‘Anglo’ Haredi activist will run for Knesset seat with Yair Lapid

US-born Rabbi Dov Lipman, an advocate for ultra-Orthodox integration, to be placed between 11th and 20th spot on Yesh Atid’s slate

Elie Leshem is deputy editor of The Times of Israel.

Dov Lipman, right, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid (photo credit: Yaakov Lederman)
Dov Lipman, right, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid (photo credit: Yaakov Lederman)

Rabbi Dov Lipman, a prominent American-born “modern Haredi” activist, has announced that he will be running for a Knesset seat in the coming elections, with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

Lipman, who came to the fore as a voice against ultra-Orthodox extremism in the city of Beit Shemesh in 2011, has consistently advocated against religious coercion and in favor of integrating Israel’s Haredim into the military and the workforce, in a Times of Israel blog, among other venues.

Before joining forces with Lapid, Lipman ran the “Anglo division” of Rabbi Haim Amsalem’s Am Shalem party, which splintered from the ultra-Orthodox Shas, principally over the question of Haredi integration in secular society. He left Am Shalem in June, after the party decided to focus its energies on the Sephardic vote.

A graduate of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University, Lipman immigrated to Israel in 2004 with his wife and four children.

Lapid, a charismatic former news anchor and columnist, and the son of the late firebrand parliamentarian and journalist Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, is projected to garner around 10 seats with his platform of social solidarity and the integration of the ultra-Orthodox.

In October, in what analysts construed as an attempt to counter his anti-religious image, Lapid announced that the second slot on Yesh Atid’s list would be going to Shai Piron, a Modern Orthodox rabbi and the founder of the Petah Tikva high-school yeshiva.

In a statement Saturday night, Lipman said that he would be placed “in the second ten on the list,” which, depending on the exact placement, could mean a realistic shot at getting elected to parliament.

“The past few years have exposed me to issues within Israeli society which I have dedicated myself to trying to improve – polarization, extremism, inequality, and unfairness,” Lipman said. “As an educator I have been troubled by the direction in which we have been heading in our education system. I am proud to be part of a party which has raised these issues as its flags.”

In a Times of Israel blog post from September 24, 2012, ahead of the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur, Lipman cited Lapid among the people whom he had learned “not to judge… by their externals.”

“During 5772 I developed a relationship with Yair Lapid. I had always assumed that Lapid was a non-believer who was anti-Haredi and even anti-religious,” Lipman wrote. “Then I went to hear him speak. Not once, not twice, but numerous times. I also had the opportunity to sit with him alone.

“Through these encounters, all those pre-conceived notions and judgments came crumbling down, as I slowly got to know a soulful, spiritual, God-believing, Jew and a lover of the Land of Israel. He is a leader with great vision and passion to set our country and people back on the right path and a human being who I have come to respect and admire.”

On Saturday, Lipman referred to the emerging Yesh Atid slate as “a remarkable group of men and women – some who have dedicated their lives to Israel’s security, some to education, some to discrimination and human rights – coming from all backgrounds and leaving other careers to work together to improve our country.”

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