IRF Hanukkah Holiday Packet 5774

November 22, 2013

IRF Hanukkah Holiday Packet 5774

Table of Contents
1.Please Light Responsibly by R. Yosef Kanefsky

2. Laws and Customs of Hanukkah by R. Steven Exler

3. Guest Contribution: Do We Recite Hallel in a Shiva House on Hanukkah by M. Ruth Balinsky Friedman

4. Is There an Obligation to Publicize the Miracle of Hanukkah to Non-Jews by R. Zach Truboff

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The Other 75% -by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

November 21, 2013

I would like draw our attention to the other 75%.  The approximately 75% of Jews who, according to the Pew report, do not attend a shul and do not feel that Jewish community or Jewish observance is a necessary part of being a Jew.  We spend a lot of time thinking about, teaching, and interacting with the 25% who come to a shul, but how do we reach the majority of our people?  What would make them want to be part of Judaism in more than name?

We all worry about this and many of us commit our lives to addressing this poor state of our people.  We make our shuls more welcoming so Jews can easily come in, we offer Chanukah menorah lightings at the mall to bring Jewish ritual outward, and invite all who will come for Shabbat meals.  But in fact we touch only a relatively small number of individuals this way.  Our efforts have certainly not begun to stem the tide of assimilation, and worse the ingrained sense most Jews have that Judaism has little of value to offer them or the world.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks suggested, in a recent address to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations, (thank you to my father for bringing it to my attention), a way of engaging the 75% that I think deserves our attention.  Rabbi Sacks begins by pointing out what we all know -that many Jews today often see no good reason to be Jewish, and unlike in the past, no one from the Jewish or non-Jewish surrounding society is compelling them to practice, or to be labeled, as a Jew.  They will connect only if there is a good reason to, if Judaism has something unique to say to their concerns and the concerns of the larger world.

If Judaism has a positive voice in general society, says Rabbi Sacks, if it can make people proud in the public arena to be a Jew, then it may have a chance of engaging the other 75%.  Judaism can and must, speak loudly and publicly to the moral, intellectual, and spiritual challenges of our time.  If we can bring a voice that non-Jews find compelling then jews will also.

Rabbi Sacks did this by spending a great deal of time as Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth offering inspiring words in the national media and writing books about Judaism’s deep and positive message for the larger world.  Of course if one is the chief rabbi of a country, assuming one speaks well and has something to say, the job of bringing Jewish thought to the public is an easier one.  But alas, one chief rabbi does not a Jewish renaissance make.   What kinds of things can all of us do, the 25% of our people who are involved, to bring to society at large the deeply important messages Judaism is supposed to bring to the world, the guidance it can extend and light it can spread?

I think we live often as Jews today in response to the holocaust.  We live as Jews in our homes but do not bring our Judaism into the public sphere.  We tend to take an insular stance.  We are not for the most part interested in sitting on local school boards, taking part in city politics, or being present at general city or community events, unless it can further our personal Jewish agenda.  Some would say this is how it should be, that we should only be involved with the larger world when we must do so in service of the Orthodox community.   But it is this attitude that stops us from engaging the larger world, being a blessing to it, and in our particular culture today -from engaging a wider array of the 75%.

Here are a few suggestions, though I am sure there are many more to be had.

1. Let us take advantage of opportunities to be present in interfaith environments.   Meet the non-Jewish clergy in your area and find out how you can bring the Jewish voice to the religious and general civic community.  America is a non-Jewish country in which Christian voices are present, but Judaism has a lot to say that is meaningful and our Christian neighbors often really do want to hear it.

2. Community service is a valuable venue in which the Orthodox and general Jewish community can be present in the bigger society and bring something to it.   The common refrain, every time the opportunity for general community service arises that, “we need to help other Jews in our community first”, stops us from ever moving outside the walls of our own.  Yes, we should help other Jews first, but if we do not ever get beyond our own walls we will not succeed in bringing a Jewish voice to the larger world.  Perhaps we can think of fellow Jews as our brothers and sisters and non-Jews as our cousins.

