Yesh Atid, Elazar Stern, and the religious status quo

About two weeks ago, Binyanei Haummah in Jerusalem hosted a Rabbinic conference regarding the aggressive legislative action taken during the reign of the recently fallen government in matters pertaining to State and religion.

The organization responsible for the gathering (called Libah Yehudit) put out this clip:

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Prominently featured are Yesh Atid MKs Aliza Lavi, who states at a Conservative conference that she cannot go as far as she would like to make changes because she would otherwise lose her legitimacy within the Orthodox world and thus have no political clout; Yair Lapid, who proclaims at a Reform gathering that he will work toward granting the heterodox equal religious footing; and Shai Piron, who retracts his statement that a homosexual couple is not a family and lists his accomplishments on behalf of LGBT recognition in Israel.

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9 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    I’m reminded of Rashi on Numbers 11:28 when Eldad and Medad continue prophesying within the camp,Yehpshua said to Moshe, “Adoni Moshe kela’em – My Lord Moses, destroy them.” Rashi on the spot comments “imprison them: Heb. כְּלָאֵם. Impose upon them communal responsibilities and they will be finished (כָּלִים) [as prophets] by themselves (Sanh. 17a). ” It’s very easy to second guess those in power, very difficult to govern in a heterogeneous society.

    Joel Rich

  2. dr. bill says:

    I read Rabbi Alderstein’s column and wondered whether it would result in an increase in articles that address positions taken by those identified with the right wing of the orthodox community. so far the score is 0-2. I can only assume that Rabbis Piron and Yankelowitz have followers within the cross-currents readership, that need be made aware of their true nature.

    I think it is time to restrict columns to express points of view that express what is believed versus what is problematic in some one else’s. In no case are snippets absent context appropriate.

    [DB – I can only speak regarding Yesh Atid. There, most emphatically, it has followers within the cross-currents readership who are either unaware of its true nature, or prefer to overlook/ignore/bury their heads in the sand about it due to certain parts of its agenda of which they approve. I don’t intend to let them remain ignorant.]

  3. Y. Ben-David says:

    If you will note the subtitles at the bottom and listen carefully to what she says (I played it several times) she does NOT say she doesn’t grant legitimacy to Orthodoxy. I find it somewhat difficult to translate what she said but I think the meaning is that she can NOT take away legitimacy from Orthodox. My understanding is that she herself is religious. I presume she is telling this C group that they can not expect the state to “disestablish” the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate and its legal powers.

    Whether we like it or not, most Israeli Jews do not consider themselves “Orthodox” and it is not possible to ignore their views in religion-and-state matters. For example, they can not understand why Orthodox synagogues may receive Orthodox financial support but non-Orthodox ones.
    I once heard an Orthodox lawyer many years ago tell the court adjudicating a case where a non-Orthodox group was trying to rent a municipal hall for High Holiday services that “it is better for the public to stay home rather than pray in an non-Orthodox setting”. I myself am Orthodox/religious but I have come around to rejecting that point of view These people, who I presume are not very learned, are trying to find some say to expressing at least some Jewish spirituality/religiosity and religious Jews should encourage it not discourage it It is time to move beyong “sectarian” views of Judaism, and to comprehent the true relationship of Jews and their Torah….that the Jewish people are a NATION and the Torah is our Constitution. Judaism is NOT a religious sect like the Amish who view themselves as some sort of spiritual elite, cut off from the rest of the world, even other Christians.

  4. Doron Beckerman says:


    You are more or less correct, I thought she said להביע but she said לאבד. I updated the post to reflect this.

    On the body of your comment, there are three options other than the current status quo:

    (1) Making the Orthodox hegemony more user-friendly
    (2) Total separation of religion and State.
    (3) Having other brands of religion/the heterodox shape the religious character of the State.

    The first is Bayit Yehudi.

    The second we can discuss.

