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The Shame of the Anti-Defamation League – Commentary

Posted By on April 27, 2019

The burgeoning hate aimed at Jewish immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century was the driving force behind the 1913 formation of the Anti-Defamation League. According to its original charteras laid out by its sponsoring organization, Bnai Brith, the largest Jewish communal group in the United Statesthe ADLs immediate object was to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience, and if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against, and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.

Countering organized hate movements was, practically from the start, at the center of the ADLs mission. The seminal case was that of Mary Phagan, a teenaged factory laborer in Atlanta, who was found murdered in 1913. Leo Frank, the factorys Jewish superintendent, was framed in what became Americas blood-libel story for budding white supremacists. Frank was abducted from prison in 1915 and lynched. Before he was killed, Franks sentence was commuted by Georgias governor due in large measure to the argumentation and lobbying of the ADL and associated civil-rights organizations. The horror of Franks demise did not vitiate the lesson that organizing and solidarity with other minority groups were the key to political success in protecting Jews.


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The Shame of the Anti-Defamation League - Commentary

What is Zionism? | Yahoo Answers

Posted By on April 27, 2019

Zionism is many things to many people. At its base, Zionism is the belief in the necessity for a Jewish homeland or state. As an actual movement, Zionism started in the early 20th century. Jews were increasingly finding it difficult to live in Europe and the desire to end the diaspora was growing. There was much debate over where to form this new Jewish homeland. Many argued for South America. One wealthy American Jew actually bought several thousand acres in upstate New York (on the Canadian border) and proposed it as an option. The draw to the 'historical homeland' of Palestine was great. After WWI the state of Palestine was disorganized. There was little nationalistic identity, and during the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon all made attempts to incorporate the territory that became Palestine. Wealthy American and European Jews began to buy land from wealthy Arabs, and then encouraged poor European Jews to migrate. Many Jews who already lived in Palestine argued against this, believing that such migration would cause class strife that would manifest itself along religious lines. As poor Arabs lost their jobs working the farms/orchards/etc, this is precisely what happened - what started as violence over jobs quickly developed religious overtones on both sides and the animosity intensified. After WWII there were millions of displaced Jews who had no where to go. To make a long, complicated story short, it was decided to go to Palestine and create the state of Israel. The UN/major world powers supported this action (or at least didn't actively oppose it), and Palestine lost most of its territory. The next 50 years saw several attempts by the Arab nations to retake Palestine (supported in large by the Soviet Union). All of these attempts failed to achieve real success (there were some minor gains from time to time) thanks to the support of Western nations (France, US, England) and the intense desire of the citizens of Israel. Eventually the conflict has devolved from open warfare into guerrilla and/or terrorist warfare.

Most years since 1948, Israel, Palestine, and the Zionist question have made world headlines due to the violence and strife. Some have argued that Israel destabilized the region. Others state that it is only fitting and proper that there is Jewish state, pointing to the numerous pogroms in Europe and the Americas over the last 600 years. Some argue that Israel has its right to exist but must treat the Palestinians properly. The variety and complexity of the issues surrounding Israel and Zionism is enormous. It is an issue that has been at the forefront for generations and will continue to be for decades to come.

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What is Zionism? | Yahoo Answers

Richard Burgon and criticism of Zionism | Letter | Politics …

Posted By on April 27, 2019

It is disturbing to read (Shadow justice secretary admits to anti-Zionist speech, 17 April) that a prominent Labour MP, Richard Burgon, has felt it necessary to apologise for having said The enemy of the Palestinian people is not the Jewish people. The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists, and Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people.

As Jewish lawyers who have been concerned for much of our lives with opposing racism in general and antisemitism in particular, we see no reason for any such apology. We are among the large number of Jews, worldwide, who regard with shame the military oppression by Israel of the Palestinian people and the ongoing appropriation, by illegal settlement, of the little land that is still theirs.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Zionist group within the Labour party, has no entitlement to speak for Jews at large in seeking to stigmatise all criticism of Zionism as antisemitic. The undoubted misuse of Zionist as a surrogate for Jewish has to be dealt with case-specifically, not by immunising Zionism from all criticism.Geoffrey BindmanLondonStephen SedleyOxford

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Richard Burgon and criticism of Zionism | Letter | Politics ...

Zionists And Anti-Zionists Dont Agree About What Zionism Is

Posted By on April 27, 2019

Last night, at a CNN town hall, Bernie Sanders put to rest the idea that the 2020 Democratic primaries are going to be about Israel.

I am 100% pro Israel, he said. Israel has every right in the world to exist, and to exist in peace and security, and not to be subjected to terrorist attacks. But the United States needs to deal not just with Israel but with the Palestinian people.

What I believe is not radical, Sanders admitted. I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis. The goal must be to try to bring people together, and not just support one country which is now run by a right wing dare I say, racist government.

I am not anti-Israel, Sanders elaborated. But the fact of the matter is, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is a right wing politician who is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.

These words are indeed not radical; they could have easily been uttered by any progressive American Jewish leader today. Sanders view of the Middle East can be neatly summed up as liberal Zionism. And despite all the ink spilled about how revolutionary Sanders will be on Israel, how far hell push the Democratic party, and how much of the 2020 debate will focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, last night, Sanders revealed that he sees the region in the same terms as every single other candidate running for the Democratic ticket in 2020.

