United Torah Judaism

United Torah Judaism

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United Torah Judaism is an alliance of Degel HaTorah
Degel HaTorah
Degel HaTorah is an Ashkenazi Haredi political party in Israel. For much of its existence it has been allied to Agudat Yisrael under the name United Torah Judaism.-Ideology:...

 and Agudat Israel
Agudat Israel
Agudat Yisrael began as the original political party representing the ultra-Orthodox population of Israel. It was the umbrella party for almost all ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, and before that in the British Mandate of Palestine...

, two small Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i Haredi
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

 (Ultra-Orthodox) political parties
Politics of Israel
The Israeli system of government is based on parliamentary democracy. The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of government and leader of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Knesset. The Judiciary is independent of the executive...

 in the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

. It was first formed in 1992.

The two parties have not always agreed with each other about policy matters. However, over the years they have cooperated and united as a voting bloc
Voting bloc
A voting bloc is a group of voters that are so motivated by a specific concern or group of concerns that it helps determine how they vote in elections. The divisions between voting blocs are known as cleavage...

 in order to win the maximum number of seats in the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

, since many extra votes can be wasted if election threshold
Election threshold
In party-list proportional representation systems, an election threshold is a clause that stipulates that a party must receive a minimum percentage of votes, either nationally or within a particular district, to obtain any seats in the parliament...

s are not attained under Israel's proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 parliamentary system.

When UTJ joined Ariel Sharon's
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

 coalition in 2004 it split into its two constituent factions of Degel HaTorah
Degel HaTorah
Degel HaTorah is an Ashkenazi Haredi political party in Israel. For much of its existence it has been allied to Agudat Yisrael under the name United Torah Judaism.-Ideology:...

 and Agudat Israel
Agudat Israel
Agudat Yisrael began as the original political party representing the ultra-Orthodox population of Israel. It was the umbrella party for almost all ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, and before that in the British Mandate of Palestine...

. Before the 2006 election, Degel HaTorah and Agudat Israel agreed to revive their alliance under the banner of United Torah Judaism to not waste votes
Wasted vote
In the study of electoral systems, a wasted vote may be defined in two different ways:# Any vote which is not for an elected candidate.# Any vote which does not help to elect a candidate....

 and achieve maximum representation in the 17th Knesset.

The two factions again united for the 18th Knesset elections in 2009. The bloc won five mandates, a loss of one seat.

Ideology


United Torah Judaism (Yahadut Hatorah - UTJ) is a coalition of two ultra-Orthodox parties, Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah, which submitted a joint list in the 1992 election, in which it won four Knesset seats. In the 1999 elections, UTJ won five Knesset seats. UTJ, led by Meir Porush, opposes negotiations with the Palestinians and the formation of a Palestinian state, and it wants to maintain a status quo relationship in regard to religion and state issues. UTJ also supports increasing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Formation of the party


UTJ was always a coalition of two factions:
  • The Degel HaTorah
    Degel HaTorah
    Degel HaTorah is an Ashkenazi Haredi political party in Israel. For much of its existence it has been allied to Agudat Yisrael under the name United Torah Judaism.-Ideology:...

     ("Banner [of] the Torah
    Torah
    Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

    ") party that is guided by the rabbi
    Rabbi
    In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

    nic heads (usually the leading rosh yeshiva
    Rosh yeshiva
    Rosh yeshiva, , , is the title given to the dean of a Talmudical academy . It is made up of the Hebrew words rosh — meaning head, and yeshiva — a school of religious Jewish education...

    s ("deans") of the Lithuanian
    Lithuanian Jews
    Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania:...

     yeshiva
    Yeshiva
    Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

    s) of non-Hasidic Haredi
    Haredi Judaism
    Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

     Ashkenazi
    Ashkenazi Jews
    Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

     Jews.
  • The Agudat Israel
    Agudat Israel
    Agudat Yisrael began as the original political party representing the ultra-Orthodox population of Israel. It was the umbrella party for almost all ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, and before that in the British Mandate of Palestine...

