Sol Werdiger following a meeting with Bibi Netanyahu

By Larry Gordon

Shloime (Sol) Werdiger approaches his role as a leader in the Torah-observant world calmly and thoughtfully. It’s an important job and a serious undertaking with great challenges and even greater rewards when things work out right.

His company—Outerstuff—designs, manufactures, and distributes the licensed sports apparel that sports fans love to wear as an expression of their unity and attachment to what are usually their home teams.

But Werdiger plays a larger role—helping international Jewish life function. As chairman of the Agudath Israel Board of Trustees, he returned two weeks ago from a whirlwind mission to Israel where he met with his longtime close friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and other members of Bibi’s governing coalition who, at the time, had just assumed their new positions.

Mr. Werdiger’s activity and involvement in both Israel and U.S. internal machinations is a below-the-radar function that communicates a vital message to governments that play a prominent role in the world. His message is about the vitality of the Orthodox Jewish community and, on some level, the Jewish community in general, both significant minorities on the world scene.

The Jewish people are a bit more than 2% of the American population and a fraction of that on the global scene, but—and it may be one of the things that provokes the ire of so many—the Jewish communities, regardless of where they are found in the world, play an outsized role in the functioning of society in their individual locales.

Aside from his prominence in the business world and his leadership role with Agudath Yisrael, Shloime is also the chairman of Am Echad. The group’s mission is to unite Jews by focusing on: Israel’s distinct Jewish character which, as time goes on, seems to become more obscured; Israel–Diaspora relations, which are vital to the strength and success of both communities; and, of course, the seemingly never-ending battle against the proliferation of anti-Semitism.

The recent three-day jaunt to Israel for Shloime Werdiger had several objectives and planted the seeds for multiple projects that are imperative to us as a community.

Werdiger personifies the idea that if you need something done, give it to a very busy person to do. This is a busy time of year for Mr. Werdiger whose company handles the licensing agreements with professional sports leagues like the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) and manufactures the outerwear, or, as the company is named, “Outerstuff.”

To that end, Mr. Werdiger and his company have several busy weeks ahead of them with the Super Bowl coming up in Arizona followed shortly thereafter by the NBA All Star Game. He will be attending both, he says.

Of course, the quick trip to Israel two weeks ago had nothing to do with the upcoming attention-grabbing sporting events. Shloime Werdiger was wearing a completely different hat, so to speak, at that time.

The State of Israel is at a crossroads. Arguably, the country is always at a crossroads; it just so happens that today it is more profoundly so. At the time that Werdiger was in Israel there were coalition agreements that had to be signed and implemented. That is never an easy time in the Jewish State.

In our conversation, he mentioned a particular dispute that arose between factions of the chareidi parties in the newly elected Knesset—Agudath Israel and Degel HaTorah. Shloime didn’t elaborate on the details of the dispute, but with tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of shekels being allocated for yeshivas and other religious institutions, it’s no surprise that there are disagreements.

It takes clarity and a fresh perspective sometimes to achieve a meeting of the minds, and that is one of the roles Werdiger was able to play so that the governing coalition could move forward. Settling or compromising on the differences entailed a series of meetings between the Belzer Rebbe and Rav Gershon Edelstein, two of the most prominent and senior sages in Klal Yisrael today.

When it comes to dealing with the new Israeli government, Shloime Werdiger has to dig inside himself and focus on the issues and agendas of the day. Werdiger, like so many other Orthodox Jewish leaders, is concerned about the Jewish future and how that will play itself out on the field where the State of Israel has to interface with the American Jewish community.

“I told many of the elected officials in Israel who are not necessarily observant that it is Torah Jewry that is the future of the Jewish people.” He adds that some of the newly appointed officials point out to him that the majority of American Jews are not observant, with as much as half identifying as cultural Jews with no real observance.

On that count, Shloime Werdiger tells them there are several things they should consider. Firstly, the intermarriage rate in the Reform and Conservative movements is 75%. So, he asks them if it’s OK with them if their grandchild marries a non-Jew. Usually, he says, there is some apprehension and some silence … and that just about says it all.

The next issue to consider from the perspective of Am Echad is the backlash that the current government is receiving from liberal American Jews. Unfortunately many of these liberal Jewish groups have attached themselves to organizations that don’t just oppose the current government but work with organizations affiliated with the Palestinian cause and the effort to slowly but surely shrink or at least damage the Jewish state.

Werdiger points out that when he met with ministers and MKs affiliated with the right, he urged them to be mindful of the status quo on many issues and to consider the diversity of the Jewish people in Israel when creating policy.

As to his feelings about Naftali Bennett and the previous government that lasted a year, in his estimation, “Bennett just blew it.” He believes that the current government will live out their full four-year term, and with Bibi in his fourth iteration as leader and prime minister of Israel he has great hopes for the future of Israel.

As for the future and the post-Bibi era, Werdiger says that there is a lot of young talent in the Likud but that he likes Nir Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem.

This is true leadership on display. This is what it looks like when a Jewish leader sets everything aside to deal with issues that affect Am Yisrael here, in Israel, and around the world.

The Shulamith Vote

Speaking of leadership, most of our leaders come from our schools and right now one of our schools is facing a turning point regarding their home. The Lawrence School Board is holding a Special Referendum Vote on February 16, 2023, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., in the Lawrence High School Gym, located at 2 Reilly Road in Cedarhurst, to vote on a ballot proposition for authorization to sell the property known as the “Number 5 School,” located at 305 Cedarhurst Avenue in Cedarhurst for the sum of $12,500,000 to Shulamith School for Girls. Shulamith has rented the space for eight years and I agree with our local leaders that it is in the community’s best interest to sell the property to the school to continue educating our community’s girls to the highest standards. All registered voters in District 15 should make the time on February 15 to let these girls keep their educational home.

Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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