Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Battle for Jerusalem

Charedim versus Secular and Modern Orthodox Jews. That’s the scenario in Jerusalem. And that’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of Torah Judaism in Israel’s capital.

At issue is the election on November 11th of Jerusalem’s next mayor. The current mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, who is himself Charedi is very popular and would surely be re-elected. But he is not running for another term. Not because he doesn’t want to. But because he is honoring one of -what seems to be - the stupidest rules ever created by a political party in Israel.

United Torah Judaism is the political party of Charedim in Israel. But as small as that party is, it is a divided one. There are two factions. One is the Chasidic oriented Agudat Israel and the other factions is Lithuanian/Yeshivishe Degel HaTorah. Each has its own representatives.

In a power sharing agreement it was decided that the leader of each faction would share power and take turns in elected office. That means Lulpoliansky’s turn is over. He must now pass the baton to the leader of the other faction, Rabbi Meir Porush. This almost guarantees that the Charedi party will lose the mayoralty of Jerusalem to the secular candidate, Nir Birkat. He is being supported by both secular and Modern Orthodox Jews.

How did Lupoliansky get the support of so many modern Orthodox Jews as well as secular Jews? Why are Frum Jews not supporting the Frum Candidate?

Lupoliansky knew how to get along with everyone. He did not shove religion down everyone’s throat. And yet he did not give up on any of his religious principles. Perhaps most importantly, he was an effective mayor that ran the city well.

Rabbi Porush has no such reputation. In fact he has an opposite one. Here is an excerpt of an article from World Jewish Digest that illustrates that:

In one infamous incident in 1987, he(Rabbi Porush) entered a movie theatre on Shabbat and shouted "Shabbes, Shabbes!" Further, in an interview with the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia last year, he declared war on the Education Ministry for directives requiring that secular subjects be taught in ultra- Orthodox schools.

This is a man whose vision of Jerusalem is hardly one of tolerance. He has no interest in Modern Orthodoxy. And secular Jews are seen as the enemy! He wants to turn Jerusalem into one big Charedi town. His method? If past is prologue - see above. Jerusalem may very well turn into one big Meah Shearim.

Modern Orthodox Jews in Israel see this and are completely turned off. As a result they have teamed up with secular Jews in opposition to Rabbi Porush . And he will lose big time to the secular candidate Nir Birkat. And that’s too bad. Frankly I don’t blame any non Charedi for fearing Rabbi Porush. The last thing I would want to see is Jerusalem turning into one big Meah Shearim. Secular Jews along with Modern Orthodox Jews view Rabbi Porush this light. A Porush administration will surely attempt to return Jerusalem to the dark ages all in the name of Charedi values.

Just to be clear, modern Orthodox Jews are just as sincere in their Judaism as Charedi Jews. Both segments have people who their exemplars and their embarrassments. But the serious among them are equally committed to the Torah. No one for example wants to see open movie theaters in Jerusalem on Shabbos. The difference is in how that is achieved. It should not be the Porush method – one that can only result in the alienation of secular Jews to the point of no return. And when it comes to opposing secular education, we cannot allow the Jewish people to become the most ignorant people on the face of the earth in everything except Torah! Anyone who has made that a near life mission ought to be fully opposed.

It’s too bad Lupoliansky won’t or can’t run. The leadership of United Torah Judaism ought t reconsider that stupid power sharing rule. Because if Charedi leaders want to have a mayor that best represents their interests, he is the only chance they have.