    This third option is rather uniquely Yesh Atid (and some Hatenuah z”l); the seculars by and large still know, as Golda Meir put it, that the shul they don’t go to (or that they bar mitzvah their kid at) is Orthodox, and altering that is catastrophic. The State could easily lose its status as a State of Jews, because the country will be full of non-halachic “Jews.” Your term “Jewish nation” in the context of the State of Israel will cease to have meaning. Where does it end? Jews for J giyur? Perhaps anyone who serves in the IDF is defined as a Jew?

    More importantly, though, I’m not addressing seculars. I’m more interested in addressing Orthodox Jews. I don’t understand how you can claim the Torah as the nation’s Constitution and not oppose having its distorters or agnostics implement their version of it. Is this the direction you want the country to take? Do you want the State to recognize gay marriage? Do you want an assisted suicide law (Ofer Shelach)? Do you want to abolish the Chief Rabbinate (Calderon)? Do you want the Battei Din undermined? Does any of this matter to you?

  5. L. Oberstein says:

    I recognize that Cross-Currents reprresents a certain stream within the orthodox rainbow and defending the indefensible is not part of the dialogue. But, I will say it anyway. I am personally not supporting Yesh Atid and I am disappointed in their use of a club when they could have accomplished more with incentives than punishments. Almost everyone who regularly comkments on Cross-Currents says that the status quo in Chareidi Israeli is not only not sustainable but is harming many young people by denying them a way out of a system that does not give them the ability to earn a legal income and support their families as equally frum fathers do in the USA. Yesh Atid did not reveal anti religious bias as much as naive ignorance of how to go about changing a system that ,if left unchecked, would saddle 50% of Israel with supporting and defendinvg the other 50% in not so many years in the future. Israel can not survive unless chareidim in Israel act like chareidim in the US and elsewhere, work, show loyalty to the state and use their brains to advance Israel. As far as the social issues of non orthodox Judaism and what the Jewish Press calls “toeiva marriage”,etc. These issues are most troublesome but unless the chareidim and the Rabbanut figure out how to have a less negative image, nobody will pay attention to them. Even if you are right, you have to go about it in a positive way. That seems to be the opposite of how politics in Israel is done, insults, condemnation, bans,etc. It hasn’t worked and it won’t work. I wish some of those who enjoy poinbting out how far from Torah everyone else is would understand how to effectively get that message across to people who do not share your givens.

  6. lacosta says:

    O Judaism and unfettered democracy are incompatible. there never was the concept in judaism of a secular governing entity, as opposed to a Halachic Malchus Beis Dovid. The vast majority of Haredi Judaism bet against a non Mashiach based plan for jewish life in the patrimony, and when the Zionist entity won, they lost big time, and struggle to get the spoils of victory when they were the losing side… the solutions that O [and certainly haredi] society would like for the State, are not the answer that the 70 % of non-O Israel wants , anymore that the 90% non-O in the USA …. but this is something that all fundamentalist religions [including the 10% non-moderate moslems] struggle when they try and consider how much democracy to allow–knowing that the right to eat pig,abort , or drive a bus on saturday is what the majority wants ,even whe G-d abhors it….

  7. Doron Beckerman says:


    This has much to do with pro- or anti-medinah, but perhaps not in the way you think it does. On the contrary, the more anti-Zionist one is, the more one feels vindicated by the existence of Yesh Atid. The video was put out by followers of Rav Kook, and they are spearheading this battle for the religious character of the State. The separation of religion and State is not something the black-kippah Charedim necessarily need to fight; some serious Charedi thinkers say they should wash their hands of the whole thing and not give any Kashrus certificate to an undeserving establishment. The Rav Kook followers, who hold that the State is the throne of G-d on earth, are the ones whose vision stands to be demolished by Yesh Atid.

