May 28, 2024
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Former MK Dov Lipman Speaks in Fair Lawn

The phrase, “Can’t we all just get along?” were most famously uttered by Rodney King during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. However, any group wishes for the same thing, including the Jewish people. For Rabbi Dov Lipman, member of Yesh Atid party and a former MK, the desire to see the Jewish people getting along is a driving force in his actions. While Lipman described living in Israel as a dream, he and his family made Aliyah for mundane reasons: he was offered a job. Telling his grandmother about his family’s departure was memorable for Lipman: “She said shehecheyanu.” His grandmother noted that when she left the DP camps after World War II, she thought that Israel was the place where she should have gone. Seeing her grandson and his family make aliyah was like coming full circle. He was fulfilling her dreams.

With this inspiration, Rabbi Lipman and his family settled in Beit Shemesh. The family chose the community because they wanted to experience the “beauty of different Jews living together.” However, once the Lipman family settled into Beit Shemesh, they experienced a rude awakening. In fact, many Jews did not get along well with one another at all. An example of this incompatibility drove Lipman to an act of defiance. Lipman described a yellow sign that said “forbidden to walk on this street if dressed immodestly.” The sign irked Lipman. “It felt wrong, and I had to do something about it.” So, he bought spray paint. At 2:00 a.m., he covered the sign. The sign was replaced, and he again spray painted. The cycle transpired a couple more times before the sign ultimately disappeared.

Later Lipman was involved in a confrontation at a modern Orthodox girls elementary school (Orot) in Beit Shemesh. The school was built on the border between a “religious Zionist/modern Orthodox” neighborhood and an extreme haredi neighborhood. The most extreme element of the haredi community yelled harassing names and insults at the girls. Lipman and others started escorting the girls to school every morning and organizing against the harassment. This involvement brought him nationwide attention. Ultimately, Lipman met Yair Lapid, who would go on to become the leader of the Yesh Atid party. “Lapid said, ‘We agree on 80% and disagree 20%.’” He encouraged Lipman to sit down and work together, and a relationship was formed.

Ultimately Lipman gained a seat in parliament when Yesh Atid gained 19 seats in the 2013 election. He served two years in Knesset. Lipman worked on a number of issues during that time. Each issue was one that Lipman felt would help the Jewish people get along.

It was these actions that Lipman spoke about at an event sponsored by Darchei Noam, Shomrei Torah and Ahavat Achim in Fair Lawn on Thursday evening. Rabbi Uri Goldstein introduced Lipman as someone who sees “the need to unify and bridge gaps.”

Some issues Lipman talked about were:

Agunot: “I felt I had to do something about this … stain on state if there is even one agunah.”

Marriage: He was part of a committee that decided upon a civil contract for the reason that many secular people do not seek a get when they divorce. If they remarry and have children, their children are mamzerim.

Conversion of Russians: Many Russians who came to Israel were not halachically Jewish. Lipman noted there needs to be a halachic way to bring these people into the fold. He added, “We should proactively go out and convert them.”

Expanding educational offerings: Lipman worked to get math and English in all haredi schools. He said, “Last year 50 schools added general studies.”

Those who attended the speech came for a number of reasons. For Al Kustanowitz, the reason to attend was “an opportunity to hear from a former MK about his views of what is going on in Israel.” Michael Cohen came on the spur of the moment and is particularly interested in Israel as his daughter will be spending her gap year there. Yitz Finkelstein came out because he has been “following the issue of Israel and religion closely for a while” and wanted to hear Lipman’s perspective.

Whatever the reason for coming, many walked away impressed. Richard Levitan said of the speech, “I enjoyed it very much. He helps restore faith in achieving greater Jewish unity.” Other attendees, including Randi Spier and Dena Greene, used words like ‘hope,’ ‘breath of fresh air,’ and ‘out of the box thinker,’ to describe Lipman, his speech and his actions.

Lipman feels there is much work to be accomplished. His final words to the audience served to inspire. “People say Dov Lipman doesn’t get it. They say it’s just a dream. Well, continue to dream and make a difference … create an Israel where every single Jew is at home.”

By Larry Bernstein

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