The Light of Torah is Driving Away the Darkness of Anti-Religious Incitement in Teveria

By Chaim Gold

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Gedolim to Attend Massive Dirshu Siyum on Masechta Chulin and Numerous New Shiurim Established

It was a serious meeting at the home of the senior Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita. One might even call it somber. At the meeting, a number of prominent Rabbanim and energetic askanim from Teveria, were consulting with the Rosh Yeshiva about what they should do about the assault on Hashem, nothing less, which was transpiring in their city.

Reb David Ohana, a member of the City Council of Teveria for Degel HaTorah, related, “The new Mayor of Teveria, Ron Kubi, has only one agenda: Attacking religion and especially charedim. He has declared war on Shabbos, bussing in people from Tel Aviv to participate in chillul Shabbos festivals on the Kinneret and even trucking in snow from Mount Chermon for a snow fun festival on Shabbos. We realized that something had to be done so we went to consult with the venerated Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh for advice. We proposed perhaps making a massive demonstration on behalf of Shabbos by having a citywide Kabbalas Shabbos in the street where thousands would come out to daven in the city’s main thoroughfare thereby showing how important Shabbos is to everyone in Teveria, not just to the charedim, but to the vast majority of the residents who are traditional Sephardim,” Mr. Ohana explained.

Rav Gershon looked at us and, in his clear, deliberate way, said, “Demonstrations are not the way to go. You must be mischazek, strengthen yourselves and strengthen others in shmiras Shabbos, in keeping Shabbos, in learning the halachos of Shabbos and in general, raising the level of limud haTorah in town. That is the antidote to a rabidly anti-religious demagogue and rabble rouser like Ron Kubi.”

Spiritual Attack, Spiritual Response

It is against this backdrop and in light of this advice from the Rosh Yeshiva, that Dirshu will be making a large siyum and evening of chizuk this coming Sunday, 24 Adar II/ March 31 at the Mofet Hall in Teveria.

According to Dirshu representative, Rabbi Nati Weingarten, who has been intensely involved in the plans for the siyum, “Rav Gershon has declared that the response to attacks on Torah, on Shabbos and on our way of life, have to be spiritual in nature. Dirshu has dedicated itself to several innovative and exciting ways to enhance the spiritual lives of Teveria’s Jews. The siyum that we will be making on Masechta Chulin, the masechta that the Daf HaYomi is soon completing, is just the beginning of our efforts to spiritually fortify the city as an antidote to the barrage of attacks perpetrated by the anti-Torah mayor. The siyum will be a remarkable demonstration of achdus. Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Chassidim and Litvish Yidden will come together to participate k’ish echad b’lev achad, to celebrate the completion of a masechta but even more so, to accept upon themselves the ol Torah, the yoke of Torah in the numerous new programs that Dirshu will be starting, encouraging and promoting in Teveria,” said Rabbi Weingarten. In addition, leading Sephardic and Ashkenazic Rabbanim from Teveria will grace the occasion and they will be joined by some of the most prominent Sephardi and Ashkenazi Gedolim in Klal Yisrael.

Dirshu is also planning a wide array of new Torah projects for the wider Teveria community as the ultimate response to such anti-religious provocation.

Torah Observance is Increasing in Teveria, not the Opposite

David Ohana, gave a bit of background to the upheaval in Teveria. “Teveria has always been a traditional city where the majority of the population was Sephardic. For years, the vast majority of the residents had a warm place in their hearts for religious observance, even if they themselves were not completely observant.

“In recent years, the religious presence in the city has grown tremendously. In fact, today 55% of the kindergarten children are religious. Joining the very significant Sephardic religious community, Karlin and Sanzer Chassidus have established neighborhoods with hundreds of young families combined. The Litvish community has also recently established a significant presence.”

David Ohana continues, “This renaissance of religious life has created the perfect backdrop for a demagogue like Ron Kubi to step in. Kubi is not even a resident of Teveria. He and his family live in Tel Aviv. A few years ago, he ‘moved’ to Teveria by renting a one-room, portable caravan, coming to Teveria, walking around town and taking daily videos with his phone and uploading them to Facebook. Even now that he actually rents an apartment in Teveria, his family still resides in Tel Aviv and it is that secular atmosphere that is so characteristic of Tel Aviv that he seeks to bring to Teveria. He is a one issue candidate who has based his campaign and his candidacy on stoking the fears of an impending charedi ‘takeover’ of the city.

“Sadly, his strategy worked and now he is doing everything he can to secularize the city. He has threatened storeowners who insist on being closed on Shabbos, he has brought public transportation to the city and has specifically stoked religious tension by insisting on making loud, garish and often immoral public festivals on Shabbos to spite the sensitivities of the religious public.”

The Counter-Revolution

The Dirshu siyum is just the beginning of the Torah counter revolution. “Dirshu has dedicated itself,” says Rabbi Weingarten, “to strengthen the learning of Daf HaYomi in the city and will open a minimum of ten new Daf HaYomi shiurim for the start of Masechta Bechoros. In order to do this, they have already started giving a course to aspiring magiddei shiur from Teveria to help them cultivate the ability to properly structure and deliver a shiur so as to derive maximum benefit to their listeners. Dirshu is also in the process of trying to rejuvenate and transform a number of the city’s shuls to make them into Torah centers. As a traditional city, Teveria has many shuls but sadly, most are closed throughout the day and barely scratch together a minyan for Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv. Dirshu will be starting new shiurim in many of those shuls in what is hoped will be a harbinger of a Torah revolution.”

In addition, Rav Hofstedter, the Nasi of Dirshu with the encouragement of Gedolei Yisrael, has waived the usual six-test threshold generally required before earning a Dirshu stipend in Eretz Yisrael. Any person from Teveria who joins one of Dirshu’s programs will immediately be included in the program.”

Rabbi Avigdor Berenstein, a senior member of Dirshu’s hanhala in Eretz Yisrael related, “Last week I attended a major gathering of distinguished Rabbanim in Teveria. They are very excited about the burst of spiritual energy that Dirshu is investing in the city.

“Our objective is not to make demonstrations and not to enter into conflict with Mayor Kubi. We will leave that for the politicians. What we are doing is in the spirit of ‘me’at ohr doche harbei min hachoshech, a bit of light drives away a lot of darkness.’”

Certainly the light of Torah being learned and taught by lomdei Dirshu will increase Torah learning among all of Teveria’s residents and will ensure that Teveria will remain one of the four holy cities in Eretz Yisrael that radiates kedusha to the entire land.

 

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