3. Let us not be afraid to quote from our tradition.   Why keep the Torah a secret?  Next time you find yourself at a meeting within a non-Jewish or wider Jewish population and you think, “Pirkey Avot says something that would really bring depth and insight to this,” -say it.  We must not hold back in today’s world from bringing our deeply Jewish selves into our workplaces or civic life.  We live in a society that touts the benefits of multiculturalism, of the value of being an individual, let us help them, and us, live it.

There are many other opportunities to bring our Jewish selves and our Jewish voices into the public arena and the general culture.  First though, we must realize how important it is, we must reach beyond our fears and our insularity, and we must know that God gave us the Torah so we could share it with the world and with fellow Jews.   Let us not be afraid.


Guest Post by Dr. Ben Elton: “Walter Wurzberger on the Boundaries of Orthodoxy”

November 20, 2013

The Jewish internet has been alive over recent months with attempts to draw denominational boundaries. In particular there has been much discussion about whether Open Orthodoxy, the cluster of ideas coming from Rabbi Avi Weiss and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, is an expression of Orthodox or Conservative Judaism. This is a problematic question. It implies there are Platonic forms of Orthodoxy and Conservatism which can be measured against the facts on the ground and an adjudication made. In fact, all Jewish denominations are creations of particular times and places and can only be understood in those contexts. Another approach is to ask whether specified views and methodologies are valid expressions of authentic Judaism, or whether they constitute a break with the Mesorah, the chain of tradition beginning at Sinai. However, that is not a historical but a religious question. We each have our own view on what is ‘valid’ and ‘authentic’ and those commitments do not derive from scholarship but from faith. I am a historian, so I am drawn to a third approach, which is to ask whether Open Orthodoxy adopts the same principles as earlier religious expressions, which were generally regarded as Orthodox.

I want to use an important review essay by Rabbi Dr Walter S. Wurzberger, ‘The Oral Law and the Conservative Dilemma’, which appeared in Tradition in 1960.[1] This article is pertinent for our purposes because it attempts to explain exactly what differentiates Modern Orthodoxy from Conservative Judaism, even in the latter’s most traditionalist form. It does not concentrate on practices among members of the two movements, or even on different halakhic rulings emanating from each. Rather it examines the theological and philosophical underpinnings of each denomination. If Open Orthodoxy shares the principles set out by Wurzberger and accepted by the then Modern Orthodox community as a valid definition of its position, it follows that while the spokespeople for Open Orthodoxy might be mistaken in some regards, and their halakhic positions might be considered wrong, even reckless, they remain within accepted definitions of Orthodoxy, because of the understanding of the Mesorah which guides them.

Wurzberger’s article was a review of Boaz Cohen’s Law and Tradition in Judaism (New York, Jewish Theological Seminary 1959), which attempted to explain the Conservative approach to halakhah. Cohen’s halakhic conclusions were extremely traditionalist in this work. He rejected important decisions of the Committee on Jewish Law of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly as against halakhah, for example riding in a car to the synagogue on Shabbat and mixed seating in services. He therefore could not be criticised for undue leniency in practice. Wurzberger therefore critiqued the very foundations of Cohen’s approach. In Wurzberger’s reading, Cohen believed that as the Rabbis developed the Oral Law they modified the original law, either deliberately to adapt to the needs of the time, or inadvertently because they did not understand the texts they were dealing with. In other words, the Sages effectively created the halakhah as we have it today. They were innovators, even if they appeared to themselves or others to be merely expounding and applying. Ultimately Jewish Law as we have it did not grow out of an original revelation but was the invention of the Rabbis.

Whether this is an accurate description of Cohen’s position is not important for our purposes. What matters for this discussion is the Orthodox position which Wurzberger placed in contrast, an approach which represented the mainstream Modern Orthodoxy of his day.

