Power Struggle in Lithuanian Community as Rabbinical Leaders Instruct Yeshiva Students to Dodge Draf - The Jewish Voice
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Power Struggle in Lithuanian Community as Rabbinical Leaders Instruct Yeshiva Students to Dodge Draf

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Leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis this week called on yeshiva students not to report to the Israel Defense Forces draft office after receiving their preliminary call-up papers, Haaretz reports.

Rav Shmuel Auerbach, a member of the Council of Torah Sages of Degel Hatorah party, as well as other Rashei Yeshivot, called on their students not to respond to the IDF draft notices. Posters calling on students not to show up were also placed on notice boards Friday at main non-Hasidic yeshivas, including Ponevezh in Bnei Brak.

According to a HaMevaser report, The Rabbanim were instructing yeshivah and kollel studentsto sign a committee’s form stating they will continue learning and nothing else.

The call follows reports that ultra-Orthodox youth are being summoned for medical tests, including an examination of their testicles – which has outraged the community – and psychotechnical evaluations.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said the tests constituted “real attempts at religious conversion.” At a meeting with senior officers in the IDF’s human resources division, MK Yaakov Litzman, the deputy health minister, managed to get a reassurance by the officers that the yeshiva boys would not be examined by female physicians.

Apparently, the draft tensions are the result of power struggles in the “Lithuanian” sect of ultra-Orthodoxy – specifically among those who see themselves as successors to the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.

The leader of the Lithuanian mainstream, HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, reiterated that he supports continued cooperation with the IDF. An advertisement in the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne’eman – considered loyal to Shteinman – called on yeshiva students to respond to their call-up notices, but “not to sign any document or declare their status as a yeshiva student.”

HaRav Auerbach, who is opposed to the idea of reporting to draft, refuses to accept Shteinman’s leadership as he sees himself as HaRav Elyashiv’s successor.

In recent months, the newspaper Hapeles – considered Auerbach’s mouthpiece – published reports by yeshiva students claiming that they were humiliated at the draft office. Yated Ne’eman also published such reports. Following the reports, Gafni (who is identified with Shteinman) said, “If things do not change immediately, we will recommend the Torah Sages to instruct the boys not to go under these circumstances to the draft offices.”

The IDF denied reports that yeshiva students had been examined by women physicians and said it was in ongoing contact with the ultra-Orthodox authorities.

Litzman’s office said the MK was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting with the IDF’s human resources representatives.

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