In addition, the Emanuel drama may appear to them as an issue limited to the Charedi world. Anti sefardi bias is practically absent in their ranks.

  14. E-man says:

    Rabbi Landesman,

    I agree with you that there is discrimination. My point is that it seems like Rav Efrati and by extension Rav Elyashiv think like this Rosh Yeshiva that you are talking about in your story. The question is this, is the view that there is a quota for sefardim, but that is not discrimination ok or is there a problem there. It seems like you agree with me that there is a problem. However, that would mean we disagree with Rav Elyashiv.

    This conversation all started with the fact that you said this boy was not qualified to say the rally represented sinaat chinam. However, this boy saw the rally as something that endorses the quotas on sefardim and it was proven to be such because of Rav Efrati’s words, “There is no discrimination!”

    As you pointed out this denies reality since there is clearly discrimination. So this rally, although it was appropriate in some aspect, was inappropriate because it clearly was a rally for the right to have those 25% quotas.

    Also, how do you know this young man was not told to show this sign by his Rabbi?

  15. Ori says:

    Rabbi Dovid Landesman: The problem that I sought to raise was the case where the governemnt or its constituent agencies acts in a manner that all halachic authority would consider impermissible.

    Ori: It is unreasonable to expect people to give up on their religious beliefs at the whim of a government(1). It is also unreasonable for a government to give up its sovereignty because some citizens hold a certain religious belief(2). If a solution cannot be found by the two sides, the result is a civil war, or insurgency. That specter is supposed to scare people into being reasonable and looking for a solution.

    (1) For example, for Quakers to start supporting slavery after the Dredd-Scott decision.
    (2) I’m sure nobody reading this wants Israel to respect the Hamas, even though there are probably some Muslim citizens of Israel who think the Hamas is right.

  16. Meir Shinnar says:

    One more comment. RDL did not respond to one major part of the comment – in the end, the reason the government got involved was that the school took public money. We can argue exactly which core values we fight for, and the value of governmental noninterference with internal religious affairs. However, if the fundamental issue is not religious freedom, but religious freedom to receive government money – then we are not all Emanuel. magia li should not be a core religious value – and raising it to such a value cheapens the true core values.

  17. Meir Shinnar says:

    RDL
    The essential dilemma raised by your sugestion is whether these core values are determined by the State alone and whether they are to be interpreted by a secular court or by Torah authority. You raise the theoretical possibility of a beit din ruling that it was halachically impermissible to pay taxes

    I have never stated that the state decides what are my core values. As religious individuals, we do determine what are our core values – and when we resist the state. The state will have its own determination – based both on internal considerations and its understanding of those values -and when the two disagree, there will be conflict. I am not arguing that we have to agree with the state’s determination of what is a core value. However, if we raise as a core value listening to a bet din as the supreme authority – rather than the content of the psak- that becomes incompatible with governmental functioning ( which you grant.) . Your original post was precisely over this issue – that the prime issue was over the power of the government versus the power of bet din.

    BTW, once you state that the state can rely on other bate din – even in Emanuel there are other opinions, and the bet din approached actually disagreed with Slonim. However, you are surely aware of the position based on the ran (and endorsed, among others, by rav herzog zt”l – and the state can surely rely on rav herzog…) that the state, even though run by secular people and not necessarily in accordance with classic halacha – has the din of melech and its laws have halachic power…and while one can argue about whether that position applies to some of your examples, it surely applies in Emanuel….

    I would add that the position of the haredi community about Emanuel erodes its authority on the other issues that you raise – once it is perceived by the non haredi community (and with justification) that the primary issue is one of power – power of the state over power of the haredi authority – rather than reflecting what it would admit are core values – then when we raise issues about what truly are core values, it will be understood again as merely about power. Tafasta merube lo tafasta..

  18. Ben Waxman says:

    For example, how do we as observant Jews act when the Israeli Supreme Court decides that it is competent to decide that Conservative and Reform conversions are acceptable, or that the chareidi mayor of Jerusalem must agree to fund a gay parade or that the rabbanut of a city must agree to grant a kashrut certificate to a restaurant that is mechalel Shabbat?

