Members of Congress in Washington embrace the chareidi community: Throughout the year, the President of Dirshu, Rav David Hofstedter, is busy – beyond his real estate dealings and business initiatives – primarily with the management of one of largest Torah organizations in the world, operating in 26 countries worldwide. However recent events havee him do something he’s never done before.
In the middle of the war against the Hamas in Gaza, which took place in Israel last month, and which aroused extreme anti-Semitic responses in the United States and other countries worldwide, Rabbi Hofstedter set out on a special, emotional tour to Washington. In the US capital, he conducted a series of meetings with a long line of senior officials in Congress, to ask them to stand behind the chareidi population and openly protect the Jewish and Torah-based values in America.
Among others, Rabbi Hofstedter met with Randy Feenstra from Iowa, Bob Good from Virginia, Ronny Jackson from Texas, and Nicole Malliotakis from New York. In addition, Rabbi Hofstedter spoke to a group of senior congressmen in the Roosevelt Room at Capitol Hill, in front of several leading Members of Congress including Carlos Antonio Giménez from Florida, Van Drew from New Jersey, and Don Bacon from Illinois.
“The goal of the meetings was to strengthen the pride in chareidi and Torah education in the United States, which has been under serious attack in the past few years, especially recently. It is very important that – specifically now – Members of Congress demonstrate their support of the chareidi community in the USA.”
One of the main messages which Rabbi Hofstedter wished to promote was the independence of chareidi education in the United States, education which has been under attack in recent years from various people who have left the chareidi community. “In conversations with Members of Congress, I explained the importance of Torah learning to them, particularly in light of the events held last year to mark 75 years since the end of World War II. In light of the historic events, everything must be done to enable Jews worldwide to continue studying Torah in its traditional form.” Before COVID-19 hit, Rabbi Hofstedter had already asked to promote an initiative for official government recognition, to include scholarships, to benefit Jewish studies programs, but coronavirus delayed the initiative.
In recent years, chareidi Jewry in the United States has suffered from a continued rise in hate crimes, committed primarily against Jews who are seen to be ultra-Orthodox. “The Members of Congress related to the fact that the Shoah began with all kinds of discrimination, twisting of facts, distorting reality, manipulations, and propaganda. Many of these patterns are repeating and ignoring the lessons learned from history,” said Rabbi Hofstedter. “The Members of Congress were extremely worried about the various trends in American society and they repeatedly expressed their wish to continue working together. These people view the chareidi community as a partner in restoring the direction and morals to American society, and this is very encouraging. They expressed open support for Dirshu’s activities, and this is indeed a great Kiddush Hashem.”
Rabbi Hofstedter emphasized that this is not a personal interest, but rather a process carried out in the name of Dirshu and the tens of thousands of learners who take part in the study tracks throughout the Jewish world. “They did not look at me as an individual, they looked at Dirshu. They see us as one of the largest Torah organizations in the world, if not the largest, and they wished to salute the revolution which Dirshu is making, and to stand with us specifically now.”
“The very fact that Members of Congress are praising Jewish education and admiring those who study Torah gives honor to Torah and results in a Kiddush Hashem,” added Rabbi Hofstedter. “Today it’s these public figures, and tomorrow it can be others. It sends a message to Jews worldwide that while certain sections of the population look at chareidim scornfully, there are important leaders who praise Torah study and talmidei chachamim.
“The fact that these elected officials openly admire the contribution made by talmidei chachamim to America and the entire world, is good news, especially against the terrible anti-chareidi sentiments which have become so common in recent times,” adds Rabbi Hofstedter. “I very much hope that these meetings promoted the support of elected representatives, who will help us grapple with various forces, who are trying to physically harm the chareidi community or attack their values.”
“On a practical level,” adds Rabbi Hofstedter, “all the Members of Congress committed to protect the security of Jews in the United States, and freedom of religion in the country. All declared they will greatly prioritize these values. On a personal note, I was surprised to see this appreciation of Torah and Torah scholars, particularly within these circles. The most moving sentence was that said by Member of Congress, Don Bacon, who stated that every American should be full of pride regarding Dirshu.”