On Wednesday, February 1, 2012 in Natanya non-hardal religious Zionist leaders will meet to inaugurate Beit Hillel, a new organization dedicated to voicing the opinions of the non-Hardal religious Zionist on key issues facing Israel.
The new group was first announced last week in an article in Srugim.
The group was formed in response to increasing concern that extremist ultra-orthodox rabbis and settler leaders were becoming the public voice of national religious Judaism. A large number of national religious did not agree with their views on women, the IDF, and the state. According to one of the founders, Rabbi Chaim Navon, leader of the Shimshoni congregation in Modi’in, “To our great sorrow, religious Zionism is split, but only one faction’s voice was being heard. We are the voice of the other part, that hasn’t been sufficiently heard.”
Beit Hillel will give voice to religious Zionists who believe in “women’s empowerment, oppose discrimination and racism, support democracy, see themselves as an integral part of Israeli society and are loyal to the State of Israel and its institutions, including the IDF, the police, and the courts.”
Women will play a significant role in Beit Hillel. The founder, Oshra Koren, is a woman and women will be given an equal vote in the organizations decisions. Congregational rabbis will play a dominant role, reflecting a religious Zionism that accounts for the needs of families. Existing religious Zionist organizations representing the national religious tend to be dominated by yeshiva rabbis.
Ten rabbis joined with Oshra Koren to start Beit Hillel. Among the ten are Ohad Tehar-Lev, Amnon Bazek, Tzachi Hershkowitz, , Ronen Lubitz , Chaim Navon . The group has been quickly adding members to this core group. As of the end of January, the new group includes 110 rabbis, 30 women Torah scholars, and rabbinic wives who have developed a reputation as community leaders.
Many of the rabbis are also involved in Tzohar. However, Tzohar has decided to stay politically neutral. The rabbis have joined this new group because they want an opportunity to take an active role in the future of the state.
Malka Bina, founder of Matan; Rabbi Yuval Cherlow of the Petach Tivka Hesder Yeshiva, and Daniel Hershkowitz, minister of Science and Technology will all address the founding conference on February 1. One of the first projects planned for the new organization is a Beit Midrash that will develop responsa to address the halachic issues raised by women’s public voice and face.
For more information on the conference see the Beit Hillel Website: http://www.beithillel.org.il/.