    The job of the court is these cases is to see if the law is being applied fairly. If there is a law which states that the city of Jerusalem funds cultural events like parades, then the court can come in and say that the city must apply the criteria equally. If the city doesn’t want to give the gays money, then the Knesset should change the law; but it must change the law so that said law complies with the Basic Laws.

    The example of what happened with heter michira is a perfect example. The court did not rule that the HM is a good halacha or that we pasken like Rav Kook. It simply said that the Rabbinate is bound to follow procedures. When the Rabbinate chose to disregard the rules of management in an attempt to kill the HM, the court said, no you can’t do that.

    The way to act as observant Jews is to do the hard work and get people into Knesset or into the courts. And of course we could do the even harder work and get people to see the value and truth of Torah and then gay parades might not be issue.

  19. Ben Waxman says:

    In his speech he said that there has never been any discrimination against Sephardim amongst Torah Observant Jews. All Torah Observant Jews learn the Rambam together with Tosfos, the Beis Yosef with the Rema, the Arizal with Baal HaTanya, and the Mishnah Brurah together with the Ben Ish Chai.

    WADR this type of statement is a bit of fudge. It is very very easy to love people who exist in a book only. Dealing with your neighbor is something else entirely.

  20. dovid landesman says:

    the government would allow the haredi and dati community autonomy in certain areas
    Meir Shinnar

    The late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz once described the rabbanut harashit as Izevel granting Eliyahu ha-Navi his position as a prophet. Perhaps harsh, but is it that far from having Arab chavrei knesset vote on mihu yehudi?
    The essential dilemma raised by your sugestion is whether these core values are determined by the State alone and whether they are to be interpreted by a secular court or by Torah authority. You raise the theoretical possibility of a beit din ruling that it was halachically impermissible to pay taxes. To my thinking this would not be problematic since other batei din would rule otherwise and the State would have the ability to rely upon their ruling. I would, however, grant that in a democratic society this would be absurd and wouild strip the government of all authority which no-one wants.
    The problem that I sought to raise was the case where the governemnt or its constituent agencies acts in a manner that all halachic authority would consider impermissible. For example, how do we as observant Jews act when the Israeli Supreme Court decides that it is competent to decide that Conservative and Reform conversions are acceptable, or that the chareidi mayor of Jerusalem must agree to fund a gay parade or that the rabbanut of a city must agree to grant a kashrut certificate to a restaurant that is mechalel Shabbat? Are these compromises that we are permitted to make for the sake of achdut?

  21. cvmay says:

    Rav Zalman Melamed (not Ezra), Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Bet El, released a statement to his followers and talmidim; 1)To participate in the rally against the Higher Court meddling in the choice of an individual’s educational decision, (he continued).2) The Dati Leumi yeshiva chinuch is fully intergrated, (Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Ethopian, etc. – all pure-blooded yiddin), IOW no discrimination at all.
    Therefore, scarity of kippot serugot at this rally may be connected to statement #2. (This kehilla showed its contempt of the higher courts when it came to Amona, Gush Katif, etc… why waste the time in a replay??)

  22. Meir Shinnar says:

    Rav Landesman
    I think that several things are being confounded by your post.

    To begin with, framing the issue as one between following a bet din and following the government is problematic – because when one frames the issue that way – the power of the bet din versus the power of the government – no government can cede its power to an independent authority. If it is a power struggle, the government can not (and should not) concede. Furthermore, this argument of the bet din versus the government is problematic because it doesn’t address the content of the bet din. To give not such a far fetched example, if a haredi bet din would rule that it is impermissible to pay taxes to the zionist entity, or follow a variety of civil laws – would you argue that the government would be wrong in arresting those who follow such a psak?

    Rather, the issue has always been understood otherwise – the government would allow the haredi and dati community autonomy in certain areas – such as kashrut, zniut (giyus banot), etc – which reflect core values – but NOT that the core value is not to submit to the state. Yes, there are times that we resist the state – but raising the issue of adherence to the bet din and psak as the core value – and a battle that the state can not afford to lose.

