Sunday, June 09, 2013

MK Dov Lipman

On Thurs evening we went to hear MK Dov Lipman speak at the young Israel Synagogue of Netanya at a fund-raiser for Laniado Hospital organized by the Netanya Friends of the Hospital.  Dov, in case you don't know, is the only American-born MK elected in the recent election on the Yesh Atid party list to the Knesset.  He had to renounce his American citizenship in order to serve in the Knesset.  He is religious (dati) and wears a black kippah, which makes him an unusual member of the generally secular Yesh Atid party.  He explained how he unexpectedly found himself in that position.
He comes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where he was active in Jewish causes.  He remembered at the age of 14 standing in the silent vigil opposite the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC carrying a sign saying "Free Yuli Edelstein" and now Yuli Edelstein is the Speaker of the Knesset. (Parenthetically I was an organizer of this "silent vigil" when I was active in the Soviet Jewry Committee of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington).  Dov studied in various yeshivot and obtained smicha as an orthodox rabbi and obtained a Masters degree in education.  In 2004 he and his family made aliyah to Beth Shemesh, which he chose because it was a mixed community of religious and secular Jews. 
He was shocked to find the degree of animosity between the secular (hiloni) and ultra-orthodox (haredi) communities, that particularly came to a head over the placement of a religious Zionist school adjacent to a haredi neighborhood.  He realized that he had been naieve and decided to take an active role in trying to mediate between the two communities, since he had connections to both.  He was in an ideal position to help interpret each community to the other. This role brought him to the attention of various community leaders, and he decided to pursue a political career. 
Prior to the recent election he had heard that Yair Lapid was forming a new party and contacted him to indicate his interest.  He was surprised to be called back and then had a meeting with Yair that proved a turning point in his life.  He hoped Yair, who is secular and has a reputation of being anti-haredi (that he partly inherited from his father Tommy Lapid), would be interested in him as an Orthodox Rabbi, because Yair wanted his party to be inclusive.  He was appointed no. 17 on the Yesh Atid list and was not expected to be elected, but on election night Yesh Atid did unexpectedly well and received 19 seats, so Dov found himself in the Knesset. 
As the only native-born American in the Knesset and a person who has a reputation of being a conciliator between the hiloni and haredi communities, he is deeply involved in the current issue of sharing the national service burden equally among all Israeli communities.  He is on several Knesset committees that are concerned with this issue and others, including conversion and absorption.  He spoke fluently and earnestly and created a very positive impression.  After his talk there were several questions particularly related to these hot topic issues, which he handled with aplomb.  It seems that he has found his vocation. 


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