Long before the advent of the Historical school, the traditionalists fully recognized that they were entrusted with a Torat Chayyim – a living Law…Because the halakhic process is characterized by a continuous interaction between subjective and objective components, it is natural that changes in historical conditions will lead to far reaching repercussions in the realm of Halakhah. This is not at all a question of “adapting” or “adjusting” the law to meet novel conditions, but of interpreting and applying it within the frame of reference of new circumstances…It must be borne in mind that this dynamic character of the law is an integral part of the Massorah, the chain of tradition dating back to Sinai , not something that was grafted upon the Torah later on to prevent its obsolescence and decay…It is the function of the Halakhah scholar, employing creative halakhic processes, to unravel the specific meaning which the timeless message of Sinai holds for his own time.

Rabbi Wurzberger wrote so clearly that a gloss would be redundant. Rather, we can turn immediately and compare this understanding of the Mesorah with Rabbi Weiss’s, which he put forward in his article on the graduation from Yeshivat Maharat of students ordained as clergy:

Mesorah is not solely rooted in the past. Rather our mesorah is, that within proper parameters, we ought to innovate to address the issues of our time and continue the work. This innovation is not straying from mesorah, it is demanded by it. This involves two steps.  

 

The first step is to assess the law and evaluate whether it is in conflict with other central principles of Torah. Consider, for example, the Torah’s position on polygamy, slavery or yefat to’ar, the laws of a female war-captive. These laws seem in conflict with other values of Torah, values like tzelem Elohim – every human being created in the image of God or kavod ha-bryiot – human dignity or kedoshim ti’hiyu – and you shall be holy.  

If conflict exists, mesorah includes a second step: a systematic means by which halakha can evolve. The Torah makes this very point when it declares that in every generation, when challenging issues arise, one is to go to the judge of his or her generation. (Deuteronomy 17:8-9) Mesorah includes a sophisticated network of rabbinic law, some interpretive (dinin she-ho’tzi’u al darkei hasevara) and some legislative (takanot u’gezeirot). After an extensive, in-depth analysis of the law, new applications may be possible.

This is classic Wurzbergian analysis. The Mesorah draws its strength from the Torah itself, it allows timeless principles to be applied to the needs of the day, it enables the full realization, through careful thought, of the original wishes of the Torah, which will reveal themselves differently in each generation, sometimes leading to ‘far reaching repercussions in the realm of halakhah’. One can argue whether Rabbi Weiss has made the right judgement about women’s roles, but it is difficult to claim that his basic approach to change within Judaism and the role of the Mesorah is substantively different to approaches which were not only accepted but promoted in Modern Orthodox circles half a century ago.

Not all self-identified Modern Orthodox rabbis maintain this understanding of the Mesorah and the way it works. That may explain a difference of view between the most distinguished representative of the old school and a representative of the new.

In 2009 Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm was reported as follows in the Jerusalem Post:

Regarding the ordination of female rabbis, Lamm said his opposition was “social, not religious…Change has to come to religion when feasible, but it should not be rushed. Women have just come into their own from an educational perspective. I would prefer not to have this innovation right now. It is simply too early. What will happen later…I am not a prophet.”

He clarified his remarks shortly afterwards to the YU Commentator:

“I was criticized, of course. People asked, ‘You mean that al pi din [by law] they’re allowed to become rabbis?’ My response: ‘I don’t know. Are you sure they’re not allowed to?”

Rabbi Lamm went on to say, however, “It is too early to tell where this is all headed and I think they are moving much too quickly. Do I think having women rabbis is a good thing? I do not know. I am, however, concerned that, before long, we will find ourselves overly feminized, and I would not want to see that happen.”

Rabbi Lamm’s words were recently characterized as a mis-speak due to failing powers. In fact they seem to match entirely the approach of his old colleague Walter Wurzberger. The Mesorah has the capacity to make far reaching halakhic changes, all of them rooted in the revelation at Sinai. Whether they should be made, or should be made now, is a different matter. This is a very different point of view to the one implied by this statement, also reported in the Commentator:

The RCA’s Rabbi Kletenik, however, was unequivocal. “To ordain a woman as a rabbi,” he told The Jewish Press, “is a breach of our mesorah and not acceptable in an Orthodox synagogue.”

