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The personal attacks on Naftali Bennett coming from the Haredi parties in Israel — because he has been instrumental in excluding them from power and has stood up to their blackmail — are disgusting. They offend every principle of Jewish morality. But it’s not surprising. This is why I am delighted they have been removed from government positions in the latest political developments in Israel.

Here is the text of a letter of resignation my late father, Rabbi Dr. Kopul Rosen, wrote to resign from his leading position in Mizrachi, which was at that time, the leading religious Zionist organization. It was published in 1953:

After much consideration, I have decided to resign from being president of the Mizrachi Federation. … I have the greatest admiration for the part that Mizrachi played in the Zionist movement, but with the establishment of the State of Israel, the situation changed radically. I am convinced that a political party with religion as its sole raison d’être, far from furthering the interests of Judaism, is a serious disadvantage to it. More could be achieved in the religious life of Israel if religious matters were considered outside the arena of party-political strife.

In my opinion, it would be better to have a worldwide religious and cultural movement not attached to any party and seeking no parliamentary representation. It would seek to educate and influence, not bully or coerce. It would stress the valuable contribution that religion can make to the health of the State in general. It could do much more to strengthen the religious and cultural institutions of Israel and gain the goodwill and support of Jews of all parties, even those not themselves religious, than is possible in the present circumstances where religion tends to become the vested interest of one political group.

Religious parties have been so corrupted by power and money that they even besmirch the good name of the Torah. And it is not just in Israel. There is a universal mindset that sees nothing wrong with corrupt politics. Protecting villains and lauding fraudsters. It has been going on for years. And at the root of it is money.

In Israel, its worst manifestation lies in massaging the figures of pupils attending religious institutions, because the more you have, the more you get in state subsidies. In the Diaspora, it is fiddling with government agencies either by massaging figures or by falsely claiming benefits, or using government grants for your purposes. In truth, this is the culture of all welfare societies everywhere. But that is no excuse.

Here is a recent report from the United States Department of Justice:

A certain Haredi gentleman, aged 72, of Flushing, New York, was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. Between approximately 2011 and 2018, he stole approximately $4.1 million from the BHCC Pension Plan, over which he was the trustee, principally by diverting the money to a purported charity he controlled, as well as to himself and other entities.

And yet in another report, this same man was celebrated:

A rare and unique assembly took place on Tuesday this week, in the great Hall of Vizhnitz Chassidus in Bnei Brak. The Rebbe sought to glorify and support the greatest supporter of their institutions who would be entering prison the next day for tax fraud. The Rebbe surprised everyone with his words. “Tomorrow, our precious fellow Chassid does not go to prison for something that he did for himself. He goes for something about which I can attest was all for the place that we are in right now — it is all in his merit…”

The attitude that sees nothing wrong with this is another reason I object to religious intervention in the political system. So I am delighted that a new government will not include radical religious parties, because it opens up the possibility for change. Yes, I know there will be backroom deals, and that corruption is not confined to religious parties, but the principle needs to be established, that Israeli society should not be held hostage to corrupt religious interests. Judaism should be a spiritual and moral religion. To see people masquerading as religious, but who are either being liars and crooks should offend us all.

Habits will not change overnight. But this might just be the moment that Israel learns that removing religion from politics will benefit both the secular and the religious parts of Israeli society, and remove one of the biggest causes of friction.

The author is a writer and rabbi currently living in New York.

Source of original article: Jeremy Rosen / Opinion – (
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