On the eve of Shavuos, Yad L'Achim chairman Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz has called on the Education Ministry to reverse the slide in Jewish education in state-secular schools and to address the problem of intermarriage, which is being fostered by the growing numbers of non-Jewish students attending these schools.
Citing recent figures, Rav Lifschitz said that 80,000 non-Jews are studying in state-secular schools together with Jewish students. "This leads to a distorted sense of Jewish identity and sets the stage for intermarriage.
"We're talking about children who don't know what Shema Yisrael is. They can't recite the words of this sacred verse, which have been uttered with such reverence by Jews throughout the generations and throughout the exiles.
"Many are third generation to Sephardi immigrants, who have suffered spiritual neglect because, to our profound sorrow, their grandparents didn't succeed in registering them in religious schools.
"If this weren't bad enough, no less than 25,000 Jews belong to one of some 200 missionary congregations around the country. Israel has turned into a bastion of missionary activity, training missionaries for work abroad.
"These frightening figures should shake the heart of every Jews. Once upon a time, when a rumor spread throughout a community or a town that a Jewish girl had married a non-Jew, people burst out in tears and asked themselves how such a thing could happen. Once, when Jews heard that someone had converted out of our faith, they sat on the floor and mourned the loss of a Jewish soul.
"Today, these things are becoming commonplace, a plague that is sweeping the country, and no one says a word. How much longer will we be raising in Eretz Yisrael Jews who don't know Shema Yisrael?" Rav Lifschitz asked in obvious pain.
"This is no time to make do with a defensive war alone. We must take the offensive."
Rav Lifschitz cited, as an example of where the offensive should have been taken, the scandalous dismissal of the Education Ministry's chief scientist for questioning Darwin's theories of evolution, which are taught in Israeli schools. The dismissal should have sparked outrage, and at the very least tough parliamentary questions presented by religious MKs to the education minister.
In making his case, Rav Lifschitz referred to the words of the Ari Zal, in Pri Eitz Chaim, who commented on the statement "on Purim, the Jews fulfilled what they had already accepted." The Pri Eitz Chaim explains that the Jewish people had to receive the Torah again because there had been Jews at Sinai who were married to non-Jews.
How, then, can we sit by with equanimity, on the eve of receiving the Torah, when there are Jewish girls being held captive in Arab villages?
Responding to parliamentarians who claim it is difficult to get the Knesset to enact tough anti-missionary laws, Rav Lifschitz referred to a story of the Chafetz Chaim, who had sent a group of activists to try and cancel a decree against the Jews. When the activists came back empty-handed, claiming that they had done everything possible, the Chafetz Chaim asked them, "Did you faint?"
In the same spirit, Rav Lifschitz called for a supreme effort on behalf of all Jewish children. "Our religious politicians must do more to prevent intermarriage and Jews converting out of our religion," he said.