Council of Torah Sages urges no haredi draft (JERUSALEM POST) By JEREMY SHARON 08/14/12)
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In a rare move, the Council of Torah Sages of the haredi Degel
HaTorah movement convened late Monday evening in Bnei Brak and called
on the government not to enact any mandatory draft into national
service of the 54,000 yeshiva students who have until now been able
to indefinitely postpone enlistment.
The council, headed by the acknowledged leader of the non-
hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi community Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman,
declared that “The Council of Torah Sages deeply regrets the wave of
incitement against the haredi community, especially against the holy
Torah students, in whose merit the world continues to exist.”
The rabbis went on to call on the on the government “to not change in
any way the state of affairs regarding yeshiva students which has
been in effect from ancient times here in the Land of Israel.”
The Council of Torah Sages, led by the “gadol hador,” the leading
rabbi of the generation, determines the stance of the haredi
community on almost every issue of public life, have not been made
for many years, and there are several potential new additions.
Degel Hatorah is the non-hassidic faction of the United Torah Judaism
political party, which also includes Agudat Yisrael, which represents
the hassidic stream of the haredi community.
In attendance at the meeting were also UTJ MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri
Maklev, who provided the political background to the absence of any
legal framework for yeshiva students to gain deferals from military
service, which the Tal Law provided until it expired on August 1.
The meeting, which took place in Shteinman’s residence in Bnei Brak,
was intended to serve as a unifying rally for the haredi community in
light of what it perceives as threats to its lifestyle regarding the
possible drafting of yeshiva students because of the expiration of
the Tal Law.
Despite the calls for unity, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, an opponent of
Shteinman did not turn up to the meeting.
Divisions within the haredi leadership have opened up of late
following the illness and death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the
former leader of the “Lithuanian” haredim, last month.
Rabbi Auerbach, 86, was considered by his supporters to be the
natural successor to Elyashiv, but Rabbi Shteinman, 98, succeeded in
gaining acknowledgement as the new leader of the community.
The council meeting was also called to admit several new members
given the recent deaths of former membes Rabbi Haim Pinchas
Scheinberg and Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Fink.
According to reports in the haredi media, Auerbach decided not to
attend because his recommendations for new members of the council
were not accepted.
The haredi website Behadrei Haredim even reported that Auerbach may
step down as a member of the council in protest.
Current members of the current council are Shteinman himself; Rabbi
Shmuel Auerbach, dean of the Maalot Hatorah yeshiva in Jerusalem;
Rabbi Nissim Karlitz, head of the rabbinical court in Bnei Brak;
Rabbi Meir Tzvi Bergman dean of the Rashbi yeshiva in Bnei Brak; dean
of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak Rabbi Gershon Edelstein; and
Rabbi Yitzhak Shteiner, the head of the Kamenitz Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
All of the council members were in attendance apart from Auerbach,
while Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, another leading rabbi and a supporter of
Shteinman who was expected to attend (although not a member), was not
present having been briefly hospitalised for a minor complaint and
only released on Monday.
The rare meeting of the council Monday evening was slated as a call
for “shalom bayit” or familial peace, within the haredi community,
but Auerbach’s absence will sour this unity call.
A low-level power struggle between the two became particularly
rancorous over the battle the supporters of the respective rabbis
fought over Yated Neeman, the daily newspaper of Degel HaTorah.
Shteinman’s supporters succeeded in gaining control of the newspaper
which had traditionally favoured Auerbach.
Auerbach’s followers, led by the deposed editor and director of Yated
Neeman subsequently established a newspaper, HaPeles, claiming to
represent the true path of Degel HaTorah, as established by the
movement’s founder Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 08/14/12)
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