Tefillin Stands: A New Point Of Tension Between Secular, Orthodox Israelis

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For many Israelis, it’s a familiar scene. Street stands where members of Chabad ask men to put on tefillin.

“We go out on the streets to teach Torah to children, to spread the mitzvah for children. Tefillin is something special, you put it next to the heart,” says Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzki of Chabad Tel Aviv.

This practice is now at the center of a controversy between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Tel Aviv. Recently, a group of activists started to document and confront Chabad members as they persuade children to put on Tefillin.

One of the videos that went viral is of Shlomo Gerber, a Chabad emissary who was confronted by a secular woman in Habima Square, one of the iconic cultural sites of Tel Aviv.

“She came here and tried to discourage kids from putting on tefillin. I tried to encourage them. People are running over to do it, especially the younger generation. You don’t have to force them, they want to do the mitzvah,” says Gerber.

Naor Narkis is the founder of “Enlightened Israel,” a secular social movement which aims to fight Jewish religious coercion. His main claim against Chabad is that they set up their stands close to schools and try to convince minors to put on Tefillin. Narkis is concerned about the consequences.

“When I was in high school, they approached my brother. At first it was just Tefillin, but then they invited him to a class. After a few months, they tried to separate him from our family and they succeeded,” says Narkis.

“I’ll be really happy to talk with the Chabad emissaries, and if they promise not to approach school kids, I’ll be happy to put Tefillin on my arm with a lot of love.”

What seems on the surface to be a local and minor conflict may point to a much bigger dispute. The wave of protests against the Israeli government’s proposed judicial reforms have brought tensions between secular and orthodox Jews to a new level.

“If we want to be a liberal democracy, the start-up nation, so how come 20 percent of the children don’t study English and math? Who will be the engineer of the Iron Dome in 2035? We’ve come to a point where we can’t finance the ultra-Orthodox way of life any more,” says Narkis.

Chabad members, on the other hand, say they are trying to put politics aside.

Back at the Tefillin stand, we watch as a bypasser wraps the black leather strap around his arm. When he is done with the prayer, he turns around and says, “Yalla, Lefties, may you explode!”

Gerber cuts him off, telling him: “It’s not a matter of left and right, we are all Jews.”

Later, Gerber tells us: “I realize the beauty of it, the awesomeness of it, and therefore it’s only right that I take some of my time to try to bring it to my brothers and my sisters who haven’t realized it yet. If they don’t want to do it, then I wish them a good day!”

Tel Aviv municipal law limits religious groups from locating their stands near schools. But as the controversy continues, this may be another battle zone in an already deeply divided country. –24 News


16 COMMENTS

  1. Will those opposed to Tefillin stands, be so careful to make certain is no one hanging around the schools is enticing kids with drugs?

  2. The tefillin stands are not affiliated with Orthodoxy in general. Rather they are affiliated with the Chabad Lubavitch sect.

    • Aren’t you ashamed you’re not out there helping not-yet religious Jews to become G-d fearing? We should thank Lubavitch and be proud of them for bringing yidden al tachas kanfei Hashechinah.

      • You are seemingly out of your mind. Orthodox yidden in general don’t believe it is a Mitzvah for Jews who have not been properly taught about the do’s and don’t’s of wearing tefillin to put them on. Chabad, based on their Rebbe zt”l’s teachings, believe it has value. Thus, it is not an orthodox Jewish concept or affiliation, only a Chabad issue. Anyone who after careful study of the issue comes to the conclusion that Chabad is correct is free to put up their own tefillin stands, join Chabad’s outreach efforts in this vein, or thank them for bringing Jews ‘tachas kanfei hashechinah’, but those that disagree cannot be expected to appreciate those efforts by Chabad.

        • They are taking the Lords name in vain. It is essential to fear the health of tefillin being layed.

          No jew is probably even instructed not to break wind either. Just a joy.

        • You are seemingly out of your mind. Orthodox yidden in general don’t believe it is a Mitzvah for Jews who have not been properly taught about the do’s and don’t’s of wearing tefillin to put them on.
          —- This makes absolutely no sense for myriad reasons.
          —-They are helping a fellow Jew who has never worn tefillin before do a mitzva
          —- There is an issur of Lo Sa’amod in spiritual matters as well.
          and He is putting it on for maybe 5 minutes. There are no do’s or don’t in this situation.

  3. Birding for tefillin. It is not a kosher edge.

    The ChaBaD is gimmick after gimmick but their vigor is not the rabbi from yeshiva. They act like he is gifted by vulture.

  4. Hee hee, some of these comments look AI-generated.

    I can’t wait for Techeles tzitzis stands for “religious” yidden for idna derischa…

  5. those lefties and secularists know that their days are numbered. that’s why they behave like trapped animals.
    I never heard of a goy complaining that in London or NYC there are tfillin stands…

  6. Like the Chazon Ish once famously said about secular Israelis, “How can we have any (meaningful) discourse with them if what they call ‘love’ we call ‘Kares’?”

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