Interview with Lahava CEO Bentzi Gopstein

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Tell me about yourself:

I studied at ​​Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea. I was born in 5729 (תשכ”ט), and I am the proud  father of 8 children, and many grandchildren. My wife, Anat, is also actively involved in the pursuit of activities help Jewish . Over the past few years, I have been busy saving girls who are in relationships with gentiles.

Why was Lahava organization established? Can you share some background?

We established Lahava to prevent assimilation in Israel. After actively trying to rescue Jewish Girlsת who were already in active relationships with Arab men, I felt the need to figure out a way to preemptively reach these girls before they embark on these relationships. It was crucial to do everything possible to prevent this from happening by raising awareness about the dangers of assimilation, to try to spread the word and warn about assimilation in places where it is common: supermarkets, shops that employ minorities, girls during their Sherut Leumi service, beaches, leisurely and recreational activities.

In the past, the stories of assimilation came from Jews of the Diaspora. Exposed and influenced by the culture of non-Jews among whom they lived. In recent years the phenomenon of assimilation has also taken place here, in our Holy Land, in numbers unheard of. Lahava has already managed to reach and rescue thousands of girls, and every day we receive additional requests.

For girls serving in Sherut Leumi alone, we hear dozens of cases of girls who met and began relationships with non-Jews. For each girl that comes to us, we hear information about several more girls.

How do you get reports about a relationship between Jewish Women and Arab Men? And what processes do you go through for prevention?

 We do not wait for the girls to call for help but we come to them before. Most of the time we are approached by concerned family members or good friends. We have set up a hot line 079-9130000 and we are able to receive inquiries around the clock. As soon as we get the call, we work to reveal and uncover all the possible details about that girl. In most cases, the girls do not cooperate; they do not want severe their connections with their parnters. That’s when we call our “wizards”; activists who reach out to these girls at school, at work and convince them to leave their non-Jewish partner.

We employ many professionals in the field whose role is to recognize and identify potential victims. Then the challenging job of persuasion begins. We begin by trying to dissuade the relationship explaining why she should get involved and that this connection comes at a steep cost.

We never give up on any Jewish Woman. We treat each girl as if she were our own daughter. Even if the relationship has already been established, even if she is already married to an Arab and even if she has children,  we still try to convince her to return.

We conduct lectures and workshops in schools and community centers to talk openly about assimilation. At every lecture, we are approached by girls who tell us about themselves or other girls who go out with gentiles.

When we take our message and spread it through the media and social networks, to publicize the dangers of assimilation, we receive a flood of requests for help. If there are those who masquerade as Jews to attract girls, we make sure to distribute the names of the impostors so that other girls will be mindful and careful. In places where there is a recurring occurrence we advertise and continue to make attempts to warn and save these girls. Wherever and whenever possible, we work to raise awareness.

Can you tell us short stories about successes?

I’m going to tell you about “N”. About one month ago, we received a call from a tearful  mother who told us that her daughter was just about to get married to an Arab, whom she met as a cashier in a supermarket chain in Jerusalem. “I have tried everything, I do not know what to do.” We sent one of our employees to the wedding disguised as a waiter. Before the ceremony, a conversation with the bride began. After many hours of conversation, the girl decided to cancel the wedding and she broke off all contact with that same Arab.

Meet “H”.  We’ve been working with her for many years. She had a serious relationship with an Arab, broke up, but after a year she went back to him. Two years, and two children later she again  reached out to us for help. We asked Rabbi Lior for advice, and he gave us a “psak” that we MUST help her again to save the children. We moved her to a safe hiding place in one of our communities. Thank G-d, she has acclimated well back into our community. She also helps save other women. Today, when we see her son studying in a religious pre-school, walking with a kippah, we know that we have saved another complete world.

I do want to relay a sad story about innocent Jewish woman from a traditional home who met her ‘jewel’ at a certain site for “shidduchim” which is not under any supervision. It was a Druze gentleman, who pretended to be a Jew, and they dated for about one year. When she found out he was a Druze, it was too late. She was so passionately in love, to the depths of her soul, so you can imagine the hard work, and persuasion it took to help her fall “out of love.”

Can you characterize the girls who are at the greatest risk?

It used to be believed that the most vulnerable girls are the ones that come from dysfunctional homes. Today, unfortunately, this is not the case. There are many wonderful girls from all over Israel, from Ulpanot, Batei Yaakov, and religious settlements.

Although 50% of girls do come from dysfunctional homes, 50% are girls from cohesive and functional families – and across the religious spectrum – secular, traditional, religious and ultra-Orthodox.

How do you rehabilitate the girls you rescued? Do you keep in touch?

After persuading the girls who have converted to Islam, we bring them back to a Jewish environment. We have emergency apartments where we place the women and children for initial care. We even will support these girls until they get married, and even after … There are girls who feel miserable and tell us that they have will have no chance of being in a relationship with a Jew because they were with Arabs, but Baruch Hashem after a year or two all these girls have had their spiritual health restored, and they are able to a suitable Jewish suitor,  get married and establish a family, Our greatest joy.

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