The leader of the American yeshiva where MK Dov Lipman studied has publicly apologized for calling the Yesh Atid lawmaker “wicked” and “an apostate” for his purported goal to shut down ultra-Orthodox high schools that don’t teach secular studies.

However, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, the rosh yeshiva of Baltimore’s ultra-Othodox Ner Israel Rabbinical College, is still insisting that Lipman’s policies vis-a-vis Haredi education in Israel are wrongheaded and urged the freshman legislator to resign from his party.

During a lecture on Friday, Feldman said he received a letter from Lipman, and that based on the text he has to acknowlege that Lipman is not a “rasha,” or wicked person. 

“He’s written me a letter explaining himself, that he means l’shem shamayim [for the sake of Heaven], that he’s trying to strengthen Torah, in his view. And therefore, since he’s a shogeg, I cannot call him a rasha and I retract my statement and I apologize to him for calling him a rasha,” Feldman said according to a recording of the lecture obtained by the Baltimore Jewish Life website.

A shogeg is someone who sins unintentionally.

“However, he is extremely misguided,” Feldman added, explaining that by advocating for the introduction of secular studies in Haredi high schools he is endangering the future of Torah study in Israel.

Lipman told The Times of Israel that Feldman also apologized to him in a personal correspondence and said he accepted the apology.

Last week, Feldman called Lipman — who received rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel — a “wicked” apostate whose positions on Jewish education do not represent the values taught by the institution.

“The positions and statements of MK Lipman in no way reflect the views and education of Yeshiva Ner Israel,” Feldman wrote in a letter published by the Haredi magazine Mishpacha on Tuesday. “Our yeshiva is based on the foundation that the study of Torah is the very soul of the Jewish people. Therefore it is our opinion that no individual or government institution that calls itself Jewish has the right to hinder in any way those who dedicate their lives to Torah study.”

Lipman, a native of Silver Spring, Maryland, immigrated to Israel in 2004 and earlier this year became the first American-born MK since the 1980s. He calls himself ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, because he believes in strict adherence of Jewish law. Yet he has been the target of vicious attacks from Israel’s established Haredi parties — mostly United Torah Judaism — due to his relatively moderate stance on various issues.

Rabbi Aharon Feldman (photo credit: CC BY-SA Yoninah, Wikimedia Commons)

Rabbi Aharon Feldman (photo credit: CC BY-SA Yoninah, Wikimedia Commons)

Without mentioning the Yesh Atid MK by name, Feldman said that “one of our former talmidim (students)” said he intended to “close down” all religious high schools because they don’t sufficiently teach secular studies. He then called Lipman a “shanah u’piresh,” or apostate, a term sometimes used in the ultra-Orthodox world to describe someone who, having been versed in Torah studies, turns his back on his heritage.

“I don’t know how he was corrupted; he didn’t learn it here in yeshiva,” Feldman said, according to a recording of the lecture obtained by Baltimore Jewish Life.

Lipman responded to the attack by saying he never intended to close any high school. His party merely advocates cutting state funding for schools that refuse to teach math and English, he said.

Though Feldman apologized to Lipman, on Friday he reiterated that he still vigorously opposes Lipman’s position. Introducing secular studies into Haredi high schools would “destroy the atmosphere of holiness” at these institutions, Feldman argued. He called on Lipman stop affiliating himself with Yesh Atid.

“I suggest highly to him that he consult other people [Haredi Torah scholars] and to resign from the party,” Feldman said, adding that such a move would constitute a true kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name.