Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Tishrei 5760 - September 15, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
"Our Youth is Lost"

by S. Yisraeli

Avigdor Leiberman became known as "the strong man" in the Netanyahu administration. During the recent elections, he ran as head of the Yisrael Beiteinu slate. But not many people know that Leiberman, a Russian immigrant and an avowed secularist, has a daughter who is a chozeres b'teshuva, who drew closer to yiddishkiet on her own initiative after visiting Shabbos observant homes.

In an interview in the newspapers she said: "It was a process. It stewed in my mind. In the eighth grade I made an independent decision to keep Shabbos. It was very hard for me. I was a child, and it was hard to remember not to turn on lights on Shabbos. I remember that suddenly I couldn't make things that I wanted to, such as coffee, or an omelet. But that trained me, and placed me in a framework. It forced me to gain control of my urges.

"My father couldn't swallow the situation," she recalled. "He said that it would pass, that he would overcome it. But from the outset, my mother understood that it was serious. She supported me tremendously. She helped me enforce my self- discipline. She told me: Go ahead. She encouraged me and helped me to say kiddush. She helped me not to break. She drew my father into taking lessons from a Rav. "Afterward she founded a Tanach class for the entire settlement. It was given by a Rav in our home. She plunged into things deeply. She forced my father to make kiddush every Shabbos, and even when he had important meetings, he would arrive home for kiddush. My mother bought a samovar and a hot plate for Shabbos. My father put scotch tape on the refrigerator, to prevent the bulb from lighting up on Shabbos.

There should be no mistake. Leiberman has remained secular. His daughter keeps Shabbos and kashrus in that same house. She says: "The change is mainly deep within me, in the way I look at things. When I was non-observant, I was more self- centered. Everything focused on what I wanted to do. Today, I am not in the center. Hashem is the center of the world. I was once a slave to my inclinations. Now I am not. This teaches me to look at the world in a humanistic way, and teaches me modesty and humility."

The Leiberman family lives in one of the settlements, and it was natural that their daughter became close to the national- religious community. But in her heart, she feels critical about that group.

"I am very curious about the chareidi way of life. I would like to talk with them, to meet them, to know them. They think like I do. But they're very different. Their rigid framework fascinates me. Perhaps they are right, because they are the only ones who have succeeded in preserving the European tradition of hundreds of years ago. I admire how they remain so firm, especially in respect to tznius and the way they maintain separations between men and women. The national religious are far more compromising.

"I sharply disagree with certain aspects of the religious Zionist movement to which I belong. I don't accept the fact that we are always apologizing for our very existence. This trend began after the assassination of Rabin, which I of course totally condemn. But why do we have to justify ourselves all of the time?"

Moreover, she said, "Our youth are getting lost. You can see national-religious kids roaming about Freak Square in Jerusalem, and doing everything in order to be like the secular youth. We're going to get lost. I see this. I am a member of the youth council of Gush Etzion. They're holding seminars for us in order to strengthen us. A short while ago there was argument between the chareidim and the secular about whether to close a certain road on Shabbos. At the seminar in our school they asked us with which world view we identified. Many of the girls in the class raised their hands and said: To the secular one. This bothered me terribly. There was a stormy debate, until I walked out slamming the door behind me. I'm more of a Rightist, and I'm more religious than they are and can't stand their apologetic liberalism. If you are going to do something, believe in it and go all the way."

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