Just for the Record

I have never seen any point in writing a column with which every single reader will agree. (The matter, of course, is different with respect to writing about middos, whose desirability is universally acknowledged, but the attainment of which remains distant, as the Ramchal notes in his introduction to Mesilas Yesharim.) Thus it is with a great deal of resentment that I find it necessary to devote a column to the antics of a handful of impostors dressed in the garb of Torah Jews who traveled to Teheran last week to participate in a conference of Holocaust denial convened by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Yet we as a community have no choice but to make clear to the broader public that the entire spectrum of chareidi Jewry spits out this tiny sect, numbering little more than 25 tortured souls. We must do so because those Jews who express their solidarity with the greatest butchers and would-be butchers of Jews in modern times claim Torah sanction for their actions.

The secular press in Israel and around the world has been only too happy to carry large photographs of a handful of clowns kissing Arafat and now Ahmadinejad, praying for the Ayatollah Khomeini, and declaring their allegiance to Hamas. These publicity hounds play nicely into the media’s constant efforts to discredit religion, in general, and Torah Judaism, in particular.

At least one member of this group of ten or fifteen sad sacks, who hop around the globe looking for any anti-Israel gathering at which they can count on media attention, spoke into a microphone on Shabbos at Hamas rally in Washington D.C. in April 2002. When asked by a non-Jewish reporter how he could justify such a blatant Shabbos violation, he replied that the mitzvah of destroying Israel pushes off the prohibitions of Shabbos.

That is precisely the mindset to which the late Rabbi Elazar Menachem Mann Schach referred when he said (many times): Just as one who denies one mitzvah of the Torah is classified as an apikores so is one who elevates any mitzvah, or supposed mitzvah, of the Torah above all others (except to the extent dictated by the Torah itself.)

But even if those who flew to Teheran last week, or who marched in their Shabbos regalia with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign at London’s Trafalgar Square in May 2002, were scrupulous to the nth degree in their Shabbos observance, they would still be imposters dressed as Torah Jews. Their hatred of Zionism and the State of Israel has driven them mad, and caused them to celebrate and offer assistance to killers of Jews and those who deny the greatest tragedy of modern Jewish history.

A half century ago, Moshe Hirsch, the self-proclaimed “foreign minister” of a breakaway sect of Neturei Karta in Meah Shearim numbering no more than a handful of families, was appointed the “rav” of the Purim shpiel in his American yeshiva. And he has been playing the same role ever since to ill effect. Documents seized during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 revealed him to be on Yasir Arafat’s payroll. He repeatedly expressed his admiration for Arafat, the arch-terrorist and butcher of Jews.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the rosh yeshiva of MirrerYeshiva in Jerusalem, ordered that Hirsch not be allowed to set foot into the building, more than a quarter century ago. And this week, Ha’Eidah, the official organ of the fiercely anti-Zionist Eidah Hachareidis, characterized those attending the Teheran conference as a “tiny group of weirdos, who are liable to incite hatred against hareidi Jews.” The paper’s editor, Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim lambasted them for having ignored the “opinion of the Torah Sages” in pursuit of their distorted anti-Zionist zealotry.

A statement put out by Satmar and other Chassidic groups in America labeled the participants in the Holocaust denial conference “evil associates of our enemies,” and noted that they had been “ejected from our shuls and communities decades ago.”

Meanwhile Ahron Cohen of Manchester, who attended the conference, has been sent a letter informing him of his expulsion from the chevrah kadishah (burial society) to which he belonged, and requesting that he not show his face in the vicinity of Machizkei HaDaas, the largest chareidi shul in Manchester. He has also been told that he is persona non grata in the Satmar beis medrash of Manchester. Rav Elchonon (Huna) Halperin, the senior figure in the chareidi community of Golders Green issued similar instructions for his beis medrash.