He isnt even willing to commit to leveraging military aid to Israel. Though he once said he would consider voting to reduce U.S. aid to Israel, he backtracked last month when asked about it again point blank by the New Yorker.

Sanders position being pro-Israel but critical of Israels racist rightward turn and disgusted with Netanyahu also captures the way the vast majority of American Jews feel right now about Israel. In fact, it might just capture the view of the majority of Jewish Zionists period, given how many Israelis cast a vote for the more centrist Benny Gantz.

There is no inherent contradiction in this position. While the history of Zionism contains vigorous debate about what Jewish self-determination should look like, these debates have by and large subsided. Zionism today for the majority of people who would call themselves Zionists is a pretty minimal proposition: Its the preference for planet earth to contain a Jewish nation state.

This of course doesnt mean approval for how that nation state behaves, the course its leaders choose for it, or even the way in which it came about.

But these are all things that Israels critics hold Zionists responsible for. And thats because Zionists and anti-Zionists do not define Zionism in the same way.

For anti-Zionists, Zionism is a much more expansive proposition. To be a Zionist is to endorse the ethnic cleansing in 1948 that accompanied the establishment of the Jewish state, known as the Nakba in Palestinian communities. It is to endorse Israels military occupation of the Palestinians of the West Bank, the dispossession of their civil rights and their inequality before the law. It is to endorse the blockade of Gaza and the violence at the border fence.

Because the existing Jewish state does these things, and because they accompanied its establishment, anyone supporting a Jewish state surely must be signing on to these things, goes the argument. And how could there be a Jewish state with a Jewish majority without the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? Ergo, those who desire such a state must surely be comfortable with ethnic cleansing and Apartheid.

Few Zionists and no liberal Zionists would recognize themselves in this description. For American liberal Zionists, Zionism is the fantasy that Jewish liberation brings with it a Tikkun Olam, a correction of the world that would raise up along with it other marginalized peoples. The American Jewish communitys current horror at what Israel has turned into is nothing short of the jarring realization that this has been a fantasy all along.

But the fact that their intersectional fantasy is no reality is a far cry from an endorsement of the current ethnonationalist ugliness Israel has descended into.

No one exemplifies this more than Sanders. Sanders didnt only describe himself in Zionist terms. He went one step further, calling himself 100% pro Israel, like 93% of American Jews recently polled on the topic (well, they settled for just pro-Israel). And like the majority of those Jews, Sanders saw no contradiction between calling out the racism of the current Jewish state and insisting in absolute terms on its right to exist.

His anti-Zionist supporters, of whom there are many, are facing a choice given Bernies ardent Zionism. They can either accept that he is a Zionist and that there is a version of Zionism that distinguishes itself from Israels ugliest traits, or they can abandon him as one of the bad guys, a purveyor of a trief ideology thats akin to colonialist white supremacy in their view.

As importantly, Zionists today have to confront difficult questions with a fourth Netanyahu term now in session. Can a Jewish state exist without ethnically cleansing and oppressing Palestinians? Can a Jewish majority be maintained without evoking racist language and actions? In 2019, can one really insist on the distinction between the Zionist fantasy and the Israeli reality? And if so, for how much longer?

Batya Ungar-Sargon is the opinion editor of the Forward.

This story "Zionists And Anti-Zionists Dont Agree About What Zionism Is" was written by Batya Ungar-Sargon.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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Zionists And Anti-Zionists Dont Agree About What Zionism Is

YIVO | Chernobil Hasidic Dynasty

Posted By on April 27, 2019

(Ukr., Chernobyl; later, Twersky Hasidic Dynasty), one of the leading Hasidic communities in nineteenth-century Ukraine. The Chernobil dynasty was founded by Rabbi Menaem Naum of Chernobil (1730?1797), a student of Yisrael Baal Shem Tov and Dov Ber, the Magid of Mezritsh. In addition to serving as the magid (preacher) of Chernobil, Reb Naum apparently traveled around Ukraine, mediating, advising, and spreading his teachings.

Naum was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Mordekhai (Motele; 1770?1837) who adopted the surname Twersky (according to one hagiographical source he took the name Twersky [Rus., Tverskii, meaning a native of the city of Tver] because he identified with the Hasidic community of Tiberias [Heb., Teveryah] and based it on the consonantal similarity between Tver and Tiveriah) and, in keeping with the roles of Hasidic leaders of his era, transformed the faction into a mass movement. Whereas Naum had lived a life of modesty and poverty, Hasidic anecdotes relate how Motele requisitioned money or other valuables from his followers. As did his father, Motele traveled through Ukraine, but gradually the purpose of these visits was less to act as a circuit judge and increasingly to supervise the growing communities of his followers, as well as to increase their numbers. Hasidic territories, called magidut, were important features of Ukrainian Hasidism until at least the 1860s.

