The ubiquitous Rabbi Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh is an outspoken critic of religious intolerance and coercion. Many Israelis recognize the self-described ‘modern Haredi’ community activist and educator as the man who publicly stood up to ultra-Orthodox zealots who harassed an eight-year-old modern Orthodox girl as she walked to school in Beit Shemesh, an increasingly tense town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with large Modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
Lipman has made no secret of his intention to become politically active. Until last week, the Maryland-born rabbi was running for Knesset as the head of Anglo outreach for Shas MK Haim Amsalem’s splinter party, Am Shalem. But Amsalem’s decision to focus on Sephardi Israelis and cease courting the votes of immigrants from English-speaking countries means Lipman needs to find a new political home.
“I am certainly open to running for office if I can work towards the goals which I believe are the most important for the country — combating religious extremism and coercion, restoring a moderate and embracing Judaism, and creating unity,” he says. “I am being pushed by many people to run for office in Beit Shemesh and I have not ruled that out.”
If and when Lipman gets his chance to run for national office, he will have the certain support of one newly-minted Israeli voter: his mother.
In September, Leah Lipman plans to fulfill her lifelong dream of making aliya. At an event sponsored by the Jewish Agency at the Washington, D.C. Israeli embassy, she told the Times of Israel that her son’s political activism was the “catalyst” for the decision.
‘I want the privilege of voting for my son in an upcoming election’
“I want the privilege of voting for my son in an upcoming election should his political and ideological aspirations come to fruition,” says the 65-year-old retired Washington, DC area music teacher.
“As a proud mother, I can’t sit back. I want to be an active participant in this process. I plan to do what is needed as a volunteer or cheerleader. I know that Dov has thousands of people rooting for his political success and that my one vote won’t necessarily make or break his career in whatever capacity he chooses to run, but rest assured, no one will vote with more pride.”
Rabbi Lipman says he is “very excited” about his mother’s arrival and that the hardest thing about his own aliya in 2004 was leaving behind his children’s grandmother.
“It touches me deeply that the possibility of voting for me prompted her to make the final decision. Her mother survived Auschwitz and the possibility of her serving as the generation between that horror and a grandson possibly elected to public office in our free homeland touches her to the core,” says the father of four.
‘Her mother survived Auschwitz and the possibility of her serving as the generation between that horror and a grandson possibly elected to public office in our free homeland touches her to the core’
Leah’s parents survived the Holocaust and settled in America. She says her 88-year-old mother in Boro Park, New York is thrilled about her decision to move to Israel and plans to visit often.
Dov’s father, a former US federal judge, died seven years ago, but would have been extremely proud to know that his family was laying down permanent roots in Israel, according to mother and son.
“Ron was a community activist and president of the local shul and yeshiva. He was responsible for the success of many Jewish institutions in the Washington, DC area,” says Leah.
In a twist, Leah has since remarried and her new husband will also be joining an accomplished, noteworthy child in Israel. Dr. Allen Zeiger, a retired medical professor, is the father of Yael Zieger, a popular Biblical scholar and author with a PhD from Bar-Ilan University currently living in Alon Shvut.
Between the two of them, Leah and Allen have 46 grandchildren, 14 of whom live in Israel.