THERE IS NO CONTRADICTION between theological rejection of Zionism and intense concern for the security of the Jews of Israel. Agudath Israel from its inception was anti-Zionist. Yet Rabbi Moshe Sherer, the long-time president of Agudath Israel of America, often said that he took a second-seat to no one when it came to the security of Israel. He repeatedly placed his web of congressional contacts at the service of Israel’s leaders. At a June 17 1970 meeing in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., for instance, Rabbi Sherer offered then Ambassador to the United States Yitzchak Rabin “our help in whatever way we could be used.”

Even Agudath Israel’s general policy against making common cause with non-Orthodox groups gave way when it came to the security of the Jews of Israel. Thus Agudath Israel found a way to participate in a general protest demonstration in front of the U.N. against the grant of permanent observer status to the PLO.

In this regard, Rabbi Sherer always quoted the words of his mentor Rabbi Ahron Kotler during the Holocaust. When some questioned his readiness to join forces with Reform leader Stephen Wise for rescue, Reb Aharon replied, “I would work with the Pope if it would save even the fingernail of one Jewish child.”

That passionate concern with every Jewish life has characterized every Torah leader throughout the generations. And it is the aid and comfort provided to those who would wipe out Israel and its five million Jews that marks those who traveled to Teheran this week as imposters.

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17 Responses

  1. S. says:

    While I do not disagree with this column, isn’t it at least a question if there is a genetic connection between religious anti (as opposed to non) Zionism and this lunacy?

    NK is almost the reductio ad absurdum of chareidi anti-Zionism. While reductio ad absurdum isn’t, in itself, enough to squash the entire argument, perhaps it does reveal a flaw?

  2. Leizer says:

    Everyone knows that these fringed lunatic lunatic fringe candidates for Polonium therapy are nothing more than poster boys for the Freakonomics theory of birth control. Nonetheless, it would be wonderful for Roshei Yeshiva to stress the obvious, that it is the epiphenomena that form our image in the world at large, and that considering the tangential effects of our behavior is neither effeminate nor rationally inconsistant with religious zeal.

  3. YM says:

    I am pleased to know that gedolei Yisroel condemn these people who worship their own intellect, which is just another form of avodah zarah

  4. Aaron says:

    Cherem… long overdue. Finally, I can point to action instead of lame apologetics.

  5. HILLEL says:


    Here is an insightful commentary by Larry Derfner of The Jerusalem Post that puts the matter in perspective.

    Interstingly, he agrees with Neturei karta that the Holocaust is being shamefully exploited by Israeli politicians for political and diplomatic advantage.


  6. Dan Majerle says:

    How does the Ha’Eidah newspaper render the word “weirdo” in Hebrew?

  7. L.Oberstein says:

    My concern is that the general public, both Jewish and non Jewish does not know how insignificant and reviled these “weirdos” are. How can we let the world know ? The captions under the pictues in the newspapers give no indication that these are “wierdos”. It is important for those who have ties to the media to circulate the rejection of these people by Satmar and Neturei Karta and expose them for who they are.

  8. Nachum Lamm says:

    Hillel, did you completely miss the part that begins “So what is it that makes me, or the many Jewish liberals who share this attitude, any different from the people at this week’s Holocaust denial conference in Teheran?”

    I do think Derfner is off here: “The real message of the Holocaust deniers – that the Holocaust was a good thing – was no doubt only mentioned quietly, when the conferees were chatting among themselves, and out of earshot of the collaborators from Natorei Karta.”

    Actually, the NK might well agree.

    Dan: Probably “vierdo.” 🙂

  9. Eliyahu says:

    Saying “democracy doche/pushes off shabbos” (as one prominent religious zionist army officer stated) is reductio ad absurdum of religious zionism. Does that reveal a flaw in religious zionism? No, just a slippery slope down which one may tumble. It is the same with charedi anti-zionism and NK.

  10. Bob Miller says:

    The deranged (e.g., today’s NK and Yigal Amir) do not inhabit the same continuum as the rational-and-Jewishly-committed who may dress exactly as they do. Superficial thinking may be second nature to our modern media, but we desperately need to rise above it.