    The question, therefore, is whether there is a core value involved in the actual psak – and not every psak is a yehareg ve’al ya’avor. . While one can reasonably argue the merits of enforcing uniformity of reasonable standards, and I don’t have any specific knowledge of whether there is racial discrimination/profiling involved -it is clear that there are many poskim who have very different ideas of the merits of uniformity versus inclusiveness, and that the content of the psak – as distinct from its being a psak – is one that is hardly universally endorsed as a core value, and one that the state would have many poskim on its side…

    However, even if it is a core value for Slonim – and religious freedom does extend even to small minorities – it is also clear that the state was perfectly willing for them to follow their core values – but not in a state funded institution. Slonim and the demonstrators want more than the right to follow their psak against the state- they wanted to follow their psak and have the state fund it…. That is hardly a core value. If one does not wish to accept the authority of the state in some areas – don’t take funding.

  23. dovid landesman says:

    How do you explain his statement that there is no discrimination? Just because he only says we learn sephardi seforim does not change the fact that he proclaims that there is no discrimination against sephardic Jews which you claim is false. Do you understand my problem here?

    E-man: I would suggest that you ask R. Efrati whether or not there is a quota system in the major Ashkenazi yeshivot like Chevron and Ponovezh. I suspect that there is none in the Mir because of the open enrollment tradition of R. Beinish and R. Chaim zt”l. The sad fact of life is that the Ashkenazi yeshivot [and a number of Sefaradi ones as well – e.g., Kol Yaakov]in EY are afraid that if they follow a truly non-discrimanitory policy and accept talmidim based on ability and motivation alone, Ashkenazi bochurim will stop enrolling.
    Let me provide you with anecdotal support that I witnessed. A young man of Sefaradic background came for a bechinah to one of the prominent roshei yeshiva in EY. At the end of the bechinah, the RY asked him why he was so interested in learning in that specific institution given the differences in minhag et al. He replied “because”I want to be in an Ashkenazi yeshiva.” The RY replied: “So do I and therefore I cannot accept you.” I asked the RY why he had rejected the young man and he told me point blank that if he accepted more than 25% Sefaradim, his Ashkenazi bochurim would leave the yeshiva.

  24. E-man says:

    I looked it up again

    The central address was given by HaRav Yosef Efrati. He said there were 4 points: 1] To protest the fact that within our own community there are people who turn to the secular courts to decide an issue that relates to the basic education. 2] To protest the fact that there are some who accuse us of racial discrimination. This is totally false. Those who learn Tur and Shulchan Oruch, the Rambam and the Hagahos Maimoniyos, the Mishnah Berurah and Ben Ish Chai – cannot be accused of any sort of racism. On the contrary. It was the official State institutions and the Zionist movements that backed them that brutally suppressed the culture of the early Sephardic immigrants. They were the ones who introduced racism. 3] To explain to ourselves and to declare publicly that with regard to all the issues that are critical to the Jewish soul, secular institutions have no say whatsoever. 4] To fulfill venikdashti. This is not a tangential “shoelace” issue but the core of our being. This is without a doubt an issue over which we have to be prepared for mesiras nefesh.

    Rav Efrati says STRAIGHT OUT, we do not discriminate, rather it is the secular zionists that discriminate. How can you deny the fact that he is arguing with you???

  25. E-man says:

    Rabbi Landesman,

    You say there is discrimination and Rabbi Efrati said there is not. Now, he brings in rather interesting tools to declare there is no discrimination, but he declares it nonetheless. You however say there is discrimination. How is that not a contradiction?

    How do you explain his statement that there is no discrimination? Just because he only says we learn sephardi seforim does not change the fact that he proclaims that there is no discrimination against sephardic Jews which you claim is false. Do you understand my problem here?

  26. Nisan Hershkowitz says:

    A stated goal of publicly funded education in American society is to teach civics: a certain minimum level of communitarianism,where citizens feel they are “in this together.”It can be argued that this is NOT descriptive of the Israeli system, where taxpayers fund four different streams.