By the 1840s, seven of Moteles eight sons had established themselves as Hasidic leaders. Motele was succeeded in Chernobil by his eldest son, Aharon (17871871), while his other sons each moved to a different town in Ukraine, probably encouraged by communities who had been devoted to Motele. Upon the flight from the Russian Empire in 1842 of their chief competition, Rabbi Yisrael Friedman of Ruzhin (the father-in-law of Moteles seventh son, Yitsak, the dynasty grew in popularity and influence. Moteles second son, Mosheh (17891866), settled in Korostyshev and probably did not lead his own court; however, his third son, Yaakov Yisrael (17941876), competed with his older brother and settled first inHornostaipol and subsequently in Cherkassy. A fourth son, Naum (1804 1851), established a court in Makarov. Moteles eighth son, Yoanan (18161895) made his home in the small village of Rotmistrivka (Yid., Rakhmistrivke).

The leading tsadikim of the Twersky family were Moteles fifth, sixth, and seventh sons, Avraham, David, and Yitsak. Avraham (known as the Trisker Magid; 18061889) settled in Turiysk (Yid., Trisk) and attracted thousands of followers to his court. David (known as Duvidl, the Talner Rebbe; 18081882) was arguably the best-known rebbe of his generation in Ukraine. He began his career in Vasilkov, but moved in 1852 to Talnoye, a smaller town where he was renowned for his sharp wit, healing abilities, and powerful sermons, and where he amassed a large and devoted following. Yitsak (18121885), moved to Skvira, most probably after hisfather-in-law had fled. Yitsak was known for his wisdom, rationality, and for encouraging his followers to read rabbinic rather than Hasidic works.

By the 1860s, competition among Hasidic groups in Ukraine had intensified. Although the rebbes of the Chernobil dynasty were not hostile toward one another (with the exception of Yaakov Yisrael Cherkassy), their Hasidim reacted with violence against rebbes of other dynasties. During the first half of the 1860s, riots against the Bratslav Hasidim by Davids followers and others were common. In 1864, Davids devotees forcefully attempted to unseat the rebbe of Rezhishtshev. The campaign was unsuccessful, but the scandal caught the attention of the Russian government, which imposed house arrest upon the rebbes of the Twersky family. This decree, known as gzeyres zadikov, made it impossible for the rebbes to travel to visit their faithful and to collect money; consequently, the influence of the rebbes of the Chernobil dynasty was reduced. This led David, probably Avraham, and perhaps the others to refashion their homes and synagogues into courts or pilgrimage centers. A visitor to David in the 1870s would arrive ata large compound in the center of Talnoye, complete with residential, communal, and service buildings. Cantors, choirs, and klezmer musicians were frequent visitors. The messianic verse David melekh Yisrael ai ve-kayam (David, King of Israel, lives and endures) was apparently inscribed on his chair.

The flourishing of the Talner and other Ukrainian courts was short-lived. Pogroms in the 1880s brought uncertainty and economic ruin to Ukrainian Jews and to the rebbes they supported. Moreover, by the 1890s all of Moteles sons had diedwithout leaving strong successors. Still, a number of rebbes of the Chernobil dynasty stayed active during the interwar years. Rabbi Shelomoh Bentsiyon of Chernobil continued, against many odds, to lead his Hasidim in Kiev (with Stalins approval) until his death in 1939. Three of Davids great-grandsons came to the United States before World War I to function as rebbes in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Skvira fled Ukraine after the Bolshevik Revolution, spent the interwar years in Bessarabia, and survived the war in Bucharest. He later settled in Spring Valley, New York, where he and his followers created the new Hasidic town of New Square. Other members of the Twersky family settled in the United States and Israel. The Hasidism that began in Chernobil thus continues to thrive two centuries later.

David Assaf, The Regal Way: The Life and Times of Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin (Stanford, Calif., 2002); Menaem Naum of Chernobil, Upright Practices, the Light of the Eyes, trans. Arthur Green (New York, 1982); Paul Radensky, Hasidism in the Age of Reform: A Biography of Rabbi Duvid ben Mordkhe Twersky of Talnoye (Ph.D. diss., Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 2001).

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YIVO | Chernobil Hasidic Dynasty

Opinion | My Fellow Hasidic Jews Are Making a Terrible …

Posted By on April 25, 2019

Whether out of shortsightedness or strategic malice, some of our religious leaders have directly fostered an atmosphere where thorough research is sneered at, the scientific method is doubted and the motivations of professionals are assumed to be nefarious and steeped in anti-religious animus.

In more recent years, when the Department of Education pushed for an increase in secular studies in the citys yeshivas, some of our leaders once again instigated their community to oppose these much-needed reforms. Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, the grand rabbi of Satmar, the largest Hasidic sect in the United States, whose stronghold is in Williamsburg, went as far as to say that the government was persecuting Jewish religious schools and essentially declared war against the department. These rabbis and community leaders used their platform to tell the ultra-Orthodox world that math, science, history and social studies are unnecessary and have little value reinforcing the idea that government officials are out to get us and wish to destroy our religious values.

We see this same approach now among some of our leaders toward vaccines. Some rabbis are contributing to the spread of disinformation, repeating unfounded claims about the health risks of the M.M.R. vaccine.

