The Jerusalem Post
Photos, Video: Itzik Roytman
NEW YORK – Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered in New York’s financial district on Sunday to protest against a Knesset bill to draft previously exempt yeshiva students into the IDF or national service. The protest, described as a prayer meeting by organizer Agudath Israel of America, was intended to serve as a follow-up to last week’s mega-protest in Jerusalem, which drew a crowd of hundreds of thousands.
The prayers offered at the rally were intended as a plea for divine mercy in the face of Israel’s “ongoing attempt at social engineering of the haredi community,” Agudath Israel said in a statement.
The crowd, estimated by the NYPD at 30,000-35,000, stretched for blocks, closing off Water Street to traffic and turning lower Manhattan into a sea of black hats, white shirts, and long caftans.
Stating that his organization was only the organizer of the rally’s logistics, Agudath Israel spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran told The Jerusalem Post that there was “no official organization or individual” behind the event.
“It is simply a grass-roots response to the similar gathering in Israel this past Sunday that aimed to pray that the current legislation about conscription of haredim be removed from play,” he added.
An uncredited statement mailed to the Post in the name of the protest leaders stated that efforts to extend conscription to the ultra-Orthodox community are “designed to severely limit the growth of Torah in the Holy Land.”