    However,the stated basis of the separate systems IS curricular.The systems that educate Israeli Arabs,Dati-Leumi and Chinuch Atzmai are recognized as legitimate and worthy of public support because of the special instructional needs of their constituents.

    It is apparent from the hafganot that it is social separation that is the true basis for special status for the Chinuch Atzmai stream in the eyes of its advocates.

    American parents who want their children separately educated, for whatever reason, send them to private schools.

    Is social separation a value that Israeli taxpayers should fund? As it stands,fulfillment of legal requirements for minimal secular education in mathematics,English,etc., are ignored by several C.A. schools with government complicity.That’s illegality committed “b’Shev ve-Al Ta’aseh.” But to actually build a physical barrier within the school building would seem to be a violation of law “b’Kum va-Aseh” that any self-respecting authority cannot ignore.

    Perhaps an equitable solution for the Emmanuel situation would be to have askanim build a separate building nearby.Teachers who now participate in both programs will continue to be able do so without loss to their livelihoods. And the students will have their parents’ “unstated ” goals fulfilled too.

  27. dr. bill says:

    Doron Beckerman, if Rabbi Brander’s statement and the context of the Rav ztl’s psak do not impact your POV, then I suspect there is little to discuss. and to make things a tad clearer, if you think all this amounts to something close to yaharog ve’al yaavor, i fear you might think similarly about a chareidi forced to a MO lifestyle. (That was meant to be funny!) and btw, that sort of rhetoric, in the hands of a student, can be, God forbid, taken seriously.

    as i suggested, read prof. silber’s essay; it traces the history of escalating the severity of offenses. in an already tense situation, it is also rather unhelpful.

  28. Doron Beckerman says:

    Dr. Bill, I can’t find anything substantive in what you said that would cause me to rethink what I said.

    an analogy to what was an analogy to what the Rav ztl said,

    This is not merely about an analogy to an analogy, but Halachic meta-narratives.

    quite possibly as Horaat Shaah

    RHS apparently did not think so, though the entire institution of arkesa demasana could perhaps be inherently categorized as hora’as shaah.

    and must be read NOT as you imply but as Rabbi Brander explained,

    Frankly, Rabbi Brander’s explanation did nothing, as far as I could tell, to mitigate the import of Rav Schachter’s categorization.

    is a good example of how rhetoric versus reason,

    I think the extent of framing the debate as one of accepting the superiority of the dictates of Bagatz over those of Rabbis falls squarely within RHS’ parameters of an issue becoming emblematic of harisas hadas. “Looms large” is entirely accurate, and the precise dimensions depend on said extent of framing of the debate.

    I would not be entirely surprised to hear next in the spirit of your comment, that a chareidi should choose death rather than submit to a MO lifestyle.

    I can’t make heads or tails of this comment.

  29. Jewish Observer says:

    “Do you really feel qualified to make that kind of accusation against Rav Elyashiv and Rav Aron Leib Shteinman?”

    – by dragging these gedolim into the discussion you are making the (presummedly) sincere demonstrator into a bad guy who is calling gedolim names. From his perspective he sees sinat chinam in the demonstration. the appropriate and productive response should be to explain why it is not sinat chiname, not to provoke him by in effect calling him a gedolim hater

  30. dr. bill says:

    Doron Beckerman, you write: When Justice Levy frames the issue as accepting the superiority of decisions of Bagatz over those of one’s Rabbis, Rav Hershel Schachter’s parameters for what constitutes Yehareg V’Al Yaavor loom large.

    Even with your caveats and language – “looms large” – an analogy to what was an analogy to what the Rav ztl said, quite possibly as Horaat Shaah and must be read NOT as you imply but as Rabbi Brander explained, is a good example of how rhetoric versus reason, only further exacerbates a complex situation. To include a Gadol Be’Yisroel in your rhetoric is neither helpful nor proper.