Such anti-science has no place in our communitys beliefs; Judaism is not behind the refusal to vaccinate. Most in the ultra-Orthodox community are vaccinated, and a vast majority of prominent rabbis support the vaccination requirements. Seven rabbis recently banded together and released an edict, advising that the vaccinations are a matter of life and death. A majority of our charitable organizations, like Hatzalah and the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association Vaccine Task Force, have joined the battle against measles.

Doctors and health officials are begging the community to heed their warnings about the dangers of non-vaccination. Mayor de Blasio is now requiring unvaccinated individuals in our neighborhoods to receive the vaccine or face a fine, and city officials are closing yeshivas and day-care centers that defy the order.

But a powerful subgroup is continuing to ignore these calls and to misrepresent the motives of doctors, health officials and activists. They were behind a lawsuit against the citys vaccination order, which argues that the current outbreak in Brooklyn is not a clear and present danger to the public health (it was dismissed last week).

Evidently, the strategic deployment of a siege mentality by some of our religious leaders has worked all too well. Their words are received by an impressionable community, and many people have bought into these claims. Having sowed deep suspicion of government health officials, and having planted doubts as to the veracity of scientific knowledge and government health statistics, community leaders are now unable to persuade these families to accept what we all know to be true.

Our leadership has effectively turned around the famous words of King David in Psalms and we can now say: Those who sow with joy will reap with tears.

Moshe Friedman is a Hasidic yeshiva graduate and a father of three.

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Opinion | My Fellow Hasidic Jews Are Making a Terrible ...

Brooklyns Hasidic Community Reacts to a City-Declared Health …

Posted By on April 22, 2019

Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was hectic last Sunday. With less than a week left before the start of Passover, everyone was tending to last minute shopping.

For some in the neighborhood, the printed signs urging vaccination against measles that are plastered all over Williamsburg and other Orthodox and Hasidic neighborhoods, coupled with school closings and the shunning of some Hasidim on public transportation, might evoke historical episodes of scapegoating in the bad old countries. Back then, Jews were routinely accused of spreading disease and forced to live behind ghetto walls. But the current spate of measles within the various Hasidic communities that call Williamsburg and other Brooklyn neighborhoods home is very much about 21st-century America.

According to the New York City Department of Health (DOH), between October 2018 and April 15, 2019, there were 329 confirmed measles cases in Brooklyn and Queens, mostly within the Orthodox communities. The first case was an unvaccinated child who picked up the virus in Israel.

The Rockland County website states that during the same period there were 186 cases in eastern Ramapo (New Square, Spring Valley, Monsey), all places with large numbers of Orthodox and Hasidic residents. There too, the first case started with an unvaccinated child who caught it in Israel, but infected those who hadnt been traveling.

The site also states that of the people countywide who had contracted measles, 81.2% had not had the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.

Measles is airborne and highly contagious. When you combine that with large families such as those common in Hasidic and some Orthodox communities, and crowded city life in places like Williamsburg, even a handful of unvaccinated people means a large number of cases.

Some Jewish community leaders are not wild about New York Citys new, shall we say, vaccination edict, but they, their organizations, and the overwhelming majority of local doctors are resolutely pro-vaccination.

Ezras Nashim, the womens ambulance corps that serves observant Jewish women in Borough Park and the surrounding area, issued the strongest of statements encouraging vaccination, citing, among other things, the Talmuds declaration that all of Israel are responsible for each other.

Rabbi David Niederman, director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn (UJO), a Satmar community-service group, was equally emphatic about the Halachic demand to vaccinate children. He stressed that those who opposed it are part of a fringe group, much like the anti-vaxxers in the United States as a whole.

Gershon Schlesinger, president and CEO of Brooklyns ParCare Community Health Network, echoed the medical necessity of vaccinations and stated that all the large religious schools are on board with the citys mandate. But he noted that some unvaccinated kids could be students at smaller yeshivas. Those schools might be more flexible in asking for vaccination certificates with other paperwork, he suggested, not because theyre anti-vaccine as a matter of policy, but because its not a priority for administrators dealing with student enrollments.

And Der Yid, a Satmar daily newspaper in Yiddish, broke with tradition last week whenit published an English version of an editorial proclaiming those who dont vaccinate Senseless! Heartless! Torah-less and Reckless.

But one can see some cracks in this mechitza.

Its hardly unusual for Jews, regardless of their level of observance, to differ on interpretation, as anyone whos spent time discussing Halacha, or Talmud, or simply attended a Shabbat dinner, surely knows.

While the Torah tells us to protect our health, there are some who believe that not vaccinating is doing exactly that. Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, told Tablet that he wouldnt judge anyone who decided not to vaccinate because they truly believed it was best for their family and their children.

Frieda Vizel, a former Hasid who still has strong family ties to the community, wondered whether some women might be using the issue as a way to be heard in an environment that otherwise devalues their opinions and opposes broad secular education for both sexes.

And then there is the very vocal, very loud anti-vaxxer movement at large. Though in the minority, they are media savvy and keen to exploit situations like the measles outbreak in Brooklyn, said one Lubavitcher Hasid who spoke to Tablet but declined to provide his name. One needs to look no further than the press event held earlier this month where anti-vaxxers explicitly compared their plight to that of Holocaust victims by donning yellow stars.