It is entirely reasonable to take a different view of the boundary between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy and on the workings of the Mesorah. People always did. Wurzberger described his section of Orthodoxy as a ‘tiny but articulate minority’. However, it is not fair to claim that the understanding held by Rabbi Weiss and others associated with Open Orthodoxy has no precedent. The application might be wrong, and that is something to debate as part of an internal Orthodox conversation, but to call it neo-Conservative would come as a great surprise to one of Conservative Judaism’s great critics, Walter Wurzberger.

 

Dr. Ben Elton is a student at YCT Rabbinical School


[1] Tradition in 1960 (3:1), just before Wurzberger became editor of the journal, and was reprinted in A Treasury of “Tradition” (ed. Norman Lamm and Walter S. Wurzberger, New York: Hebrew Publishing Company 1967, pp. 436-443). I am not the first person to identify Wurzberger and this article. See Alan Brill, ‘A Tiny but Articulate Minority’ (Tradition 41:2, 2008)


When is it Appropriate to Pressure Employers of Recalcitrant Spouses?

November 19, 2013

by Rabbi David Wolkenfeld

This Monday, ORA (the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot) organized a protest in Washington DC to pressure Aharon Friedman, chief of staff for Congressman David Camp, to deliver a gett to his ex-wife, Tamar Friedman. Aharon and Tamar divorced in civil courts five years ago and Aharon has refused to give a gett unless Tamar relents to Aharon’s demands viz. a new custody arrangement more favorable to him. Some have sought to pressure Aharon’s employer, Congressman Dave Camp (R – MI), a powerful committee chair, to insist that his employee, Aharon Friedman, deliver a gett. Congressman Camp represents a district with few Jews and no Orthodox community. When I suggested on Facebook last week that one of the Jewish-Republican organizations get involved, someone wrote to me, concerned by the implications of an employer pressuring an employee to take part in a private religious ceremony.

Consider the following scenarios:

Case A.

Avrohom Weiss is in contempt of a beit din order to deliver a get to his wife Gital Dodalson. Weiss and Dodalson divorced in civil courts more than 2 years ago and Weiss has delayed granting a gett until Gital agrees to renegotiate custody and alimony.  Weiss’s father and uncle were employed by Artscroll Publications.  A letter-writing campaign successfully pressured Artscroll to remove Asher and Yisrael Weiss from their payroll so long as they provide financial and moral support to Avrohom’s recalcitrance.

Case B (Fictional)

Joe Schwartz is a member of a large suburban Reform Synagogue. Recently, he invited a Chabad rabbi to open a weekly Shabbat service in his basement. This incurred the ire of the leadership of the Reform synagogue and they made it clear to Mr. Schwartz’s employer – the local community bank – that the synagogue would move its sizable endowment to another bank so long as Mr. Schwartz was employed at the bank.

 Case C (Fictional)

Chaim Schmerel is hosting a break-away minyan in his basement with a lower mechitzah than in the large neighborhood shul. Members of the large shul, upset by what they understand to be lower religious standards at Chaim Schmerel’s minyan, pressure Chaim’s employer, the local municipality, that they will vote against the mayor in the upcoming elections if Chaim remains employed as the towns’ fire commissioner.

It seems obvious to me that case A. is a legitimate instance of community activism. Artscroll is an Orthodox Jewish publishing company. Its success and authenticity depend on the Orthodox bona fides of its editors. Supporting gett recalcitrance undermines Artscroll’s ability to represent or educate the community.

Case B and C both seem like inappropriate efforts at enforcing conformity. However much someone else’s religious choices may offend us, most of us appreciate living in a country were religious issues are kept private and we are allowed to rise (and fall) professionally without reference to religious matters.

