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A New Haggadah for Soviet Olim Said to Disparage Secular Jews

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The Orthodox politicians who control the Absorption Ministry are waging an all-out campaign to indoctrinate Soviet olim with religion, according to the Israeli media and at least one member of the Knesset.

Their drive peaks with the approach of Passover, which begins this Friday night.

According to Knesset member Shulamit Aloni of the Citizens Rights Movement, the religious traditionalists, known as haredim, have gone too far in the Pesach haggadah the ministry published for Soviet Jews in Russian and English.

It disparages secular Jews, Aloni charged in a letter to Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, the absorption minister who sits in the Knesset as an independent.

She cited the parable of the Four Sons. The illustrations in the ministry’s haggadah depict the Wise Son and the Simple Son as devout, clean-cut yarmulka-wearing youngsters while the Wicked Son is a non-Orthodox Yuppie-type modern Israeli.

There is precedent for haggadot in the Diaspora portraying the Wicked Son, who does not want to be included in the seder, as a secular Jew.

But this haggadah is paid for by the taxpayers. Aloni accused the ministry of “ingratitude and arrogance” for showing “an ugly, despicable secular figure” as the Wicked Son.

Her charges followed a spate of articles in the Israeli media reporting that the ulpanim, where Russian immigrants study Hebrew, are increasingly coming under religious influence.

The popular Jerusalem weekly Kol Ha’ir said last weekend that the Absorption Ministry directs olim to Orthodox-run ulpanim while allowing those with non-Orthodox staffs to wilt for lack of students.

The ministry moreover equates “cultural activities” for new immigrants with Orthodox religious practices and helps Orthodox activists advance religious indoctrination by providing them with budgets, rooms and facilities at the absorption centers, Kol Ha’ir reported.

Apart from the ministry, the strictly Orthodox Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah parties have set up their own absorption departments for newcomers, headed by their rabbis and local politicians.

All of the religious parties are seeking to host Russian immigrant families at Orthodox homes for the seders.

Apparently the hospitality of the general public has fallen short of expectations, according to Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, who heads the Cabinet’s absorption committee.

Most of the invitations come from the Orthodox or from the kibbutzim, which are for the most part vigorously secular.

But Peretz complained Tuesday that he wanted immigrants to attend only seders conducted according to halachah, Jewish religious law as interpreted by Israel’s Orthodox rabbis. If he has his way, that would exclude seders at many kibbutzim.

Because of the Passover holiday, the JTA Daily News Bulletin will not be published Monday

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