    If yours was an isolated occurrence, it would be objectionable but hardly significant. Unfortunately, as prof. Silber’s seminal essay has documented this type of escalation of issurim, has a history that traces back to the beginnings of the ultra-chareidi movement strongly opposed by the major poskim of that day.

    I would not be entirely surprised to hear next in the spirit of your comment, that a chareidi should choose death rather than submit to a MO lifestyle.

  31. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Rabbi Landesman,

    Let me explain why I’m “not Emanuel”.

    I see this primarily as a self-inflicted wound. First and foremost it’s a Chareidi on Chareidi issue that unfortunately and unnecessarily spilled into the secular courts. It was an issue borne out of, what I see as, gross insensitivity: the manner in which the school was divided, the draconian rules among which forbade association with the other girls. Few, in any, would have had an issue if the Slonim Chassidim quietly and patiently opened up a new Beis Yaakov with their own set of special requirements. It happens in Israel all the time. Even Justice Levy recognized the permissibility of such accommodations.

    While it’s unfortunate that Justice Levy had to state that no Rabbi is above the court. It is a secular court. That reality existed whether he stated it or not. Besides which, I’m not convinced that this was a Halachic issue. Let’s face it, if the case were one of clear cut discrimination, even if a leading Rabbi had promulgated the racist rules, few would have objected so vociferously to the court’s decision. (Now that the Beit Din initiated by the Slonim Chassidim has apparently ruled against them it will be interesting to see what transpires.)

    There seems to be an element of schizophrenia in parts of the Chareidi community. On the one hand they reject the state and its institutions because they weren’t founded on the basis of Torah. And yet they scream when these very same institutions fail to act in that way. Maybe if some of these elements had taken a more active, productive role in the early years things would be different now. To that end anything that gives you pause to consider the Satmar Rebbe’s position is merely part of a self-fulling prophecy.

    From where I sit, I’m much more concerned about the damage being done to the fabric of this society by the increasingly extreme and intolerant positions being taken by some in the Chareidi world than anything the leftists are doing. The Emanuel case was just another example.

  32. dovid landesman says:

    But this is against Rav Elyashiv, isn’t it. As I heard “After that Rav Elyashiv’s gabbai spoke, followed by Rav David Batzri, a sephardi mekubel. In his speech he said that there has never been any discrimination against Sephardim amongst Torah Observant Jews. All Torah Observant Jews learn the Rambam together with Tosfos, the Beis Yosef with the Rema, the Arizal with Baal HaTanya, and the Mishnah Brurah together with the Ben Ish Chai.”

    E-man: I sincerely wonder how you could so misconstrue what I said as being in contradiction to Rav Elyashiv! I claim that there is substantial prejudice in the olam hayeshivot against accepting Sefaradim – there are quotas for example that are well known and hardly hidden. This has absolutely nothing to do with R. Efrati’s remarks that we learn the Beit Yosef as well as the Rama – no one contends that this is the type of discrimination that was referred to. There is also a great distance between my claiming that there is discrimination and accusing the participants of the demonstration – including Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman – of being guilty of sinat chinam. I trust that you can see the difference.

  33. Ori says:

    YEA: “The essential problem is that an avowedly secular court feels no constraints in issuing decisions in areas in which they should not be intervening”.
    Bingo. For this reason alone, all non-socialist freedom-loving Israelis should be joining the protests. Unfortunately, the protesters have been making this an issue of “we listen to our Rabbis and therefore the courts are wrong”. I think this is a mistake. Honestly, who, (other than a Slonimer chassid), cares if the Slonimer Rebbe said to listen to the courts or not? The courts have no business telling people how to educate their children, period. Therefore, even secular Israelis ought to object to such interference.

    Ori: Spoken like a true American (I consider that a compliment). Unfortunately, I doubt that Israeli Charedim actually have parental autonomy as an ideal. Imagine the Charedi response if somebody were to open a Christian school for Jewish(1) kid. Or, for that matter, a perfectly Atheistic school that only taught Tana”ch in high school so kids can pass the government end-of-school exams to get to university.

    (1) Ethnically and Halachically Jewish, that is. Obviously, parents who enroll their kids in such a school wouldn’t consider themselves religiously Jewish.

