In last Friday’s edition of Jerusalem’s local paper YEDIOYOT YERUSHALAYIM made Avraham Prester a big statement: “There would be nobody in Israel who doesn’t know his name !”
Well, I didn’t know his name until I read his interview in the local paper. I don’t even know if I got his name right !
Avraham Prester (or whatever his name is) used to be a well – known Belzer Chassid. Prester himself is very proud of his famous name. He constantly stressed that, through his father, the Prester family enjoys a high status within Chassidut Belz. His father also serves or served in Jerusalem’s city council.
Avraham Prester studied in various Belzer Yeshivot. Among others in Ashdod. Soon he realized that he was interested in science and there was no way the Yeshivot are teaching anything about science. He started reading ordinary science books but remained a Chassid following the rules of the Belzer Rebbe.
Later on, Prester got married, had kids and taught in Belzer institutions. I guess because of his father’s status. What always seem to bother him was the lack of higher education in Belzer schools and Yeshivot. Not only there but in the entire haredi world.
Avraham Prester started working for the haredi radio channel RADIO KOL CHAI where he apparently became famous within the haredi world. He was not afraid of controversial interviews despite other Haredim threatening him. Then came a point when he got disappointed of the Belzer Rebbe and, according to his statement, realized that the Rebbe was only interested in his personal issues. The wedding of his grandson was more important than anything else.
The Prester family started to put their kids into state – owned secular ORT schools. Soon after they left the Chassidut and they were, compared to other haredi runaways, very lucky. Someone gave them a luxury apartment in the Ramot neighbourhood. Who else as a runaway is so lucky ? I have met haredi dropouts who went to Tel Aviv and had to sleep at the beach for the first couple of months.
The Prester family was well organized but father Prester stopped talking to his son. Now Avraham Prester is giving lectures at all kinds of secular Israeli institutions as well as the IDF. He also claimed that he works as a private counselor. He states that his counseling is connected to numerology. Not a lottery but something spiritual.
He was very lucky that his wife and family left the Chassidut with him. There are many cases where the spouse and children will stay and everything ends up in a dirty divorce case. Not with the Presters’, as they seem to be happy.
I have to say that I totally understand Avraham Prester. Someone interested in science won’t find this kind of teachings in Yeshivot or haredi schools. It is upsetting when you are longing for scientific knowledge and have no chance or studying. It can be frustrating feeling stuck within a close system and a Rebbe is telling you what is right and wrong. So, people like the Prester family are free to leave.
On the other hand, while reading the article I found Avraham Prester rather arrogant. Always stressing his status and how famous he is. Other Chassidim may say now that this sounds “typical Belz”. 🙂
Prester sees his new task in life in changing haredi society. He wants to make all Chassidim aware of the “other side”: A free life where people are allowed to study anything they like.
The truth of the matter is that Avraham Prester won’t change anything. He may have inspired more people to leave but these are people who have been considering this kind of step before. There are always Haredim who feel the desire to leave and many do. On the other hand, there are plenty of Haredim who don’t want to leave and are happy with the life they have. We all have to respect this as well as the runaways. Okay, people are happy as Haredim and those who are not.
Haredim leaving the fold should start a new life where they feel more comfortable. What I don’t accept is those kind of runaways who want to become famous. Like Deborah Feldman or Avraham Prester. They do anything in order to remain famous by giving interviews bashing the haredi world. In the end,hardly anyone is taking them seriously anymore and eventually people like this just vanish. The secular world is exploiting them until the public loses interest. The same happened to Sarah Einfeld from Gur.
I am interested whether one of you guys has heard about “famous” Avraham Prester !