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When Jews Betray Israel
A Public Letter To the Editor of Mishpachah Magazine:
In his most recent column, Eytan Kobre criticizes non-Orthodox Jews who, in their anger at the actions of the Government of Israel with regard to religion, attempt to harm Israel and stir up opposition from non-Jews. It is good to see Mr. Kobre standing up for Israel, in light of an earlier column of his in which he dismissed the significance of Israel. However, the way in which he criticizes those seeking to harm Israel is rather dishonest. He writes:
"...Have Orthodox Jews ever made the kinds of threats against this country and its people that we’re now hearing, things like withholding donations and terminating business dealings that will impair the Israeli economy? Have Orthodox Jews ever suggested, as Conservative clergyman Daniel Gordis has, that “Israeli hospitals survive in part thanks to American Jewish philanthropy. The flow of money should stop. Meetings with hospitals’ fundraisers should be canceled”? Have Orthodox Jews put constituent pressure on members of Congress to involve themselves in an internal matter of Israeli politics and religion and decry Israel’s lack of religious freedom for all America to hear, as heterodox Jewish leaders have now done?"
Well, the unfortunate answer is yes, Orthodox Jews have indeed engaged in such actions. In 2013 there was a rally against the policies of the Israeli Government with regard to drafting yeshivah students, which was held in Manhattan, for all America to see. The rally had tens of thousands of people and numerous rabbinic dignitaries, including not only Satmar rabbanim but also Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Rav Aaron Schechter, Rav Osher Kalmanovitz, Rav Shlomo Feivel Shustal, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman (who was once praised to the heavens by Eytan Kobre in a fawning profile in Mishpachah magazine) and others. The speakers described Israel as an "evil regime" and talked about how “the [Israeli] army was founded on murder and blood spilling.” The event was reported by the New York Daily News, along with various pro-Palestinian outlets who presented it as evidence that authentic Jews are opposed to the brutal Zionist regime.
Then just a few weeks ago, there was a rally at the Barclays Center, primarily with Satmar chassidim but again also supported by Litvishe rabbonim such as Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Rav Aaron Schechter and others. This event was likewise intended to send a message to people outside the Jewish community, as reported in a press release by The Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada (CRC): "We want the world to know about their (Haredi Jews) plight, that their religious rights are being systematically abused. The Israeli government isn't allowing for freedom of assembly or freedom of speech on this issue," said CRC spokesman Rabbi Isaac Green. Rabbi David Niederman, Intergovernmental Liaison for the CRC, stated: "International law under Section 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights demands for exemption of military service based on ones' sincerely held conscience. Unfortunately, it is a right that the Israeli government has withheld from our community."
Nor did Rabbi Niederman describe the function of the effort as being limited to words - he said that he hoped to exert pressure in terms of financial aid to Israel. "Niederman said rally organizers hoped to influence American lawmakers who give Israel billions of dollars in defense aid. If the U.S. and Israeli governments don’t pay heed, the Satmar community will take additional steps, he said, though he declined to give specifics."
Rabbi Niederman should be familiar to readers of Mishpachah magazine, as he was once featured on the cover of the magazine, and he was praised as an outstanding example of an Orthodox Jewish diplomat. If Mr. Kobre is going to criticize non-Orthodox Jews for their betrayal of Israel, then he should not deny that the same sin is sometimes committed by Orthodox Jews, including those who are praised in this very magazine.