Jews with Views – Chanukah Edition 5782
We asked three accomplished Jews from around the world what they think the mission statement of Religious Zionism should be as we embark on the next 120 years.
BY RABBI DR. JACOB J. SCHACTER
Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines, the founder of the Religious Zionist movement, clearly defined what he meant when he chose the name “Mizrachi.” Contrary to popular perception, it had nothing to do with “mizrach,” or east. He explicitly defined it as a conflation of the two words, “merkaz ruchani.” He wanted his new organization to serve as a spiritual center, to, in his words, “impart the faithful spirit of Judaism to Zionism in general”.1
Over the years, our movement has lost its way. Particularly in the last few decades, it has unfortunately positioned itself and is experienced, even by those like me who deeply identify with it, as a “merkaz politi,” placing politics rather than spirituality at its center.
But its ideals remain exalted and even more necessary than ever before. Nowhere else can we see the profound relevance of Torah values to modern society in all its facets, as in the G-d given gift of our times called Medinat Yisrael. Nowhere else can we potentially see the actualization of the love of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael in so broad and profound a way. As we celebrate the remarkable milestone of 120 years, let us explore how to be the most effective, inspirational “merkaz ruchani” envisioned by our founder.
- Rabbi Y. L. Hakohen Fishman, Sefer HaMizrachi: Kovetz leZeicher haGaon Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines zt”l (Mossad HaRav Kook, 1946), pp. 98–101.
Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter is University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and Senior Scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University.
BY SIVAN RAHAV MEIR
I am not afraid that there will be no next generation of religious doctors or religious lawyers. Nor am I afraid there will be no religious journalists or religious high-tech workers.
I fear that the next generation will not include rabbis, spiritual leaders and Torah scholars of a serious stature; that we will not develop the next Rabbi Kook or the next Rabbi Soloveitchik, the next Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neria or the next Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.
Our young people hear a lot about the complexity of life and the integration of different worlds and less about dedication, devotion, and concentration on Torah learning.
It is my great wish that the Torah will not be a ‘side dish’ but the ‘main dish.’ I hope that our community will cherish and respect those who dedicate their lives to Torah, and that rabbis and tzaddikim will not only appear in children’s stories about the Jews of yesteryear but will be living and breathing role models at the center of our community.
I thank G-d for the privilege of sitting in Jerusalem and writing about the future challenges of the Jewish people.
This was something we could only dream about 120 years ago!
Sivan Rahav Meir is a popular Israeli media personality and World Mizrachi’s Scholar-in-Residence.
BY RABBI DANNY MIRVIS
As we cast our eyes to the future, the priorities of our global movement should be guided by the same core tenets of Religious Zionism which have formed the central pillars of our ideology throughout our proud history: Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.
Though it may not have been the initial intent when the name “Mizrachi” was comprised from the words “merkaz ruchani” (spiritual center), we should take inspiration from the origins of our movement’s name to promote a thriving and confident “merkaz ruchani” – a spiritual middle-ground. Religious Zionism is uniquely placed to respond to the challenges of ever-increasing polarization by providing a centrist ideological home for a Judaism that is proudly Zionist, cares deeply about Jewish unity, and is unashamedly committed to Torah and Torah values.
We must resist the temptation to limit ourselves to our historical comfort zones and expand our horizons beyond education and politics. Religious Zionism must educate the next generation to bring our values and beliefs to every sphere of leadership and influence.
By cultivating future Religious Zionist leadership and empowering a network of international branches, shlichim, affiliated institutions and ideological partners, we can create the platform to further advance the global revival for our Israel-centered vision for the Jewish world.
Rabbi Danny Mirvis is Deputy CEO of World Mizrachi.