Knesset newcomer party Yesh Atid, with its eclectic slate of MKs from across the religious spectrum, set the ball rolling on Tuesday on what party members hope will be a weekly Knesset event: Torah study.
Party MKs Rabbi Shai Piron and Dr. Ruth Calderon invited parliamentarians and their staffs to the session, and were pleased to find more than 30 people, including 12 of Yesh Atid’s 19 faction members, gathered for the Knesset’s first ever “beit midrash” (study center).
Tuesday’s study session was led by Calderon, who is an educator, a Talmud scholar, and the founder of Elul — Israel’s first secular, male-female Beit Midrash.
Last week, Calderon became something of a YouTube sensation with her 14-minute maiden speech in the Knesset. In her address, she delivered an impassioned, gracious plea — complete with Talmudic quotations, anecdotes, and passages in Aramaic — for the widespread study of Jewish and Hebrew texts as the basis for a new Hebrew culture.
She called on all young Israelis to participate in Torah study and military and civil service, and for the equal allocation of government resources for Torah study based on the quality of their scholarship rather than their religious affiliation — in what amounted to an eloquent but nonetheless unmistakable challenge to the ultra-Orthodox near-monopoly on Judaism’s Torah heritage in the state of Israel.
MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, also from Yesh Atid, called Tuesday’s study session “remarkable.” He will be one of several teachers to participate in the sessions on a rotating basis.
“As an MK, I don’t have a lot of time left to study Torah, and it was wonderful to pause in the middle of a busy day for 45 minutes of intensive Torah study and discussion,” Lipman said.
“Seeing MKs and staff members from ultra-Orthodox through secular studying Torah together showed the beauty of the environment we are creating in this new Knesset,” he added.
Lipman related that one participant came out of respect for the initiative, but without expecting to enjoy it. “Now she says she cannot wait for next week’s session.”
Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.