Congressman Camp and his chief of staff Aharon Feldman, are more similar to Case A than to Cases B or C. Congressman Camp is a politician and politicians accept upon themselves, and upon their staff members, a certain limitation on their personal privacy. Furthermore and more importantly, gett recalcitrance has been identified as a form of domestic abuse. It allows an ex-spouse to retain control over a former marriage partner even after the marriage has ended. Whether used as a negotiating strategy or as an expression of spite, gett recalcitrance is more than a personal issue, more than a “religious issue,” and an appropriate matter about which to educate Congressman Camp.

AIPAC routinely flies members of congress to Israel so that even politicians with few Jewish constituents can learn about the importance of the American-Israeli relationship. Dave Camp needs to learn about gett-recalcitrance and why all Americans should want their elected representatives to be clean of the taint of this form of abuse.


“Words from the Heart” posted by Yosef Kanefsky

November 11, 2013

Garnel Ironheart is an avid – and mostly critical – reader of Morethodoxy. But I was very taken with a comment he submitted last week and reproduce it here in full (and I apologize for the negative remarks about Chabad. They do not reflect my views at all.)

Look, I’m not a big fan of Morethodoxy. Frankly I think it’s only about 10 years until you’re the right wing of UTJ, full-on Conservativism with a mechitza (hopefully). But in the interest of achdus let me give you some free advice.
Look at Chabad. If you think you’re having troubles with the Agudah then think about what they’ve gone through. The Agudah’s PR flacks attack you in print. Chabadniks have gone through physical attacks from that part of the Jewish community. You get called “Unorthodox”. They’ve been called heretics, non-Jewish and neo-Christians. Remember all the abuse heaped on the Rebbe, zt”l by Rav Shach, zt”l?
Yet years later, after all the abuse, after all the ongoing sex scandals, after all the messianism, Chabad is incredibly successful and growing stronger. Why? Because they have a message (Believe in the Rebbe and ye shall be saved) and they stay on it. They push the positive, drumming their ideology into anyone who will sit still long enough . They don’t take time to respond to outside attacks. They plow forward with their agenda no matter what. And it has worked for them in spades.
If you want this Morethodoxy thing of yours to amount to something more than a bunch of new-age feel-good rabbis sitting around talking about kindness and love then you have to develop a concrete message and start pushing it. Playing defense all the time will just get you shoved into a corner.

I’ve never met Garnel (unless he also goes by some other name, in which case maybe I have!), and as I said, I don’t agree with all of what he says here. But I do appreciate the humanity and sincerity with which he wrote this. I read it as “words that emanate from the heart” (which, as we know, “enter the heart”) So here a few things that I’d like to share in response:
(1) I have never, and still don’t really think about Morethodoxy as being a “thing” – a movement, a distinct ideological sub-group. Like most of the “founding” Morethodoxy crew, I am a musmach (ordainee) of YU, a member of the RCA , and a full-time rabbi in an OU-affiliated shul. But I understand and appreciate the perspective that Garnel and many others have, namely that Morthodoxy is a forum for the ideas and religious philosophy that have become identified with the students of Yeshivat Chovevai Torah (YCT) and members of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF) and that in reality -though not by conscious design – the three, along with Yeshivat Maharat and several other organizations as well, have effectively coalesced into a distinct movement within Orthodoxy. While I – and most of my friends and colleagues – reject this perspective, the perception is both significant and real. (And, in fact, I am the current president of the IRF, and my co-blogger Rabbi Gelman is a past-president.)
(2) I’m sure our wives and kids wish that we were just “feel-good rabbis sitting around talking about kindness and love!” Like my Morethodoxy companions, and so many of the rabbis who are members of the IRF, we are out in the trenches, day and night, pastoring, teaching, programming and building, as rabbis of shuls, as teachers and principals in schools and as campus rabbis and chaplains around the country. In fact, this is a large part of why we lack the laser-like focus of an organization like Chabad. We are an integrated part of the Orthodox community’s multifaceted rabbinic leadership, serving in numerous and various institutions, each with its own complex set of unique challenges.
(3) Having said all of this, I think that Garnel’s challenge needs to be taken seriously. Not to satisfy our critics, and not as a means of carving out a place for ourselves as a distinct wing of Orthodoxy. Rather in order to better serve Klal Yisrael generally, and the Orthodox community especially, through bringing our vision forward in coordinated and concrete ways. We are reaching a critical mass in terms of the numbers of Orthodox rabbis and Jews who are passionate about living and teaching an Orthodoxy that is (choose your adjective) engaged / progressive / inclusive / connected , and for the sake of God, Torah, and Israel, we need to have greater focus in terms of agenda, message, and action. And – as Garnel implies – we mustn’t get pre-occupied with playing defense.

