Menachem Bombach
President and CEO of Netzach Educational Network

Sukkat Shalom: A Modest Proposal


You have probably heard about the conflict that broke out on the streets of Tel Aviv on Erev Yom Kippur. My heart breaks when I see images religious and anti-religious Jews fighting one another. As always, the media focuses on these small and extreme groups. They ignore the fact that millions of Jews gathered on Yom Kippur to pray peacefully together, including many mixed groups of religious and secular Jews in cities around Israel

The media — in all its traditional and social forms — exists to stoke controversy and to exploit the tensions that undoubtedly exist between Israel’s various tribes. They ignore the silent and peaceful majority because peace and moderation don’t make headlines.

Worth more than gold, copper or silicon, moderation has become the world’s rarest and most important commodity. How can we protect the values of tolerance and social justice, which are so easily drowned out by anger and judgmentalism? How can we look behind the masks of hatred to connect with the hearts of our brothers and sisters?

Here is my modest proposal: Firstly, I call on my religious brethren: Let us not seek to undermine the convictions of those who do not follow our path. We do not need to parade our beliefs in the streets of every city and compel others to comply. Instead of superior and patronizing attitudes, we need to show humility and tolerance. Every choice has a price, and the price of religious hubris may endanger our own survival.

Secondly, let’s look behind the headlines. The people who are picking fights against our religion, who are filled with hatred for every religious symbol, are a marginal and unrepresentative group. The media, as always, magnifies their importance and turns every minor event into a national conflict. Journalists do not care about the impact of their stories — they just measure their readership and their popularity.

The festival of Sukkot reminds us all that we must learn to live together with respect and love. We pray daily for “Sukkat Shalom – the fragile and peaceful home that we build and share together. During Sukkot, we recognize our shared vulnerability in an uncertain world, and we gather together in temporary huts (tabernacles) under the protection of our Creator.

This is the festival where we invite guests – known in Yiddish as Ushpizin – to join us at our table. We reflect on the different qualities of each of our forefathers and leaders: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and King David. We also bind together four different species of plants – the Arba Minim – and bind them together as we pray for peace for our precious nation.

Sukkot is a reminder to all of us to open our hearts and our homes to people who are different from us. To share the shelter and the love that binds us together. To build bonds of tolerance, and to leave the hatred outside. Chag Sukkot Sameach!

About the Author
‏Menachem Bombach is an entrepreneur, an educator, Rosh Yeshiva of the boys' residential high school HaMidrasha HaHassidit in Beitar Illit, and the founder and CEO of the Netzach Yisrael Educational Network. ‏Rabbi Menachem Bombach, a Vizhnitz hasid, was born and raised in the ultra-Orthodox community in Meah Shearim in Jerusalem. Following his yeshiva education at the Mir Yeshiva, he earned his undergraduate degree in Education and graduate degree in Public Policy from Hebrew University, where he also founded a preparatory program (Mechina) for Haredi students. Menachem was a fellow at Maoz and in the leadership program of Gesher and is a fellow and senior project leader at the Mandel Institute. ‏After the establishment of the Midrasha HaHassidit in 2017 and in light of its success, Menachem Bombach established Netzach Yisrael, a network of Haredi schools whose mission is to provide its students with an outstanding Haredi education, while in parallel, they work towards their bagrut (matriculation) certificate, a prerequisite for quality employment and higher education in Israel. The network’s academic program empowers graduates to create a strong, financially viable future for them, their future families, and the Israeli economy, while remaining strongly connected to their core values of Torah observance. ‏As of November 2021, the growing Netzach network is 15 schools strong. What started out with 14 students, currently serves 1900 students and fully expect to be serving 2500-3500 within two years, not including the over 26.000 registered at our Eshkolot Virtual School, an online platform which prepares Haredi students for their pre-academic studies. ‏In March 2022, the Netzach Educational Network was awarded the Annual Jerusalem Unity Prize in the category of education. The annual prize is awarded to initiatives in Israel and throughout the Jewish world that are instrumental in advancing mutual respect for others, and acknowledges accomplishments of those who work to advance the critical importance of Jewish unity, and inspire tolerance and mutual respect across the Jewish world –promoting acceptance of those who think, act or live differently.
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