Although many in Hasidic circles were reluctant to talk about it in the midst of the unwelcome attention and inflammatory rhetoric, some prominent rabbis are well-known anti-vaxxers.

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, the rosh yeshiva of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, and his wife, Temi, write and lecture on the Jewish anti-vax circuit, according to a 2014 article in the Baltimore Jewish Times that quoted him. To further exacerbate the problem, in 2015 Rabbi Kamenetsky signed a letter authorizing rabbis of Lakewood, New JerseysBeth Medrash Govoha (BMG) to admit unvaccinated children. And even a cursory search of the web reveals that Rabbi Kamenetsky isnt the only Jewish religious authority who claims Halacha is on his side.

Of course, Rabbi Kamenetsky neednt rely on Jewish law to justify his views when it would be just as easy, perhaps easier, to find justifications in secular society. Just this week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his Childrens Health Defense group filed for a temporary restraining order against the New York City Department of Health on behalf of five parents of unvaccinated children, citing violation of petitioners rights under the United States Constitution and New York State law. This is not the first time that pseudoscience and health fads of the larger culture have found their way into insular Jewish communities, and it is unlikely to be the last, but what a strange shidduch it makes.


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Toni L. Kamins is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Daily News, Times of Israel, and many other publications. Shes the author of the Complete Jewish Guide to France and the Complete Jewish Guide to Great Britain and Ireland (St. Martins Press).

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Brooklyns Hasidic Community Reacts to a City-Declared Health ...

Zionism Violates the Principles at the Heart of Judaism

Posted By on April 22, 2019

Temple University Professor Emerita of English, American Studies and Womens Studies Carolyn L. Karcher is the author of many articles and books, most notably, Shadow Over the Promised Land: Slavery, Race, and Violence in Melvilles America; The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child; and A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourge and His Fight Against White Supremacy. Karcher also edited a scholarly reprint of Tourges Bricks Without Straw, a novel about Black Reconstruction in North Carolina.

In this interview, Karcher discusses her latest book, Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation, which is set for release on May 8. Karcher shares the idea behind the book: the history of Zionism, her approach in finding the various contributors who have extricated themselves from Zionism, and her thoughts on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, along with the political ramifications of competing interest groups, electoral politics and birthright Israel.

Daniel Falcone: Can you share with me the idea behind writing the book and where you think we are now with the timing of this book in terms of current affairs?

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Carolyn L. Karcher: My previous work has consisted of scholarly books on issues of race and gender justice and equality. Ever since the D.C. Metro chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace was founded in December of 2010, its become my main focus and activity. I wanted to bring my activist life together with my scholarly life, and one way of doing that was to produce a book on this question that is so dear to my heart.

I thought the best means of reaching people who are wavering or uncommitted is through personal stories that offer people somebody with whom they can identify who has changed their mind. It helps move people along a similar path to begin the process of at least opening their hearts and minds on this very fraught issue. I didnt feel that my own story, which is in the book, was enough to fill up the whole volume or was typical. So, I wanted to collect other peoples stories, which this book includes.

I started with just a few acquaintances whose stories I knew were really interesting. After that, I found other peoples stories through op-eds or editorials, or through listening to speeches at public events, and then tried to get their contact information. I wrote to them, describing my book project, and asked whether they were interested in contributing. Most people came through. A few didnt answer. And very few people said no, but mostly because they were overcommitted. At first, I had in mind maybe 12 stories and tried to limit it to a very short book. But people kept offering their stories, which were so wonderful and so different from each other and covered such a wide range of territory that it seemed silly not to accept them. I ended up with 40 contributors and 39 narratives, one of which was jointly authored.

Thats really quite a large number of people. Nearly all I would say, all but two of the contributors started out as Zionists and then went through this wrenching process of questioning and ultimately changing their mind. Of the other two, one was from a leftist family. She starts out by saying, I was never a Zionist, but I was never a Palestinian rights advocate either. For her, the process was really getting to know Palestinians and getting informed on the issue and realizing that this was a very important issue.

The other person also came from a left orientation. Again, for him, it was more a question of getting involved in advocacy, rather than changing his mind on Zionism per se. But the 38 other people, including me, were brought up as Zionists and found it quite difficult to change their minds and to extricate themselves from Zionism.

What is entailed in reclaiming Judaism from Zionism exactly? Could you tell me what it means to reclaim Judaism from Zionism as it pertains to this book, in particular?

As I see it, ethical precepts lie at the heart of Judaism: pursue justice, love the stranger, love your neighbor and repair the world. Obviously, all of these ethical precepts are violated by Zionist policy toward Palestinians. And so, what happens when Judaism is married to (or hijacked by) Zionism is that the protection of the Jewish people, the physical survival of the Jewish people, takes precedence over the religions ethical teachings.

This point takes us back to your original question about how my book relates to current affairs. As you know, Israel has recently passed a new Basic Law, with the force of a constitutional building block, saying that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and of the Jewish people alone and that Palestinians have no right to self-determination there. Thats really what Zionism is and does i.e., elevate Jews over non-Jews. Zionism grew up in the late 19th century as a quest for safety. It was first a response to the pogroms state-sanctioned anti-Jewish riots that were happening in Russia and Eastern Europe.

