(JTA) — Rabbi Chaim Druckman, whose mission was to unite the people of Israel, was father to a movement now poised to sow some of its deepest divisions in decades.
Druckman, who died Sunday at 90 after contracting COVID-19, was a giant in the religious Zionism movement, which sought to integrate the two preeminent philosophies that saw themselves as bulwarks against Jewish disintegration: Orthodox Judaism and Zionism.
In the 1950s, he established the hesder movement, which blended Torah study with military service. For tens of thousands of religious Jews, his innovation resolved a dilemma that had beset Israel’s founders: What was the most meaningful way for young Orthodox men to spend their first years of adulthood?
“We study Torah to fulfill our national obligation and serve in the army to fulfill our religious obligation,” Druckman often said.
Over the years, he led yeshivas and youth movements to extend that vision, and in 2012, he won the Israel Prize, Israel’s national award, for his lifetime of contributions to religious Zionist education.
Yet as much as he sought to bridge divides, he was as frequently positioned at their fault lines, in recent years disparaging non-Orthodox Jews and mentoring extremists who seek the marginalization of non-Jewish and non-Orthodox minorities in Israel. He also at least twice defended and sought to rehabilitate religious leaders convicted of sexual abuse, including of children.
Druckman was born in 1932 in Kuty, in what was then Poland and what is now Ukraine. He and his parents went into hiding during the Holocaust and then fled to the Soviet Union. He entered British Mandate Palestine in 1944 posing as the child of another couple and was reunited with his parents after the war.
He soon became a disciple of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the rabbi who helped shape the nationalist outlook of the National Religious Party. Kook’s teachings drove Druckman to become one of the first leaders of the religious Zionist movement to embrace the settlement of lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. He was at the seminal 1968 Passover seder in Hebron that is widely seen as the launch of the religious settlement movement and is believed to have coined the name of its principal body, Gush Emunim, which means bloc of believers.
Druckman became a figurehead of the settlement movement, although he lived most of his life in Mercaz Shapira, the Israeli village near Ashkelon where he ran the influential Or Etzion Yeshiva. He served in the Knesset in coalitions led by Likud and Labor prime ministers, from 1977 to 1988 and then from 1999 to 2003, with short periods in the opposition.
In the wake of the massive influx immigrants after the fall of the Soviet Union, Druckman as a senior religious court judge led an effort to ease conversion to Orthodox Judaism. His suasions backfired, leading haredi Orthodox judges to seek the nullification of thousands of conversions he had supervised.
However much he preached reconciliation among Jews, he stood hard and fast against any attempt to dismantle settlements, going so far as to advise soldiers to refuse orders to take part in the removal of settlements. He also stood by Jews accused and convicted of violent crimes associated with tensions over the settlements, including murder and terrorism, raising funds for those accused and welcoming them back into society.
He also stood by people who were accused of sexual abuse multiple times. He was rebuked in 1999 for failing to report credible reports of sexual assault by a yeshiva head he supervised, Zev Kopilevich, and he later championed another rabbi convicted of sexual abuse, Moti Elon. While he conceded in 2013 that the government was right to rebuke him, he also dismissed as “gossip” just this month multiple allegations of rape against another yeshiva head, Zvi Tau.
Until recently, Druckman championed Naftali Bennett and his Jewish Home Party as the natural heir to the National Religious Party tradition — but in 2021 when Bennett chose the path of reconciliation once championed by Druckman, joining a unity government with secular parties, Druckman cut him off and instead embraced the extremist Religious Zionist Party led by Bezalel Smotrich.
Druckman played a role in brokering the entry of the Religious Zionist Party into the government that Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to bring to power in coming days. The entry of Smotrich and a colleague, Itamar Ben-Gvir, into the government is likely to precipitate a crisis with Diaspora Jewry. They favor restricting Israeli laws to favor the Orthodox, annexing the West Bank and loosening laws that restrict troops from killing or physically harming Palestinians.
At Druckman’s funeral on Monday, Smotrich said Druckman “reproached” him frequently for his excesses, but in a recent interview with Yisrael Hayom, the nationalist daily, Druckman made clear that many of the ideas Smotrich champions had his blessing, including his proposal for a state based on religious law and his plans for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Tens of thousands of people attended Druckman’s funeral Monday in his home village of Mercaz Shapira. Israel’s leaders at his funeral remembered him as a unifier.
“All of us were your sons, all of us were your students,” President Isaac Herzog said, according to the Times of Israel.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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