On Tuesday, Rav Aharon Feldman of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva in Baltimore was recorded excoriating Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, calling him amongst other things a “rasha.” Here is MK Lipman’s response.
I owe so much to Ner Yisrael and want to be clear from the outset that my words are not against the yeshiva. Tremendous damage for me and the yeshiva has been caused by an audiotape in which I am quoted as saying something which I never said and anyone who knows me knows I would never say. I was quoted as saying that “all yeshiva ketanos in Israel should be closed,” and then for all intents and purposes I was called a rasha and equated with Amalek and Haman. The following is what I actually have said and what my political party Yesh Atid is working for:
1. The Israeli government should not fund institutions which don’t teach basic math and English. Yeshivos which don’t do so will not be closed down but they won’t receive government funding. It should be pointed out that there are numerous yeshivos which already take zero government money and continue to flourish. Adina Bar Shalom, Rav Ovadiah Yosef’s daughter, appeared before the Knesset task force which I founded to help chareidim enter the workforce and begged us to implement math and English, because 50 percent of the boys in her chareidi college drop out due to their lack of math and English. I meet regularly with chareidi young men who are still completely in the chareidi world and they tell me that the one thing which is necessary is some basic math and English. I believe it is a sound decision for a government to make and I look forward to seeing the yeshiva ketanos flourish and continue producing gedolei Torah while teaching basic math and English. Ironically, the basis for my supporting this plan is knowing that gedolei Torah can still be produced if general studies are taught is actually Ner Yisrael.
2. Comparing me or anyone in my party to Amalek and Haman, who wanted to kill all Jews including children and women, is simply incomprehensible. We are going to help chareidim sustain their families—literally feed their children—and we are compared to murderers? On the spiritual level, we are proposing that 1,800 elite Torah scholars per year be recognized as serving the state and the Jewish people through their Torah study (the first time in history that a government will pay Jewish boys for their learning from a fundamental which says they are providing us with a service); the rest can study Torah uninterrupted until age 21 and then serve in military or national service geared specifically to chareidim and their lifestyle—and we are compared to Amalek and Haman?
3. I would have never joined this party without meeting its leaders first and really understanding who they are and their intentions. The ministers and Knesset members in my party have no hate towards anyone and are not hoping that anyone becomes less religious. Yair Lapid openly declared that the religious side in Israel has shown the secular side that our basis to be in this land is G‑d and our Tanach. The driving force behind our policies regarding the chareidim is to generate unity and most importantly to get chareidim to the workforce. Money will be flowing to programs to help chareidim get to work. My dream is to see the high-tech corridors of Raanana, law and accounting firms in Tel Aviv, and government offices in Yerushalayim filled with chareidim. Most young chareidi men are not cut out to learn Torah day and night for their entire lives, and this will empower them to be talmidei chachamim and b’nei Torah while also supporting their families with dignity. This will also have an immensely positive effect on Israeli society, which will finally see the beautiful values and people in the chareidi world. My e-mail inbox is filled with letters of support from chareidim who say they finally see a future for their children—they will remain chareidi but also not be impoverished.
I must also note that our party started the first beis midrash for Knesset members in the history of the Knesset. Every Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. we stop our busy schedules and sit in a committee room and learn Torah together—religious and secular MKs. Is this a group of people who deserve to be called resha’im, Haman, and Amalek?
I certainly hope the misquote will be acknowledged and that the comparison to Amalek and Haman will be taken back. Misunderstandings happen and can always be corrected.
Let us all learn the lesson of the dangers of the rumor mill and misquotes, and let’s work together to strengthen Torah study, the spreading of Torah values, and unity amongst the Jewish people. v