How should we respond to the thugs who are harassing young girls, and the greater Beit Shemesh community, in the name of our religion? There are three ways to respond to bullies: 1) fight back, which risks escalating the conflict; 2) do nothing, in the spirit of Gandhi’s passive resistance, which may allow the bullies to succeed; 3) strengthen whatever the bullies are trying to stop. I don’t know that any one method is right for everyone but I believe that the third is most appropriate for those of us in the US, so far away geographically from the controversy but so close socially and emotionally, in our desire to support our extended Jewish family.
I assume readers are aware of the events in Beit Shemesh over the past few months. Orot Banot, a Religious Zionist girls school in Beit Shemesh, has been subject to ugly attacks by Charedi extremists. In particular, the young students have been harassed and intimidated.
All responsible Jews condemn those who treat little girls in such an abhorrent fashion. However, the question remains what we can do to help. R. Akiva Males, rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation in Harrisburg, PA, reached out to the school’s administration for suggestions on how he and his synagogue can help, whether they can sponsor a Shabbos party or the like for the students. R. Males received the following e-mail from Mrs. Pirchiya Nachmani, the principal of the Orot Banot girls school in Beit Shemesh:
Dear Rabbi Males,
Firstly, thank you for your note and support. It is very appreciated. At this point, we believe that the best way to counter the intimidation that has been aimed at our school, is by continuing to do what we have been mandated to do. That is, educating our young girls with a passion for learning, teaching them to strive for excellence in all areas,and developing in them a strong love for Israel — עם ישראל עם תורת ישראל בארץ ישראל .
To that end, we would be grateful if you would consider a donation towards our library or our science lab. This would react to destruction with building, it is something that will stay with our students and as you wrote “put a smile on their beautiful faces”.
We invite you to come visit our school so you can see personally how our students themselves are the “living response” to the situation.
Again, thank you so much for your support,
Mrs. Pirchiya Nachmani, Principal Orot Banot School
Mrs. Nachmani offers wise counsel. While some wish to fight back and others hope the conflict will subside on its own, she asks us to help defeat extremists by not only refusing to back down but strengthening our efforts. By building that which the extremists wish to destroy, we stand up for freedom, for community, for Jewish values. We build not only a school but a healthy and diverse Jewish community. Needless to say, R. Males’ synagogues sent a sent a check and the entire congregation feels proud to support the wonderful students of Orot Banot.
To donate to Orot Banot, please make the check out to “American Friends of Shaalei Torah” — a recognized American non-profit organization — with Orot Banot, Beit Shemesh in the memo section. (Shaalei Torah is the parent organization of the Orot schools.)
Please send your donation to Michal Glatt, the co-chair of the PTA, at:
Hayasmin Street 23B
Beit Shemesh, Israel