     ("Union [of] Israel") party that is guided by the followers of Hasidism
    Hasidic Judaism
    Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

     in Israel, and also consisting of Ashkenazi Jews
    Ashkenazi Jews
    Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

    . The leading members of this party are the followers of the Ger
    Ger (Hasidic dynasty)
    Ger, or Gur is a Hasidic dynasty originating from Ger, the Yiddish name of Góra Kalwaria, a small town in Poland....

    , Vizhnitz
    Vizhnitz (Hasidic dynasty)
    Vizhnitz is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rebbe Menachem Mendel Hager. Vizhnitz is the Yiddish name of Vyzhnytsia, a village in present-day Ukraine.Followers of the rebbes of Vizhnitz are called Vizhnitzer chasidim....

    , Boston
    Boston (Hasidic dynasty)
    Boston is a Hasidic sect, originally established in 1915 by Grand Rabbi Pinchas Duvid Horowitz. Following the custom of European Chassidic Courts, where the Rebbe was called after the name of his city, Bostoner Chassidus was named after Boston, Massachusetts...

     and Sadigura
    Sadigura (Hasidic dynasty)
    Sadigura is a Hasidic dynasty, one of the branches of the Ruzhiner dynasty.The dynasty began with Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov Friedman of Sadigura now located in Ukraine, who was a son of Rabbi Israel Friedman of Ruzhin, the founder of the Ruzhiner dynasty....

     Hasidim.


Degel HaTorahs pre-eminent sages and guides are presently Rabbis Yosef Shalom Eliashiv and Aharon Shteinman
Aharon Shteinman
Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, also Shtainman or Steinman, , is a prominent Haredi rabbi currently living in Bnei Brak, Israel.He belongs to the Lithuanian branch of Judaism, and heads a division of the famed Ponevezh Yeshiva . He was formerly the Rosh Kollel of the Ponevezh Kollel...

, both well into their nineties. Rabbi Eliashiv lives in Jerusalem and Rabbi Shtainman in Bnei Brak. Policy decisions are also weighed and decided by a Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah
Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah
Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah refers to the supreme rabbinical policy-making council of any of several related Haredi Jewish organizations....

 ("Council of Torah Sages"), a council of experienced communal rabbis, made up of mostly senior and elderly heads of yeshivas
Rosh yeshiva
Rosh yeshiva, , , is the title given to the dean of a Talmudical academy . It is made up of the Hebrew words rosh — meaning head, and yeshiva — a school of religious Jewish education...

 all very learned in Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

, devoted to halakha
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

 (classical Jewish law), and guided by their knowledge and application of the classical "Code of Jewish Law", the Shulkhan Arukh.

The Agudat Yisrael faction takes its directions from the Hasidic rebbe
Rebbe
Rebbe , which means master, teacher, or mentor, is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word Rabbi. It often refers to the leader of a Hasidic Jewish movement...

s of Ger
Ger (Hasidic dynasty)
Ger, or Gur is a Hasidic dynasty originating from Ger, the Yiddish name of Góra Kalwaria, a small town in Poland....

, Vizhnitz
Vizhnitz (Hasidic dynasty)
Vizhnitz is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rebbe Menachem Mendel Hager. Vizhnitz is the Yiddish name of Vyzhnytsia, a village in present-day Ukraine.Followers of the rebbes of Vizhnitz are called Vizhnitzer chasidim....

, Boston
Boston (Hasidic dynasty)
Boston is a Hasidic sect, originally established in 1915 by Grand Rabbi Pinchas Duvid Horowitz. Following the custom of European Chassidic Courts, where the Rebbe was called after the name of his city, Bostoner Chassidus was named after Boston, Massachusetts...

 and Sadigura
Sadigura (Hasidic dynasty)
Sadigura is a Hasidic dynasty, one of the branches of the Ruzhiner dynasty.The dynasty began with Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov Friedman of Sadigura now located in Ukraine, who was a son of Rabbi Israel Friedman of Ruzhin, the founder of the Ruzhiner dynasty....