  34. E-man says:

    Rabbi Landesman, I am utterly perplexed at the contradiction that you put forth. You say: “Do you really feel qualified to make that kind of accusation against Rav Elyashiv and Rav Aron Leib Shteinman?”

    However, then you say “Permit me to share my feelings and fears with you. As a caveat, I am convinced by evidence that I have personally witnessed through the years that there is a great deal of prejudice within the Ashkenazi Torah world against Sefaradim.”

    But this is against Rav Elyashiv, isn’t it. As I heard “After that Rav Elyashiv’s gabbai spoke, followed by Rav David Batzri, a sephardi mekubel. In his speech he said that there has never been any discrimination against Sephardim amongst Torah Observant Jews. All Torah Observant Jews learn the Rambam together with Tosfos, the Beis Yosef with the Rema, the Arizal with Baal HaTanya, and the Mishnah Brurah together with the Ben Ish Chai. He said that discrimination against Sephardim was introduced by the Secular Zionists when they took the yaldei teheran and cut off their peyot and forced upon them the gods of secularism.”

    So are you qualified to argue with Rav Elyashiv here?

  35. L. Oberstein says:

    My opinion is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.The secular ideology of Israel’s socialist founders was anti religious and the kulturkampf was not started by the chareidim.The large number of Jews dressed in garb that is designed to show how totally different they are is just an external way of showing that we don’t want to have anything to do with you. Now we have new generations that are not rebelling against Torah as much as they are totally ignorant of basic Jewishness. Israeis who go abroad for Pesach and eat chametz are indicative of this tragedy.
    I do not accept that it is an either or situation. Israel unfortunately has chosen a political system that politicizes everything including religion. If I had my druthers(that’s a Southern phrase) I would prefer that religion not be legislated in a coercive way.If we the religious were mekadesh Hashem more they the secular would see us as a positive force in the state. When rabbis are chosen by politics, laws are passed by back room deals, etc. we have a situation where organized religious sometimes leads to chilul Hashem.
    I know I am being naive and sound like an American, but I think we would do for Hashem and His Torah if we abolished the religious parties, made electoral districts and had each Knesset member try to get the votes of all segments. There is too much coruption in Israel and religious is not exempt.That is the biggest problem in bringing secular Israelis to Torah values.

  36. Doron Beckerman says:

    When Justice Levy frames the issue as accepting the superiority of decisions of Bagatz over those of one’s Rabbis, Rav Hershel Schachter’s parameters for what constitutes Yehareg V’Al Yaavor loom large.

  37. Michael says:

    As described by IT, the Dati community loves everyone and judges everyone favorably… as long as they are not charedim. That’s when religious standards — because they are perhaps more strict than those IT might like — are no different than a poll tax (as if closing the top button of her shirt was something only an Ashkenazi girl could do). If we remember that every Israeli girl speaks modern Hebrew in the street, it’s not hard to see why the teachers might want to avoid confusion long enough for a girl to reach sixth grade (when they no longer daven as a group and girls can use whatever Nusach their family prefers).

    Of course, no one should know that more than the Dati’im, who for generations have taught students, especially Ashkenazim, to abandon their family’s Mesorah in favor of modern Hebrew pronunciation, a dumbed down, least-common-denominator pareve speech which is faithful to no Jewish tradition — no kamatz or saf of the Ashkenazim, no ayin or het of the Sepharadim, no jimmel or thaf of the Yemenites.

    I guess to a Dati person of the IT style, only Ben-Yehudah is qualified to make arbitrary decisions about what accent to use.

    Thankfully, saner minds, such as that of Rav Zalman Melamed, also exist in the Dati community.

  38. Daniel says:

    Surely, if a school is funded by the state, the state courts have a right to intervene in the running of the school. If the school wants to set its own rules that contravene the state rules, then let them go private and therefore avoid court interference. Its chutzpa to suggest that Haredim can take from the state but that the state have no right to intervene.
    BTW, I am a proud dati leumi, have taught Tanach and learns as well as works and am horrified by what has happened to the haredi community in the last few years. It seems so alien to the Yehadut I have learnt.