    L. Oberstein,

    The Charedi system is indeed unsustainable, and therefore forcing it into a defensive posture was extremely counterproductive to existing trends. You will see statistics of rising Charedi employment rates during the tenure of the past government – but the hidden factor is that *everyone over age 22* was suddenly freed for army service and could get an education and a job! That’s not a long-term solution, but more importantly – what Yesh Atid did was create a environment within the Yeshiva world that going out to work was rewarding an enemy of the Yeshivos (and that Yair Lapid most certainly is; Religious Zionist Yeshivot suffered under Yesh Atid), so it was verboten (even in moderate Charedi Yeshivot such as Itri). Sure, some handfuls ignored it. But do you realize how much more – staggeringly much more – could have been accomplished with the same huge group of people over 22? Perhaps it is still not too late.

    What are your specific criticisms of Chief Rabbis Lau (sr. and jr.)?

  8. L. Oberstein says:

    La Costa, Rabbi Lau is one of the most beloved figures in Israel and his son is a very nice fellow. I met him in Modiin where my children live. The Rabbanut is far larger than them. Why did you pick them when you could have picked the most recent Chief Rabbi, the one who may go to prison for theft? Are you unaware of the coruption in issuing kashrut certification , itis basicly a situation where the guy shows up to get his check from the one he supervises and otherwise does nothing. Many observant Israelis of the Modern Orthodox variety tell me that they have no respect for the Rabanut and there are already kashrut supervision outside of the present system. As far as weddings are concerned, it is a disrace adn everyone knows it. Tzohar performs weddings for free, its rabbis receive no remuneration and they treat people with respect. The official rabbininate is not respected and they act as functionaries,not as religious leaders. The chareidi kashrus is amazing, there are more hechsherim every day, everyone wants a piece of the pie and it has nothing to do with kashrus, it’s al about money and jobs.Go to Machaneh Yehudah and see how many people the poor stall owner has to pay off to put up a sign that his vegetables are kosher. You simply cannot compare the politically appointed rabbis to figures like Rav Kook or Rav Herzog. Rabbi Lau is very friendly and knows how to play the game and is doing quite well. All in all, it is a real balagan.

  9. Y. Ben-David says:

    Rav Beckerman-
    Put me in the first category that you listed: It is time that the Orthodox establishment make itself more “Userfriendly”.
    The State Chief Rabbinate is supposed to be supported by and accepted by the entire Jewish community of Israel. Today it isn’t, it doesn’t even represent the majority of the Orthodox/religious community which is not Haredi. Having someone like Rav Stav elected as Chief Rabbi would have gone a long way to healing the religious rifts between the religious and non-religious communities, but it wasn’t to be. Yaron London, wrote before the last election for Chief Rabbi that he supported the election of the Haredi candidates because that would increase opposition among the non-religious majority and would accelerate moves to abolish the Chief Rabbinate entirely and bring about separation of religion and state in Israel. Rav Stav and the Tzohar Rabbis are trying to SAVE the Chief Rabbinate but they encouner opposition from within the Haredi and Hardal communities which, on the one hand insist on controlling the Chief Rabbinate, but which, on the other hand, do not recognize its authority. The time has come for change.

    Regarding your concerns about anti-religious legislation. First of all, we must define the term “anti-religious”. Fifty years ago, it was the goal of the self-proclaimed anti-religious to reduce religious influence in the country to an absolute minimum and they viewed the religious community as a negative phenomenon holding back the development of the country. Examples were “non-Jews won’t fly in El-Al if we don’t serve trafe food on it”, “religiuos Jews who refuse to work on Shabbat are lazy and are damaging the economic base of the country”, “importation of foreign vegetables during Shmitta year is a waste of foreign currency”,”my Shabbat where I wash my car or go to the beach or listen to the Beatles is just as valid form as Judaism as your going to the synagogue and resting”, etc, etc.
    NO ONE TALKS THAT WAY ANYMORE. Certainly not Lapid and his Yesh Atid party (which I strongly oppose on other grounds). Today, young Israelis have a “live and let live” attitude. They respect sincerely religious people and are even willing to have their tax money go to support religous education and services. However, many don’t want it shoved down their throats, interfering in their private lives. The challenge is to maneuver around to get them to realize that some form of “religious coercion” is good for them too. We need articulate religious leaders who understand the modern non-religious Israeli to get this message through, in a “userfriendly” way.

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