 also steeped in Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 law and mysticism
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, who exert much influence in the daily lives of their followers (the "Hasidim"). The Belz
Belz (Hasidic dynasty)
Belz is a Hasidic dynasty named for the town of Belz in Western Ukraine, near the Polish border. The town has existed since at least the 10th century, with the Jewish community being established during the 14th century. The town became home to Hasidic Judaism in the early 19th century...

 rebbe, a prominent political and religious figure in his own right, is also closely involved in Agudat policy-making, and his followers are loyal UTJ supporters, though inter-party politics resulted in Belz failing to get any of their representatives into a high position on the UTJ list in the 2006 Knesset elections, and consequently, resulting in a faction with no Belz members present, for the second Knesset in a row.

Before the formation of UTJ and the establishment of Degel HaTorah, the two factions were united under one united Agudat Yisrael party, but the late mentor and supreme guide of the non-Hasidic group, Rabbi Elazar Shach
Elazar Shach
Elazar Menachem Man Shach also spelt Eliezer Schach, was a leading Lithuanian-born and educated Haredi rabbi in Bnei Brak, Israel. He also served as one of three co-deans of the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak along with Rabbis Shmuel Rozovsky and Dovid Povarsky...

 (1898-2001) broke away from the Hasidic wing when it was clear that the party was not living up to its mandate to represent all Torah Jewry. At that point he split from them, and created the Degel HaTorah party for the "Lithuanian
Lithuanian Jews
Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania:...

" Haredi Jews (also known as "Mitnagdim" by some). He chose the name Degel HaTorah meaning "Flag [of] The Torah" to be a contrast to the well-known flag of Israel
Flag of Israel
The flag of Israel was adopted on October 28, 1948, five months after the country's establishment. It depicts a blue Star of David on a white background, between two horizontal blue stripes...

 and its connection with the secular-dominated State of Israel (an "anti-Torah" entity in his opinion). Rabbi Shach was known as an outspoken critic of the secular Israeli way of life.

The UTJ party also had considerable influence on the Israeli Sephardi Jews
Sephardi Jews
Sephardi Jews is a general term referring to the descendants of the Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the Spanish Inquisition. It can also refer to those who use a Sephardic style of liturgy or would otherwise define themselves in terms of the Jewish customs and...

' Shas
Shas
Shas is an ultra-orthodox religious political party in Israel, primarily representing Sephardic and Mizrahi Haredi Judaism.Shas was founded in 1984 by dissident members of the Ashkenazi dominated Agudat Israel, to represent the interests of religiously observant Sephardic and Mizrahi ...

 party. In fact, the Shas party was founded by Rabbi Shach at an earlier juncture when he was previously also frustrated with the policies of the Hasidic rebbes, so he turned to the Sephardic Jews, and urged his own Ashkenazi followers at that time, to vote for the new Shas party, which they did in record numbers. Later, Shas broke with Rabbi Schach as it adopted its own independent political stance under Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Ovadia Yosef
Ovadia Yosef is the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, a recognised Talmudic scholar and foremost halakhic authority.He currently serves as the spiritual leader of the Shas political party in the Israeli parliament...

. Yet, Shas always "looks over its shoulder" to see what the Ashkenazi Haredi parties are up to, and usually goes in the same direction as it has similar needs and interests within the state.

2004 split


In January 2004, the party split back into its two factions following a disagreement over how to join Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

's coalition, which had been negotiated by Rabbi Eliashiv. Rabbi Eliashiv wanted the five MKs to have a three-month "waiting period" before accepting jobs in the government. Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter
Yaakov Aryeh Alter
Yaakov Aryeh Alter, , is the seventh and current Rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger, a position he has held since 1996. He lives in Israel and has followers in Europe and the United States...

