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Two Feuding Orthodox Factions Agree to Disagree with Civility

The leaders of two feuding ultra-Orthodox factions met here this week, and while they apparently failed to settle their basic differences, they seem to have agreed to tone down the invective.

Rabbi Eliezer Schach, the head of the Degel HaTorah party, played host at his Bnei Brak home Sunday to the leader of the Agudat Yisrael party, Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter.

Alter is chairman of the Agudah’s Council of Sages and brother of the revered Gerrer rebbe, Simcha Bunim Alter.

The two tzadekim represent the two main streams of Orthodoxy, the Mitnagged and Hasidic, whose bitter rivalry began 200 years ago in Eastern Europe.

Schach, who is a Mitnagged, broke with Agudah last year to form Degel HaTorah, which ran for election to the Knesset on a separate list.

The immediate cause of the breach was Agudah’s refusal to yield to Schach’s demand that its newspaper, Hamodia, reject advertisements from the Chabad Hasidic movement.

Schach considers Chabad heretical and is waging a private war against the worldwide Hasidic movement led by the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabbi Alter, a friend of Chabad, is not prepared to give ground.

According to reliable sources, the issue of Chabad remains the major bone of contention between the two parties.

But from now on, the dispute will be conducted in a civilized manner.

“We have legitimate differences but that does not mean we should not conduct our disputes in a civilized fashion, in mutual respect,” said Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, leader of Degel’s two-seat Knesset faction.

He added that the two parties should act in concert in the Knesset on matters of common interest. Some observers speculated the partial truce between the warring factions might lead to the formation of a unified parliamentary bloc.

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