JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Shulem Weiss was a budding singer in the Eda Chareidis with a bright future ahead of him. A grandson of Rabbi Shimon Weiss, the director of the highly accredited Badatz Eda Chareidis kashrus organization and a great-nephew of Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss, the leader of the Eda Chareidis, Weiss’s route to success was well prepared. However Shulem had a secret dream – he wished to enlist in the IDF, an anathema for his close-knit, anti-Zionist community. After Weiss revealed his dream, he found himself without a place to live and his family cut off all relations with him.
At the same time, Weiss decided together with his wife (whom he married at a very young age) to leave orthodox Judaism. The two eventually divorced and Weiss wandered around the streets of Eilat, hoping to be conscripted by the army despite the fact that he had been granted an exemption a few years earlier.
Shulem Weiss when he was Chareidi
Weiss found himself totally alone. “It’s very difficult, I didn’t know how to take it and how to move on from here. We are young people with no life experience but we do try to deal with everything. There’s no family, nobody to talk to and tell them about what’s going on with me and how I am managing.” Initially his family members stayed in touch with him but “recently nobody is in touch with me after they saw I was serious about my plans.”
After wandering for half a year, Weiss found out about the Osei Chayil association, which provides a foster family for Chareidi youths who have been thrown out of their homes due to enlisting or leaving their faith. Aharon Granot, an Israeli reporter and author, established special housing in different places in Israel for these youths and serves as a surrogate father to them. Granot says he has youths whose parents sat Shiva for them when they enlisted in the army. Others were thrown out in the freezing cold and ended up sleeping in synagogues until Osei Chayil picked them up off the streets.
“There are hundreds of such youths,” Granot adds, and he works as a one-man organization to provide them with basic equipment, accomodation and a family atmosphere, as well as providing support while they are in the army, “like a father accompanies his children.” Even after they complete their service Granot, a father of 5 himself, is there to receive them. “Nobody is going to receive them so we support them, prepare them for further studies and give them basic requirements.”
Granot says that he has both Chareidi youths who observe all the Mitzvos as well as totally secular youths. “I’m not G-d’s policeman, everyone does what he wants,” Granot, a self-styled Gerer Chasid who wears a huge knitted kippah, adds. “Our soldiers have paid the highest price for their wish to serve in the IDF.”