Moving Beyond the Charedi–Dati Leumi Divide
An Introduction by Rabbi Aron White
On September 28, 1971, a Mizrachi-Hapoel HaMizrachi declaration signed by over 800 rabbis was published in Der Tog-Morgen Journal, a Yiddish New York newspaper, calling on American Jews to join Mizrachi and support its many schools and kibbutzim in Israel.
The signatories predictably included Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Aharon Soloveitchik and Rabbi Joseph Lookstein, the leading Religious Zionist rabbis of the era. Younger rabbis who would later gain great prominence, including Rabbis Norman Lamm, Aharon Lichtenstein and Shlomo Riskin, also signed the declaration. But the letter also included some surprising signatories. Rabbi Naftali Neuberger, the Executive Director of the Ner Yisroel Rabbinical College for over six decades, joined the declaration, as well as Rabbi Eliyahu Machlis, a leading figure within Torah UMesorah and head of the Bensonhurst Vaad HaRabanim.
What led rabbis from a wide spectrum of Orthodoxy to join together in support of Mizrachi? Though we cannot speak for those who are no longer alive, the declaration itself may hold the answer. It called upon the Jewish community to support Torah education, fund religious communities in Israel, and fight for legislation in the Knesset that would follow halachah. What Orthodox rabbi – whether Religious Zionist or Charedi – wouldn’t sign such a declaration?
In this edition of HaMizrachi, we step back to reflect on the complex relationship between the Religious Zionist and Charedi communities. Though our communities differ in significant ways, we share far more in common as Orthodox Jews committed to Torah and mitzvot. Our writers, both Religious Zionist and Charedi, honestly and openly explore these differences and what our communities can learn from one another.
In the spirit of Tisha B’Av, may we learn to disagree with mutual respect and love, and do our part to speed the coming of the redemption.