The main founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, was an assimilated Austrian Jew. Jews in Western Europe had been emancipated and given the rights of other citizens, so that they no longer lived in ghettos, unlike those in Russia and Eastern Europe. But anti-Semitism spread to Western Europe because of the influx of refugees from Eastern Europe, just as in our times Islamophobia has been spreading as a result of the influx of desperate Muslim refugees. It was the same kind of reaction, and in both cases on fertile soil, where there were already traditions of anti-Semitism and now of Islamophobia.

Herzl moved from Austria to Paris because France was then considered to be the most enlightened country in the world and the place in the world where Jews were freest. He arrived there just as France underwent a wave of anti-Semitic riots caused by the Dreyfus case (the wrongful conviction of a Jewish army officer for alleged treason). All through Frances cities, thousands and thousands of French people were in the streets yelling, Death to the Jews, down with the Jews. This so deeply shocked Herzl that he felt that the only solution would be for Jews to leave Europe and to found a country of their own. Thats how the idea of Zionism got traction. Through his pamphlet, The Jewish State (1896), Herzl translated Zionism from an idea into a platform and a method for accomplishing it.

From the beginning, Zionism was really another version of a settler colonial movement, as Herzls pamphlet clearly shows. Just like our pilgrim fathers came to the U.S. to escape persecution in Britain and to go to a place where they could practice their religion as they wished without ever giving a thought to having to displace, dispossess and kill Native Americans in the process, the same is true of Zionism.

Initially, Herzl thought of Argentina and Uganda as places where a Jewish state could be founded a fact that reveals the settler-colonial underpinnings of Zionism but he realized that in order to interest the Jewish masses in the project, it would have to be Palestine. Until the rise of Nazism, however, Zionism remained very much a minority movement, and also very much tied to both colonialist ideology and the imperial powers, in particular Britain, to provide access to Palestine and to help the project along.

Can you discuss the time when Zionism was considered a progressive ideal in that there was a unification in resisting not just anti-Semitism, but a partnership of Arabs and Jews in terms of working-class solidarity? Do you include any information regarding Zionist movements of that nature?

My book only touches on the belief among members of the 1960s-era Jewish New Left that Zionism was a revolutionary movement. However, one of my contributors, Professor Joel Beinin, has written extensively about the Marxist-Zionist left in a book titled Was the Red Flag Flying There? Marxist Politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Egypt and Israel, 1948-1965. He shows that both in Israel and in Egypt, nationalism ultimately won out over Marxism. In the case of Israel, Beinin discusses two small Marxist Zionist parties, the left-wing Poalei Tzion and Hashomer Hatzair, who advocated a partnership of Arabs and Jews and working-class solidarity, but notes that they soon had to give up these principled positions in order to form a unified front with other labor Zionist parties.

I would argue that their capitulation was an inevitable result of an inherently colonialist ideology. No matter how sincere your aspirations toward solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers, if you are seeking safety for Jews by moving to and eventually taking over a land inhabited by Arabs, you are engaged in a colonial project of dispossessing an Indigenous people that cant be reconciled with progressive ideals of trans-racial solidarity. Beinins personal narrative for my book describes how, after making Aliyah and joining a kibbutz, he quickly becomes disillusioned when he sees how racist attitudes and practices contradict socialist ideals.

It seems like its becoming more and more prevalent or easier to articulate progressive responses to Israeli policy. What are your thoughts on how the stories in the book answer to the idea that criticizing Israel and criticizing Zionism is anti-Semitic? This is always a troublesome possibility since it can be, at times, dangerously split and doubled by the far-right people. In other words, the goal is to carefully criticize Zionism, to criticize Israeli and U.S. policy and then, at the same time, support Judaism, support Muslims, and then to make sure our conversation with all of these moving parts avoids any language anticipated by Zionists or even intentionally misconstrued. How do you think the book addresses this? Is this pertinent?

One of the strong points of the book is that four of the contributors are rabbis. For them, articulating what Judaism means to them helps avoid the trap that you described. Correct: You dont want to open yourself up to right-wing anti-Semites and their appropriation of anti-Zionist arguments. The perspectives of rabbis help to avoid this. So do the perspectives of some of my other contributors who, unlike me, grew up in very religious families. Some of them remain observant Jews today, and for them, the issue is that Zionist practice and Zionist ideology contradict the most basic ethical tenets of Judaism. In the book, this is very powerful and very immediate, and they specifically talk about what reclaiming Judaism has meant for them, thus preventing appropriation of the argument.

At the same time, I dont want to marginalize the perspectives of those contributors who, like me, grew up in completely secular families. Our source of inspiration is progressive ideals drawn from the movements for social justice in which weve cut our teeth in my case, the anti-Vietnam War movement. I believe that we can best fight anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry by being true to those ideals.

According to polling, younger Jews are less likely to automatically connect Zionism with Judaism. Are younger people and activists or students included in the book?

