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Violence at Aguda Israel Meeting

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Violence erupted at a meeting of the Agoda Israel’s Central Committee last Sunday night. MK Shlomo Lorincz, one of the faction’s leaders, narrowly escaped injury when he was assaulted by about 100 enraged Gerrer hosidim who came from their Ashdod community with the avowed purpose of demanding his ouster and breaking up the meeting. Lorincz escaped unscathed, but the pushing, shoving and shouting underscored the serious disputes within the ultra-Orthodox party.

The Central Committee met to nominate delegates to the Sixth “Knessia Gedolah” (World Congress) of the International Agudath Israel movement which begins Jan. 7 in Jerusalem. Thousands of delegates from the United States and Europe are scheduled to attend the one-week congress.

But after Sunday night’s fracas Lorincz said that he and his Tzeirei Aguda (Young Guard) faction would boycott the congress. Aguda sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Lorincz’s mentor, Rabbi Eliezer Shach of Bnei Brak, has also threatened not to attend.

The Gerrer hasids are the strangest faction numerically within the Aguda and their rebbe, Simcha Bunim Alter, is considered the most influential member of the Aguda “Council of Sages.” They were offended by two interviews recently given by Lorincz. One appeared in the popular Tel Aviv magazine, Monitin, where Lorincz discussed Aguda politics with editor Nahum Barnea.

CRITICAL OF CONTEXT, NOT CONTENT

It was not the contents of the interview that bothered the hasids but the fact that Monitin displayed a scantily clad girl on its cover that week and published similar “lascivious” photographs alongside Lorincz’s interview. More {SPAN}###ous{/SPAN} from the Gerrer viewpoint was another Lorincz interview in Haaretz in which the Aguda leader agreed with the questioner’s statement that the standard of the “Council of Sages” has declined. According to the Gerrer, he was also less than respectful toward their rebbe.

Lorincz claimed in a radio interview that he never heard of Monitin and certainly had no idea that it purveyed “lascivious” material. He acknowledged acquaintanceship with Barnea who is the Knesset correspondent of Davar. As to the Haaretz interview, Lorincz said all Orthodox Jews agreed that the level of the rabbinate has steadily fallen since the days of the Talmud and the Babylonian “goanim.” He said, “That the rabbis of previous generations were greater than those of our generation no one can deny.” But, he insisted, that could not be construed as lack of respect for present rabbinical leaders.

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