Rabbi David Fine and Bezalel Smotrich
Rabbi David Fine and Bezalel Smotrich none

Earlier this week, Rabbi David Fine, Chairman and founder of Barkai Rabbis Organization, announced that he would participation in the running for list of the Religious Zionism party in its upcoming primaries.

Born in New York, Rabbi Fine grew up in New Jersey and made aliya (immigrated to Israel) from Kansas in 2008, following his Zionistic ideals. Rabbi Fine (54) lives in Modi'in and is a member of the "Sha'arei Yona Menachem" community in the city. He has a Bachelor's degree in Jewish Studies from Brandeis University in Boston. He is married to Julie, Doctor of Psychology, who has been working with the educational psychology services of Modi'in Illit for the past twelve years. They have four children and one newborn grandson.

Prior to making aliya (immigrating to Israel), Rabbi Fine served as a rabbi for congregations in Kansas City and Milwaukee. Ten years ago, he founded the Barkai Rabbis Organization together with Rabbi Shlomo Sobol. This organization conducts a training program for congregation rabbis. In the course of this program, rabbis from different congregations across the country go through two years - over 600 hours - of studies in social and congregational matters, while their wives, full contributing members of the community as well, attend the program's seminars and mini-courses. As of today, the organization assists approximately 80 congregations, which add up to 35,000 people in dozens of local authorities and towns across the country.

Rabbi Fine explained the motive for his decision to run for the Religious Zionism Party List: "A significant number of members of the Anglo Religious Zionist community view the Religious Zionist party as a radical right-wing party, and describe it in a very unflattering manner. They feed off the mainstream biased media, while American or British media accessible in the country paint a much worse picture."

Rabbi Fine stressed that he wishes to implement the vision he fulfilled in Barkai, by reinforcing dozens of communities across the country, in the political field as well.

"The Barkai Organization brings together a variety of congregations and synagogues from all traditions and styles of Israeli society - from English-speaking communities, through dozens of Sephardi communities, and different Ashkenazi communities, including kibbutz and moshav communities as well," he explained. "I wish to realize the vision of the Barkai program, along with united, strong congregations in the national political field as well, and to serve as a factor that will strengthen the loose connections between the Anglo-Saxon community and the Religious Zionist Party."

"There's no doubt that the Religious Zionism party is the best-suited social platform for the Anglo community's values and lifestyles. I thank the party's chairman [MK] Betzalel Smotrich for taking initiative and encouraging primaries in an attempt to form a varied party list that will suit a wide range of social groups within Religious Zionism. The time has come for a change of direction, for a change of awareness and state of mind that leads to alienation and suspicion. The time has come for innovation, for acting in an effort to strengthen the bonds between the olim (immigrant) communities and the Religious Zionism party."

Fine stressed that as a Knesset member he will work to address unresolved fundamental issues of the olim families, such as developing assistance programs for olim, in order to help out with Israeli bureaucracy, the State's Jewish identity, social and financial matters, mental health, and more.

A recent comprehensive survey within Anglo communities in Israel, showed that 49% of the participants defined themselves as right-wing, 25% as centrists, and 22% as left-wing. Also, 52% of the surveyed crowd stressed that financial and welfare issues are of utmost importance to them, and 34% placed ideological issues at the top of their list. The survey also showed that 18% of the people questioned believe that an Anglo representative will allow them to best influence the government's policies regarding North American, British, and other English-speaking olim's absorption.

"The fact that welfare and financial issues are the most important issues for Anglos is not surprising, but it does stress the fact that the Anglo communities come to Israel out of Zionist motives on the one hand, but are also very concerned with welfare and financial issues. I can unhesitatingly say that if we prepare the ground for North Americans deliberating the issue of aliya, then we will not only prevent olim from leaving Israel, but we can, with precision and a correct course of action, double the amount of olim. These goals are definitely possible."

Rabbi Fine added that, "The Israeli public assumes that every North American who makes aliya is rich or well-off, and [this] is fundamentally incorrect and realistically false. In truth, there are hundreds of olim families that have a hard time adapting to cultural and mental changes in Israel and don't manage to acclimatize within the community and the labor market. This causes them to leave the country and return to their country of origin. In order to stop this worrisome trend of idealistic olim who feel they have no choice but to leave Israel, we must create the right conditions to help and accept and absorb them into the community in the proper manner."

The Religious Zionism party's chairman, MK Betzalel Smotrich, congratulated Rabbi Fine for running: "For the last decade, Rabbi Fine has been leading the Barkai Rabbis Organization and has done an incredible job. The Anglo community has no representative in the Right, even though their numbers reach 80,000. Rabbi Fine is here to make this community heard, knowing and understanding its values and needs. I am happy and proud that Rabbi Fine has decided to do this from within the Religious Zionism party, from within the great home of values such as the people of Israel, the Land of Israel, and our Torah. I wish Rabbi David the best of luck!"