Is this easier said than done? Sure. But let’s get to work. I’ll do my share. It’s not upon any one of us to complete the work, but none of us is exempt from participating.


A Sikh and a Jew Walk Into an Airport….

November 11, 2013

by Rachel Kohl Finegold

Last week, I participated in an interfaith panel of Jews and Sikhs at the Le Mood Festival. For those who have been to a Limmud conferences in the States, picture Le Mood as the Montreal (read: hipper, slightly “euro”) version.

Some of our U.S. readers may not be aware of a troubling bill which has been proposed here in Quebec. The Charter of Quebec Values would prohibit any government employee from wearing a religious garment or conspicuous religious symbol. The intention is to maintain a clear separation between religion and state, symbolized by the secularism and neutrality of public sector workers. The reality is that this bill would prohibit employees in diverse settings such as daycares, hospitals, and universities from wearing a kippah, hijab, turban, large cross, or any other overtly religious article of clothing. Here in Quebec, where so many social services are funded by the government, it’s hard NOT to be a government worker. This bill would force employees to either remove their religious clothing, or lose their job. [I should note that this bill will likely not become law, but obviously even its existence as a bill is disturbing.]

When I moved to Montreal three months ago, I was shocked to learn that a law like this could even be proposed in the 21st century, where religious expression should be recognized as a basic human right. I have learned that it is predominantly the secular Quebecois population, who live in parts of Quebec that are far from the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, that support this bill. Religious groups around the Montreal area have mobilized around letter-writing campaigns, media appearances, and protests, hoping to educate government officials as to how this bill would negatively impact their daily lives. Diverse religious communities have united in this fight.

Hence, the interfaith panel. Entitled “Holy Hair,” the program explored the ways that Judaism and Sikhism deal with hair. Besides the discussions around how the proposed Charter of Values has caused much upset in our two communities, we spent time comparing the turban worn by Sikh men, and the kippah. Beyond that, when I discovered that Sikh men not only cover their head, but also never cut their hair or beard, I could hear echoes of our own tradition where men refrain from shaving their beards (or use only an electric razor) as well as the tradition of the Nazir, who refrains from cutting hair as a show of devotion to God.

We also compared the daily experience of a Sikh man who wears a turban to an Orthodox woman who covers her hair. As someone who covers her hair all the time, but often does so with a hat, I may go undetected by those who are unaware that my hat is a religious head covering. A Sikh turban, however, is overtly religious. Not only does this mean that we would be treated differently under the proposed Charter of Values. It also means I can “pass” in my everyday life. I walk down the street relatively undetected as a religious individual. Not so a turban-wearing Sikh.

There was one experience which we had in common: the airport head patdown. Whenever I go through security at the airport, I am told, “Ma’am, please remove your hat.” I explain that this is a religious head covering and that I cannot remove it. I am then told to step aside, and that I need to be subject to a “pat down”. We’ve all been there at one time or another, randomly selected for a full-body pat down. I am in the “pat down zone” every time I am in the airport, but just for my head. As I step aside, a female TSA employee dons a pair of gloves, and proceeds to pat my head and every part of my hat, including the brim (if there is one), to ensure that there is no contraband. Hey, I can’t blame them – if explosives have already been hidden in shoes and underwear, why not in a hat?

