Brett Levi wins AM thesis prize for paper on Hasidic rebbes’ views on Jewish settlement

June 4, 2013
Brett Levi
Brett Levi (AM '13) presents his AM thesis at CMES on May 2, 2013.

CMES is pleased to announce Brett Levi (AM ’13) as the winner of the 2013 CMES AM Thesis Prize for his paper “Hasidic Geopolitics and the Greater Land of Israel: Israeli Hasidic Rebbes Encounter the West Bank, Gaza and Territorial Withdrawal, 1982–2013.”

For his thesis, Brett researched how Israeli Hasidic rebbes, leaders of ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects, have responded to Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli withdrawals from these areas. Brett visited insular Hasidic communities across Israel to find primary documents, including Hebrew and Yiddish-language books, editorials, sermons, broadside posters, and other public addresses by leading Hasidic figures, indicating a range of rabbinic views that have evolved over the past thirty years.

Brett explains, "While some Hasidic rabbis have consistently opposed Jewish settlement activity and favored Israeli territorial compromise with Palestinians, many more have promoted the growth of Jewish towns east of the Green Line, endorsed anti-withdrawal activities, and cultivated friendly relationships with nationalist settlement figures. In large part due to the stewardship of Hasidic rebbes, tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews have moved to the West Bank and now comprise one third of the Jewish settler population. The evolution of Hasidic rabbinic positions indicates that many Hasidic Jews have formed strong ties to the West Bank and will oppose possible future efforts to withdraw Jews from the region."

Susan Kahn, CMES associate director and director of the AM program, notes that Brett’s thesis stood out from a particularly strong cohort of AM theses this year, describing it as “a masterful project based on extensive use of primary sources, providing a detailed and comprehensive overview of the dynamic and diverse attitudes of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis towards Judea and Samaria.”

(For more on this year’s AM theses, click here.)