I realized from the very beginning that young people were in the forefront of the movement for justice in Israel/Palestine. I wanted to have as many young contributors as I could, although I didnt want them to be the only contributors. It was actually quite difficult for me to find young contributors, because I had retired from teaching and didnt have any direct contact with young people, but ultimately, what helped most was the Open Hillel movement. I emailed one of the founders of Open Hillel, Rachel Sandalow-Ash, and she put me in contact with close to 20 young people.

Nine of the 12 most interested ended up staying with the project and some of them are actually the best writers in the book. That was really very exciting. Their stories added a new dimension to the book because they talked about the campus movements that they were involved in.

One of the ways that the right wing and the Anti-Defamation League have been able to smear the campus Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement as anti-Semitic is by totally ignoring the fact that many of the members of Students for Justice in Palestine are Jewish. Some of the young contributors in the book had been in Students for Justice in Palestine, while others had founded [Jewish Voice for Peace] chapters on their campuses. A surprising number of them had actually gone to Jewish day schools. In those schools, they had never heard a word about the Israeli occupation. They had only had a one-sided view of Israel presented to them. When they got to the university and were able to learn the facts in a broader context, they were just outraged by the way they had been lied to.

Many of them went on birthright trips. Some of them, even on their birthright trips, noticed things that didnt quite jibe with the story they were being given and decided that they wanted to go back and take a non-birthright trip and visit parts of the occupied territories, visit places they hadnt been to.

Is questioning the birthright trip as a concept alone a dangerous thing to say? To suggest that Jews are using Zionism to manipulate students in order to build concepts of state power and economic security. That could really hit a nerve there, and be called anti-Semitic in itself, could it not?

That is of course what the Jewish establishment groups have been saying and what theyre particularly worried about, because birthrights whole point is to create this special bond with Israel among young Jews. So, to attack birthright was actually to interfere with the desire to create this special bond with Israel.

Younger Jews who belong to If Not Now have been going on birthright trips and asking tough questions and very much annoying the leaders of the trips. The Israeli authorities, in two cases, actually have thrown them out of Israel, but these kids are incredibly savvy. They use media and they livestream some of the encounters. In those live-streamed videos, you really see the ways in which the Israelis are stonewalling the young Jews questions, and are just refusing to allow any real discussion because they are trying to control the narrative at every point.

Younger Jews who belong to Jewish Voice for Peace have started a different campaign called Return the Birthright. They say that Jews dont have a birthright to Israel that its Palestinians who have a birthright to the land because they are its Indigenous people. The Return the Birthright campaign calls on young Jews to stop taking free trips to Israel.

The fundamental problem is that Israel has been used to create a sense of Jewish identity and to help retain young Jews within the Jewish fold. The fetishization of Israel has substituted for a revitalization of Judaism. So I think that the questioning of birthright and the questioning of Israel should actually lead to (and this gets back to my books title, Reclaiming Judaism) a way of revitalizing Judaism and redefining Jewish identity that does not depend on identifying with a Jewish state, and that does not depend on claiming a right to a land that you were not born in and have no real connection to.

If you ask Palestinians or if you ask Gazans, theyll probably tell you the situation on the ground, regardless of who is the president of the United States, remains the same. They protest peacefully, organize successfully, but every time they do that, its a minimal gain, sometimes at a tremendous cost. Meanwhile, in the U.S., there are these positive historical shifts in the discourse, because of peace groups like CODEPINK, but also where we have a left, a center and a right. We have a Jewish Voice for Peace. We have J Street. Then we have the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that seems to be diminishing and the Christian fundamentalists gaining strength. Even with resistance and the peace movements, along with the educational efforts and the groups that youre mentioning in your book and your work, whats ultimately going to have to happen to produce a change on the ground? I am optimistic about the transformational shifts in the Democratic Party and the rising progressive politicians, but how can we get these shifts to connect to policy, ultimately?

Well, that is of course a difficult question. We have actually been in touch with Palestinian leaders of the nonviolent resistance movement, like Bassem Tamimi in Nabi Saleh, Iyad Burnat in Bilin and Issa Amro in Hebron. All of them have been paying a terrible price. Bassems wife and daughter Ahed were imprisoned, Iyads son was shot and disabled, and Issa is undergoing trials on trumped-up charges, both in Israeli military court and even by the Palestinian Authority. The situation in Palestine is an absolute nightmare, and its been getting worse and worse.

Theres no sign of anything getting better there. Its really frightening and heartbreaking. Theres nothing much that we can do on that front, except to express solidarity and to also publicize as much as possible whats going on, because of course, the U.S. press bears a great deal of culpability for not covering the reality on the ground there, and therefore leaving the American public totally ignorant. But the ultimate goal has got to be to get the U.S. government to stop military aid to Israel and to push for the Israelis to do what the South African government eventually had to do to negotiate with Palestinians and try to arrive at a satisfactory peace agreement. Its very clear to many of us that the two-state solution is totally dead.