As I related this experience to our audience at Le Mood, the Sikh sitting near me immediately identified with it. Yes, he, too, was regularly subjected to the turban pat down. I then learned that in Sikh culture, the head is holy. So a turban pat down is actually quite disturbing to a Sikh, and even feels invasive. The first time it happened to this individual, he felt violated, as if someone had touched an intimate and holy part of himself. I found this fascinating. Did I feel that way when getting my own hat patted? Not really. But once I thought about it, yes, it did feel like a violation of my personal space to be asked to remove an article of clothing that I would only remove in the privacy of my own home. For others, removing one’s hat might be like removing one’s jacket. But for me, my hat is a basic covering like my shirt or skirt, which one would never dare ask anyone to remove in public, even at airport security.

My Sikh colleague sensitized me to my own tzniut. He had such a deep connection to his head and its covering, that he felt a dimension of shame or violation when a stranger touched that place. I learned that I have a similar gut reaction when asked to remove my hat. I also learned that the Sikh community has educated TSA employees with regards to this cultural sensitivity of the head. These days, a Sikh may don the gloves himself, rub his hands along his own turban, and then remove the gloves for inspection, which is sufficient to detect any explosive device or dangerous weapon. What an incredible show of tolerance and respect, without compromising anyone’s safety!

I have found myself far from home here in Quebec in many ways, politically and otherwise. But I have also found kindred spirits in my fellow religionists. We have much in common in the political arena, out on the street, and even in the airport.


Why Sending Bnei Akiva Students to Protest WoW is wrong,

November 4, 2013

Reports Bnei Akiva affiliated schools in Israel have been instructed to send their students to protest the Women of the Wall is disturbing in many levels.

It highlights the notion that Religious Zionism no longer (did it ever?) represents one religious philosophy. There are Modern Orthodox Religious Zionists and their are Chareidi Religious Zionisits (they are called Chardal – Chareidi L’eumi). The Women of the Wall issue is only one of the fault lines where the difference can be seen. Kol Ishawomen in public office, Messianism and soldiers refusing direct orders from commanders are some others.
 
It is also disturbing on an educational level. Children should not be carted out to demonstrations. Children should be educated. If the Bnei Akiva educators are really interested in teaching their students what should happen is that a representative from Women of the Wall should be invited to the schools to discuss and debate the issue with someone opposed to them. That will give the students a chance to formulate an opinion on an issue that has become central in Israel religious, social and political life. Carting out these girls does nothing other than to boost the numbers of protesters. As such, the girls are being used.
Some will recall (myself included ) being bussed to Washington DC to participate in mass rallies on behalf of Soviet Jewry and participating in pro-Israel rallies. Were we used? Do we exploit our children when taking them to pro Israel rallies? I think there is a difference.
There are two sides to the policy question of what the status of the kotel should be and Jewish schools should educate their students about those two sides. On the other hand, regarding Soviet Jewry movement or general support for Israel, the school and parents who send kids there have already made a decision about being pro-Israel and supporting Jews in danger around the world. They see that is part and parcel of the educational mission of the school.
Of course, when it comes to Soviet Jewry we must not forget that basic human rights were being denied and lives were at stake.
 
Bnei Akiva is crucially important as it has historically educated towards serious engagement in Torah along with an absolute commitment to being a constructive force in the building of Medinat Yisrael. 
 
Communities across the globe (including mine) benefit from the leadership training that is the hallmark of Bnei Akiva. Bnei Akiva chanichim and bogrim (participants and graduates) from my own community have gone on to become leaders on a local and a national level. Bnei Akia snif, special programs and shabbatonim have transformed our shul. We could not be prouder of our Bnei Akiva shlichim, bnot sheirut and participants and we could not be happier that we support Bnei Akia.
 
I am certain that this decision does not represent the thinking of many within the leadership of Bnei Akiva. I hope that there is an outcry from them.
 
Hauling girls to a protest is not leadership training. Bnei Akiva schools should stick to what they do best. Educating, inspiring and training the next generation of Jewish leaders.