Rav Avraham Elimelech Firer, head of Ezra LeMarpe, which provides free medical support to Israelis, canceled a performance planned to raise funds for the health organization. The performance was to have been a tribute concert for famous Israeli singer Shlomo Artzi with the proceeds donated to Ezra LeMarpe.
Rav Firer, who was to attend the event, had one request from the organizers of the event – that no female singers perform at the event due to the issar of kol isha.
However, the request raised a storm of criticism and various performers announced that they wouldn’t play at the concert due to the exclusion of women. Artzi, a secular singer, was attacked for agreeing to Rav Firer’s stipulation. On the other hand, many others decried the “secular coercion” including many secular people and some secular performers said they would play at the event even for free.
Rav Firer is deeply respected for his tireless lifesaving work which is provided for all stripes of society, secular, religious, male, female, Jewish and non-Jewish. Some pointed out that Rav Firer is not excluding women since he didn’t request that women be excluded from the event (if speaking or playing instruments) but simply that no women sing in order not to transgress Jewish law. The issur of kol isha is nothing new for secular Israelis, who are well-aware of the halachic stipulation. Some even pointed out that the same Torah which forbids Rav Firer from listening to women is the motivation for his lifesaving assistance.
Rav Firer canceled the event, writing to the organizer that: “I’m requesting that the fundraising performance not be held. I never was involved in organizing fundraising events. Ezra LeMarpe had the merit of serving over a million people so far, no matter what religion, ethnicity or gender. I draw my strength from halacha. I am proud of my way of life and will adhere to my life mission: saving lives, and loving others, including those who are different.”
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union party responded to the cancellation by saying: “Liberal terrorism has won. The cancellation of the fundraising performance for Rav Firer’s wonderful chesed organization is a low point in Israel society.”
“Every one of Israel’s citizens should feel ashamed about the humiliation of this giant of chesed, who has saved hundreds of thousands from death without discrimination. His only sin is his lifestyle as a religious person who acts in accordance with halacha. We’re ashamed.”
It is added that since the storm surrounding the event began, Rav Firer received letters of support from Nobel Prize Laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann, President Reuven Rivlin, former High Court President Prof. Aharon Barak, Prof. Mordechai Stern [ a former director-general of the Ministry of Health] and many more.
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(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)