, the Gerrer rebbe, however, thought that all Agudat members should accept positions immediately. The Agudat MKs argued that they should be entitled to follow their own rabbis' ruling, while their Degel HaTorah counterparts accused them of disrespecting Rabbi Eliashiv. The Agudah faction proceeded to follow the rebbe of Ger's instructions, with MK Yaakov Litzman
Yaakov Litzman
Yaakov Litzman is an Israeli politician and Deputy Government Minister. A follower of the Ger Hasidic dynasty, he heads the Agudat Israel part of the United Torah Judaism faction in the Knesset.-Biography:...

 accepting the position as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. This infuriated Degel HaTorah and its leaders, and in response they left the party, dissolving a twelve-year-old partnership.

Reunification as a party


In December 2005, there was a meeting between representatives of the two factions, presumably to smooth over the ill-feelings of the previous year and to attempt to regroup before the March 2006 elections. A number of issues were worked out, such as Degel HaTorah's insistence on the joint list being equally divided between the two parties. (In the past, Agudat Israel has received slightly more votes than Degel HaTorah.) Degel HaTorah has reorganized itself. It has a fully equipped modern party office on Hamabit Street 10 in Jerusalem's Geulah neighborhood. It conducted a party convention, its first in 15 years, in December 2005.

2006 unity


In early February 2006 Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah agreed to run together as United Torah Judaism, despite the fact that the contentious "sixth seat" issue remained undecided. The two groups finally compromised by proposing dividing the sixth seat between two representatives on a rotating schedule, (as was done in the last Knesset between the Belz
Belz (Hasidic dynasty)
Belz is a Hasidic dynasty named for the town of Belz in Western Ukraine, near the Polish border. The town has existed since at least the 10th century, with the Jewish community being established during the 14th century. The town became home to Hasidic Judaism in the early 19th century...

 and Vizhnitz
Vizhnitz (Hasidic dynasty)
Vizhnitz is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rebbe Menachem Mendel Hager. Vizhnitz is the Yiddish name of Vyzhnytsia, a village in present-day Ukraine.Followers of the rebbes of Vizhnitz are called Vizhnitzer chasidim....

 communities for the fifth seat). This solution seemed to mollify the respective groups and paved the way for the re-establishment of a joint list for the 2006 elections, although the Belz court was reportedly irked that once again, it was being asked to sacrifice part of its representation.

UTJ MKs told reporters that any decision to join future government coalitions will be dependent on achieving two "central posts" to be split between Agudah and Degel. Similarly, in order to avoid the problems that led to the 2004 split, disagreements about joining a coalition will not be determined by a majority vote of MKs, but rather taken to the party's rabbinic leaders.

Various media interviews with the party's Knesset members confirmed that it would strongly consider joining a coalition with the Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

-led Kadima
Kadima
Kadima is a centrist and liberal political party in Israel. It was established on 24 November 2005 by moderates from Likud largely to support the issue of Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and was soon joined by like-minded Labor politicians...

 party should it be offered to them after the elections. In March 2006, the rabbinical leaders of UTJ, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, issued public declarations urging the Haredi public to vote for the party's list. In the election the party increased its mandate by one to six seats. Presently the party is represented more by the Agudah faction, as the sixth seat is being held by Yaakov Cohen, the longtime dean of a Ger yeshiva, bringing the ratio of the faction 4-2 Agudah. This marks the second time since the coalition's founding that Ger has secured two simultaneous MK positions in UTJ, and could indicate an increase the court's clout and influence.

See also

  • Agudath Israel of America
    Agudath Israel of America
    Agudath Israel of America , is a Haredi Jewish communal organization in the United States loosely affiliated with the international World Agudath Israel.-Functions:...

  • Hasidim and Mitnagdim
  • World Agudath Israel
    World Agudath Israel
    World Agudath Israel , usually known as the Aguda, was established in the early twentieth century as the political arm of Ashkenazi Torah Judaism, in succession to Agudas Shlumei Emunei Yisroel...

  • Hardal
    Hardal
    Chardal ; Hebrew: חרד"ל, acronym for חרדי לאומי, Charedi Le-umi, lit. "Nationalist Charedi", Plural: Chardalim refers to the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who support the ideology of Religious Zionism...


External links