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MK Stern Says Chabad Emissaries Should Count as National Service

As part of debate over hareidi enlistment, MK suggests Israel recognize Chabad youth who volunteer abroad as doing national service.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 12/31/2013, 2:32 PM

MK Elazar Stern
MK Elazar Stern
Flash 90

Israel should recognize young adults who volunteer with the Chabad hassidic movement as having done national service, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) has proposed.

Stern’s proposal was accepted by the Committee for the Equal Burden of Service (Shaked Committee), the Knesset committee weighing Israel’s options regarding hareidi-religious military service.

Stern suggested that under certain circumstances, yeshiva students who volunteer with Jewish communities overseas should be recognized as having done national civilian service, an alternative to military service. Among those who would benefit under the criteria he proposed are Chabad youth, many of whom spend time overseas working with Chabad emissaries.

“There is an organization that is active around the world, on a purely voluntary basis, that does not get recognition from the state of Israel,” Stern said. “The Chabad movement sends people to every corner of the earth.”

Roughly 250-300 Israelis are volunteering with Chabad at any given moment, he said. Chabad emissaries engage in outreach and support to local people in places as diverse as Eastern Europe, Africa and the Far-East, and are often a welcome site for Jewish backpackers and tourists as well, providing them with kosher food and other services.

“There are many elements to the Chabad emissaries’ activity with clear parallels to civilian national service,” he said of Chabad's social activism. “They do important work in Jewish communities around the world and we need to recognize their important work.”

“I want the Chabad emissaries out there to know they are emissaries of the state,” Stern declared.