Controversial rabbi launches campaign to ‘rescue’ women from ‘indignities’ of Israeli military service

Rabbi Noson Leiter, who endorsed an Alabama politician mired in sexual misconduct allegations, is calling to “save our daughters” from military service

Women in the Israeli military. Credit: Israel Defense Forces

Jan 15, 2024 4:10 PM


Rabbi Noson Leiter, a Monsey-based rabbi who stood by Roy Moore after the latter was accused of sexually assaulting women, including some who were underage, has now launched a campaign to “rescue women” from the “indignities of the Israeli military draft and prison.”

At least one ad in Leiter’s campaign was placed in the Monsey Mevaser magazine, an otherwise pro-Israel Haredi news outlet. This comes against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, with Haredi communities worldwide concerned about the safety of Israeli citizens.

Rabbi Noson Leiter's ad in Monsey Mevaser

Since the Israel-Hamas war began in October of last year, draft turnout among women has increased, the Israeli Defense Forces told the Times of Israel. At the same time, Haredi enlistment in the army has also increased, despite Haredi opposition to the draft for both boys and girls. Even before the current war, Israel had been in the process of expanding the range of positions within the IDF to which women can be drafted.

The ad in the Monsey Mevaser seeks to “rescue” women of all levels of religiosity — not just Haredi women, who can more easily obtain exemptions from military service by being religious, married, or pregnant. 

Leiter is a longtime anti-gay and anti-abortion activist who has stirred controversy in years past for endorsing Roy Moore, an Alabama politician who was accused of sexual misconduct by several women, including some who said they had been underage at the time of the offense. While endorsing Moore, Leiter called on people to oppose a so-called “LGBT and transgender mafia” and “gay terrorists.”

In a message to Shtetl, Leiter cited Haredi notions of women’s modesty and sanctity as reasons why women should not be drafted. Many Haredim believe that being in close quarters with male soldiers, especially secular ones, is a violation of Haredi norms of women’s modesty. In his message, Leiter also called for the release of all Israeli women who have been imprisoned for dodging the Israeli draft.

Leiter further said that the “indignities” he referred to include “sexual exploitation and abuse in the Army environment." A 2022 report conducted by the Israeli government found that about one third of female soldiers had experienced sexual harassment in the prior year during their mandatory military service, according to Haaretz. In 2018, reports alleged that female soldiers serving as guards in an Israeli prison were deliberately placed in close contact with prisoners, including Palestinians accused of terror activities, to be ogled and sexually assaulted by inmates from whom prison officials sought to gain concessions.

Leiter’s ad, which focuses on Israel, also warns readers about potential drafts in the U.S. “We in America are not immune to the threat of giyus banos,” it says, using a Hebrew term for drafting women. The U.S. military has not issued a draft since the Vietnam War. Currently, U.S. draft law only applies to men, but there is bipartisan support in Congress for expanding it to everyone. 

The ad contains the phone number for an organization called Help Rescue Our Children, which Leiter runs. The organization’s stated goal is to oppose molestation of children. 

In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo condemned comments Leiter made in which he suggested that Hurricane Sandy was a divine punishment for New York State’s recognition of same-sex marriage the prior year. Leiter has also opposed abortion rights.

Monsey Mevaser tends to be pro-Israel, regularly featuring ads to support lone soldiers and real estate opportunities in Israel. Reached by phone, David Hoffman, the owner of the news outlet, said he reviewed the ad and thought it was “ok,” but declined to state whether or not he agreed with the opinion expressed in it.