  39. IT says:

    R’ Landesman makes a crucial error in his analysis of the Emmanuel case and then asks a question based on that error.

    I am glad R’ Landesman acknowledges the racism that exists in the Hareidi world. Given that racism, it is incorrect to conclude that objective criteria for entry into a school system renders those criteria “kosher”. To give a parallel example, I don’t think anyone with a sophisticated background in US law can argue that a poll tax is anything but discriminatory. Yet, poll taxes were always objective criteria. (In addition to being objective, they had a strong justification but this is not the forum for a discussion on poll taxes) The flaw in the analysis is failing to recognize that “objective” criteria are often a proxy for race especially in an environment and society in which discrimination is rampant. Requiring that the girls daven Ashkenaz is extreme. Requiring that they daven Ashkenaz EVEN at home is nothing short of racist. Now I know that particular requirement (and a few other egregious examples) may not have been in place at the time of the court’s decision. But their existence only highlights the fact that the entry requirements were designed to keep out sefardim. That they dropped the more egregious restrictions doesn’t change the obvious conclusion of the court.

    The dati community, by contrast, has done an excellent job at fostering a sense of unity among its members. Racism is far less prevalent (if not completely eradicated) from their communities. Sefardim, russians, ashkenazim, teimanim, and others marry each other at much higher rates. Their children study and play together. Its one of the benefits of actually emphasizing Jewish nationality. Perhaps they see the rally for what it really is: A rally for the right to discriminate.

  40. Esther says:

    Wow, what a breath of fresh air, open-minded and objective. Yasher Koach, Rabbi Landesman. I feel like making the bracha שהחיינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה.

  41. YEA says:

    “The essential problem is that an avowedly secular court feels no constraints in issuing decisions in areas in which they should not be intervening”.
    Bingo. For this reason alone, all non-socialist freedom-loving Israelis should be joining the protests. Unfortunately, the protesters have been making this an issue of “we listen to our Rabbis and therefore the courts are wrong”. I think this is a mistake. Honestly, who, (other than a Slonimer chassid), cares if the Slonimer Rebbe said to listen to the courts or not? The courts have no business telling people how to educate their children, period. Therefore, even secular Israelis ought to object to such interference.

  42. Mike S. says:

    Perhaps not living in Israel, I lack a certain perspective. But it seems to me that if the issue is the primacy of Torah, some of the Gedolim should have suggested more forcefully that the Chassidim live up to the halacha before a secular court had to do so. If Torah is to be supreme, those who raise its banner must live up to its ideals. If those who claim to demonstrate a Torah life cannot behave in a way that all can recognize as morally superior to those who live without Torah, we will fail, Rachamana litzlan, and only direct intervention from Hakadosh Baruch Hu will preserve the Torah. In my youth I often heard Rav Soloveitchick ZT”L raise this point. It is still true.

    Chazal set standards for who can be excluded from the community; to go beyond that and exclude others violates numerous points of halacha: ona’at devarim, lo tisna et achicha, v’ahavta l’rayecha, lashon hara and others. It doesn’t matter whether the motive is racial, ethnic or a desire to live with certain chumrot. A main point of the Torah is to drive out arrogance and replace it with submission to the Divine Will; using frumkeit to marginalize others, especially to marginalize other frum Jews, is the antithesis of Torah. Did the Chazon Ish, ZT”L not say that, in our day, when so many Jews are raised without Torah, even those who Chazal would have excluded should be reached out to with love rather than harshness? How much more so those who meet the standards set for inclusion in the community.

  43. dr. bill says:

    two points:

    1) The essense of the halakhic process is it is ability to deal with changes in circumstance if and only if they are relevant. The famous opinions of the CI and CC on who assumes the status of tinok shenishba and women’s education respectively clearly affirmed that. Adherence to tradition or invoking what was agreed to previously requires one to judge if circumstance has indeed changed in the interim. You write: “The present court, however, seems to feel that it has no reason to continue the gestures of the majority toward the minority.” Reasonable people can consider a minority of say 5% versus 25% to amount to changed circumstance. No state can/would/should allow a MAJORITY of its entering first-graders to be educated contrary ot its judgment of what is required. between arabs within the green line and charedim, Israel now faces that challenge.