  11. Daati Leumi says:

    It’s long overdue and very telling that the threshold for Chareidi condemnation of them was Holocaust denial and not the years and years of their co-operation and funding by the worst of terrorists.

  12. HILLEL says:


    I didn’t miss that part of Derfner’s article My intention was not to endorse it, just to bring out some points that are often missed in the discussions about this event.

    I sometimes consult people who operate in the shadowy cloak and dagger world of “intelligence. Just this week, one of my sources gave me an insight into the Teheran conference that really made me shiver.

    He told me that all this talk of Iran’s developing a nuclear device is really a distraction, intended to obscure the fact that already have many such devices ready to go right now. They purchased them from money-hungry generals in the former USSR. The real discussion today in Iran only concerns the proper timing for launching these weapons of mass destruction.

    My contact thinks that the members of the Neteurei Karta are aware of this, and their real goal in going to Iran was not to legitimize Holocaust denial, but to convince Achmadinejad to hold-off on plans to launch his missles.

    Their argument was that Israel, under Olmert and Peretz, is already imploding, so there is no need to take the risk of using nuclear weapons. The Zionist state will fall apart, anyway.

    A report in this week’s “ShAh ToVa” Hebrew newsmagazine examines these issues and comes to the same conclusions, both with respect to Iran’s possession of Russian nyclear weapons and NK’s attempts to stop them from using them. The magazine quotes Achmadinejad as telling the Neturei Karta that he agrees with their analysis that the Zionist state will soon self-destruct.

    Things are not always as simple as they seem.

  13. Baruch C. Cohen, Esq. says:

    We’ve seen them meet, hug, embrace, and kiss the enemies of Israel (Ahmadinejad, Arafat, Farakhan, etc).
    We’ve seen their acts of moral turpitude and we looked the other way and shook our heads in disgust.
    We’ve labeled them ‘crazy’ and we discounted them because we said they were a fringe group.
    We were wrong.

    Cherems are not enough.
    Public statements condemning them are not enough.
    They must be put out of business.

    The time has come to take drastic measures to respond to the Naturei Karta chillul hashem. I have come up with a few ideas and welcome your thoughts.

    1. For each member of NK: get their picture, and complete contact information (name, address, telephone) for public dissemination. Create a “wanted” poster of their identities. People must know who they are and where they live. We can then pressure their respective communities but only if we know who they are. We must know exactly what Chassidic denomination they belong to. If they dare enter our Shuls, we will throw them out. When they come to our communities to speak we will find out where they are staying and who their hosts are and will protest accordingly. When they eat at our Kosher restaurants we will inform the proprietors that we will boycott their establishments unless the NK patrons are asked to leave. We will pressure their Yeshivas to kick their children out of their schools. We will discourage Shidduchim with their families. We will not attend their Simchas and we will tell them why. Again, we must know who they are.

    2. Challenge their IRS tax exempt status. Someone is funding their travel and speaking engagements, and is getting the benefits of a charitable deduction in the process. We need to alert the IRS of NK’s terrorist affiliations jeopardize their tax exempt status. This will chill charitable donations to their cause. Let’s bankrupt them and put them out of business.

    3. Lobby our political leaders to have them demand that the United States State Department brand the NK organization (and its members) as a terrorist organization or as a supporter of terrorism and render it illegal (like the State Department did to JDL/KACH).

    4. Publish all of the Cherems that are out against NK. The Chief Rabbi of Israel has called for a new Cherem against NK. The Edah Hachareidis just published one. See the one I’ve published below*.

    5. Encourage our Rabbonim and Jewish leaders to stop disregarding them as insignificant. Acknowledge that they are dangerous. Discredit them.

    6. Collect pictures of them posing with Arab leaders and place them on one screen for everyone to see their atrocious bedfellows: ie., Farakhan, Arafat, Ahmadinejad, and their horrific protest placards. The more pictures, the more horrific the outrage.

