Yehudit Rotem

Yehudit Rotem

A writer and lecturer in Israel and abroad

My name is Yehudit. It is my Hungarian name that I was given at birth (my jewish name is unknown). I was born to an ultra-orthodox Jewish family in Budapest in the midst of World War II. I lived there with my late parents and my dear sister Ruthie may she live for 120 years. I was one of the passengers of the "Kastner Train" it went to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where we were kept for seven months, till we were liberated.

When my family immigrated to Israel I was three years old. I was educated in Haredi institutions and was married to a Yeshiva scholar when I was 18. After tens of years of marriage I left my husband and the Haredi community.

Today I am a writer and lecturer in Israel and abroad. I assist people with writing books and I call myself a "foster mother". I have published eight books, including novels, short stories and a children's book. Several articles have been written about me in different publications.

Nationality: Jewish or Israeli?

Being Israeli means knowing that one has a land to stand on, that one has a status, that one is part of a community-nation with common goals. Even Jews who have not joined the community - by choice or otherwise - benefit from respect around the world thanks to the existence of the Jewish state of Israel. I flow between those two definitions.

As someone who was expelled from her birth country I see my Israeli identity as a miracle, a constant reason to be thankful.  I feel that this miracle is constant with the continued existence of the state.

My Jewish identity is my closeness with everything that is Jewish, the past, texts from all generations, to those who sacrificed for the nation's destiny. There is no contradiction between the two identities that fuse into each other and become one.

Religion and State: Together or separate?

Thank you Tzav Pius for making me think about topics I don’t usually have time to talk about because of my busy, complicated and full life.

Well, in an ideal world there should be a separation. I personally suffered from the existence of the rabbinical court when it came to my divorce and was shocked by the way it unnecessarily interfered in mine and my children's lives. In my opinion women would benefit from such a separation, because religion does not see women as equals but rather as baby making machines that maintain tradition.

Society: Equality in sharing the burden?

All Israeli citizens need to share the burden equally - Haredim, Arabs, artists and celebrities etc, obviously considering their abilities and strengths.

Sabbath: What should the Israeli Sabbath look like?

It is a little hard for me to decide what is or isn't needed. I think that the Sabbath is a very personal day, a day where people reenergize and prepare for the working week ahead. Every man for himself! That is my view when it comes to the private sphere. In regards to the public domain, I do not see myself qualified to give my opinion on such an issue. It seems that in reality the different sects around the country make their own decisions about what works for them. That is what the Israeli Sabbath has come to be.

Education: In your opinion, what is the ideal approach to education?

If one speaks of an ideal situation, I would be happy to see more emphasis on humanitarian and Jewish values, more emphasis on the bible on Israeli literature and on Jewish texts. In reality the mood in schools comes from many factors but mostly from the educators. How does one cultivate educators to be people of inspiration? Or how does one raise inspiring people who want to be educators?

I had the fortune to study with and inspiring man for three years, the late Rabbi Shaul Lustig.

He instilled the Torah with Derech Eretz (respect) values in his school. This approach came from Germany in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and was influenced by Rabbi Hirsch and Rabbis Hildsheimer and Broeyer. This is the ideal approach in my opinion. If it would have been instille din education in Israel the country would be very different.

Citizenship: The next big protest should be about…

Peace, always peace and forever peace.

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