    2) A state (jewish or otherwise) is not restricted to only the strictures of halakha. I know this is debated, but “No court verdict requires the approval of any rabbi,” has been upheld by rishonim, (some key chachmai sforad and provance in particular) who in fact recognized that the functioning of a society requires the courts to punish beyond what the halakha would require or permit(laws of evidence and commercial transactions are the cases cited). Of course, if their decision is anti-halakhic, one has every right and / or obligation to suffer the consequences of disobeying a court if their rabbinic authorities would so advice them. As you point out some distinguished rabbis icluding R. Shapira ztl, the former rishon leTzion so adviced soldiers. That said the learned justice, is still on completely solid ground with his assertion. As well, in law as in halakha there are often multiple opinions; both have mechanisms for decision making for their constituents.

    I do agree with you that this is about much more than discrimination.

  44. dovid landesman says:

    I have no argument with Rabbi Oberstein’s theoretics – nor do I suspect that the Satmar rebbe zt”l would have had any either. What he fails R. Oberstein fails to address, however, is the fundamental question that I raised. Not should we, but how do we? Can an observant Jew accept the rule of a secular court as binding when it contradicts the Torah? Leave aside all of the peripheral issues of contributing to the klal and assuming responsibility. Forget, for the moment, the need to learn to work for a living. Answer one question, R. oberstein. Can we make the necessary compromises to live in a democratic state of Jews?

  45. Matt says:

    Of course as the State goes, so will we Jews. I believe if Israel disappears, so we embolden our enemies. How many gedolim rejoiced when they heard of the state being created? The problem has been the overwhelming refusal of the frum to get involved over the years and straddle the fence hoping issues will resolve without our input and hard work. The frum community in Israel is even more divided than in America. The lack of achdut is killing us. Yes, Torah rules should be upehld as the bottom line, but were we dealing with halchah or chumrah? I don’t know. And if this was the issue to break it on, and it turns out to be a Slonim chumrah, and on that we protest each other, we need to have our gedolim re assess whom they are standing for. “Me L”Hashem Ailaiy” is still a battle cry we hear from Moshe. When we attempt to use Satmar as an example to bring down the state are you really for Hashem? Can you have it both ways, and distain the State while demanding Torah? It’s time for our Gedolim to make a bold choice.

  46. L. Oberstein says:

    David Landesman is one of those people whose views usually align with mine. Let’s not take the logic too far. Even those of us who are more centrist sometimes in moments of great frustration think “maybe Kahane was right”. When we are upset about something in the secular state of israel ,we might be tempted to say “Maybe satmar was right”. Neither option is viable. Without a solution that the nations of the world will accept, israel’s long term viability is indoubt. Ethnic clensing is not something we Jews have done in thousands of years and we didn’t do it too well even in Biblical times,either. As far as Satmar, the rebbe was a great man and he rebuilt his kehilla from the ashes. But, without the State of Israel after the Holocaust, our Jewish People would have drowned in dispair and lacked the will to live on. Israel revitalized the Jewish People and led to a rebirth of orthodoxy if one is willing to see further than his nose. Kahane was wrong, the Satmar was ok for Satmar but not for the greater good of Klal Yisroel. The chareidim in Israel are facing great internal conflicts. The need for them to learn to work for a living is vital to the existence of the State. They need to be integrated into every aspect of society , just like in the USA. The chareidi model needs to be able to deal with diversity and to moderate now that it is no longer a small persecuted minority under the thumb of the socialists. There are no more socialists, so let’s declare victory and join the country.

  47. Joe Hill says:

    Yes, Reb Dovid, its time to acknowledge the Satmar Rebbe zt”l was right, as you’ve started to broach the possibility. So was the Brisker Rov zt”l and the many others.