    7. Prosecute NK in the International Criminal Courts. Follow my logic here: If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s stated objective of “wiping Israel off the map” (his consistent denial of the Holocaust, and his country’s pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capacity) violates the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, then wouldn’t NK be guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy (Iran’s Ahmadinejad)? I’m not an expert in this area of law, but what about treason (the crime of disloyalty to one’s nation or state. A person who betrays the nation of their citizenship and/or reneges on an oath of loyalty and in some way willfully cooperates with an enemy, is considered to be a traitor. Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as: “…[a]…citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].” In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aided or involved by such an endeavour)?

    I welcome your thoughts.

    Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.

    Angry Response to Neturei Karta Prayers for Arafat
    07:51 Nov-12-04 / 28 Cheshvan 5765

    Angry Response to Neturei Karta Prayers for Arafat (IsraelNN.com) The following media statement was released on Nov 8 in an angry response to Neturei Karta participation in prayers outside the Percy Hospital in France on behalf of Yasser Arafat. The statement released by the United Orthodox Communities of New York which represents a very broad-based Jewish community, which is listed following the statement.

    “Further to our public announcement dated 21 April 2002 [9th Iyar 5762], we hereby reiterate and declare that hareidi/hassidic/Orthodox Jews everywhere absolutely reject the treacherous and contemptible conduct of that insignificant and irrelevant group of misfits and Mechalelei Hashem [desecraters of G-d’s Name], who have again raised their ugly heads and besmirched and blackened the reputations of observant Jews worldwide.

    ““Their joining in vigils and ‘prayers’ for the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat [may his name be blotted out] with Jew-haters of all manner, is an outrage that we cannot ignore and will not forgive. We again demand that rabbis and community leaders of all communities ensure that members of this group are refused entré to all houses of prayer.

    ““These nefarious associates of Jewry’s enemies have unfortunately again succeeded in their crazed hunger for publicity and are being depicted in local and international media – outfitted in their religious attire –– bewailing the impending demise of a mass-murderer –– side-by-side with Palestinian Jew-haters. The shame and embarrassment to decent religious Jews worldwide is unbearable.

    ““We repeat: this contemptible and minuscule gang of traitors to Judaism, were decades ago barred from our Synagogues and communities. Their refusal to abide by the pronouncements of religious and lay leaders of our communities has made them persona non grata.

    ““Under no circumstances should the media insinuate that ANY of their actions are associated with the hareidi or hassidic community.

    ““We urgently request all media outlets to highlight this fact in any report on this group’s actions and to clearly state that the Neturei Karta and their advocates have been excommunicated by virtually the entire spectrum of Jewry””.

    Representing: Anshei Sfard, Satmar, Bobov, Emunas Yisroel, Ger, Belz, Bnei Yehuda, Nitra, Viznitz, Munkacz, Vien, Klausenburg, Viznitz, Torah Vodaas, Novominsk, Torah Temimah, Chasan Sofer, Kiryas Joel – Monroe, Pupa, Young Israel of Brooklyn, Cong. Shomrei Shabbos, United Lubavitch Organizations of Crown Heights, Kamenitz, Agudath Israel 14th Avenue, United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, Boro Park Jewish Council, Debrecin, US Friends of the Eida Charedis, Lakewood Yeshiva

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    We know that the IDF found evidence that Arafat paid Hirsch & Co. for their antics. I would not be surprised or shocked to see evidence that the Iranian government paid NK for this appearance at a conference marked by Holocaust denial.

  15. Bob Miller says:

    “Things are not always as simple as they seem.”

    Hillel made this good point, which should prompt him and us to reflect that his fairy tale about the good NK sounds like second-hand disinformation.

  16. HILLEL says:

    To All:

    Just to make sure that we all understand what the “Holocaust Conference ” was really about, here is the best analysis I’ve seen to date on Achmadinejad’s strategic goal in calling the conference:


  17. Joshua says:

    “I would work with the Pope if it would save even the fingernail of one Jewish child.”
    The correct quote is “I would prostrate myself before the pope….”

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