So the approach that people are using now is what they call a rights-based approach, to call for human rights for Palestinians, and for them to enjoy the same human rights that people everywhere else enjoy, and to call for the creation of a state that would be in accordance with international law and in accordance with the principles of democracy everywhere. Everybody in the state should have absolutely the same rights and the same access to economic and political rights. That is the goal, and thats the only thing that is going to work in the long run, but how to get there, I dont think anybody knows. But then nobody really could have predicted that it would happen in South Africa so quickly either.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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Zionism Violates the Principles at the Heart of Judaism

YIVO | Munkatsh Hasidic Dynasty

Posted By on April 21, 2019

Ultraconservative Hungarian Hasidic sect. The spiritual progenitor of Munkatsh Hasidism was Tsevi Elimelekh of Dinov (d. 1841), an outspoken opponent of the Haskalah and prolific author who served briefly as rabbi in Munkcs (Hun., more properly Munccs; Cz., Mukaevo; Yid., Munkatsh; now Ukr. Mukacheve; the most commonly used transliteration by English-language scholars is the semi-Polonized spelling Munkacz) from 1824 to 1826 before returning to Galicia in the wake of conflicts with the towns other rabbis.

Tsevi Elimelekhs grandson, Shelomoh Shapira (18321893), a disciple of ayim Halberstamm of Sandz, held numerous rabbinical posts in Galicia before reestablishing his grandfathers Hasidic court in Munkcs in 1882. A rigid opponent of the Haskalah and Neolog (Hungarian Reform) movements, he is regarded as the formal founder of Munkatsh Hasidism.

Shelomohs son, Tsevi Hirsh Shapira (d. 1913), who served as head of the rabbinical court in Munkcs from 1882 to 1893, was a renowned Talmudic and kabbalistic scholar under whose leadership Munkatsh became one of the largest and most influential Hasidic courts in Hungary. Tsevi Hirsh wrote several seminal works, the most famous of which is an exhaustive commentary on the Yoreh deah section of the Shulan arukh titled Darkhe teshuvah (7 vols.; 18931904)one of the few halakhic works by a Hasidic rebbe that was universally accepted as an authoritative source for halakhic adjudication by both Hasidim and Misnagdim. He also wrote a lengthy commentary on the obscure kabbalistic tract Tikune Zohar, beer laai roi (3 vols.; 19031921), along with halakhic responsa published as Tsevi tiferet (1912).

Tsevi Hirsh was a leading advocate of Hungarian separatist Orthodoxy, strongly opposing innovations in liturgical practice, Hasidic dress, and traditional education. He strictly forbade his followers to send their children to state-sponsored Jewish schools that offered instruction in German and Hungarian. He also fought against any collaboration between his own community and the modern Orthodox Status Quo movement in Hungary.

Tsevi Hirshs son ayim Elazar Shapira (18721937) extended and deepened his fathers tradition of rabbinical scholarship combined with extreme religious, social, and political conservatism. He assumed the mantle of leadership of Munkatsh Hasidim on the eve of World War I, and the dramatic events of the early years of his rabbinate left an indelible mark on his thinking. ayim Elazar viewed the vicissitudes of his day as sure signs of imminent messianic redemption, and a Manichean, apocalyptic view of contemporary history increasingly came to dominate his thinking. A gifted polemicist, he railed against his ideological foes, demonizing them in hyperbolic, cosmic terms.

Shapira was an uncompromising opponent of even the minutest changes in traditional Jewish social, political, and religious life. A bitter opponent of Zionism, which he portrayed in demonic terms, he was in the forefront of the ultra-Orthodox Hungarian rabbis dispute with the Agudas Yisroel movement. In 1922, he convened a conference of several hundred regional, mostly Hasidic, rabbis in the Slovakian town of Czap, whose main purpose was to denounce Agudas Yisroel.

Shapira visited Palestine in 1930 and returned even more convinced of the evils of Zionism, which he believed had been taken over almost completely by Satanic forces. (A kind of meditative diary of this journey, Masaot Yerushalayim, was published in Munkcs in 1931.) He forbade his followers to participate in political affairs, particularly those connected with Jewish immigration to either Palestine or the Americas, insisting that they remain in Europe and await redemption. In his messianic work Sefer mashmia yeshuah (1920), written in the aftermath of World War I, Shapira characterized all modern Jewish political movements, from Zionism to Jewish territorialism and pacifism, as agents of Satan and predicted that the final apocalypse would occur in the fall of 1941.

Shapira earned a reputation as the most fanatical and contentious European rabbi of his era, not only on account of his tireless battle with modern Jewish political factions, but also because of his many feuds with leading Polish and Galician Hasidic figures. He attacked Avraham Mordekhai Alter, the Gerer rebbe, for his support of Agudas Yisroel and his tolerant attitude to the alleged heresies of the chief rabbi of Palestine, Avraham Yitsak Kook. When Yisakhar Dov Rokea, the Belzer rebbe, arrived in Munkcs in 1920 as part of a large wave of postwar refugees from Galicia to Czechoslovakia, Shapira hounded him until he left the town in 1922. Shapira later denounced Meir Shapira, the revered dean of the illustrious Yeshivat akhme Lublin, for what he considered forbidden pedagogical innovations when Shapira introduced his program for the daily study of a folio of the Talmud(daf yomi). Shapira feuded with many other Hasidic leaders on account of their willingness to take charitable donations from non-Orthodox Jews in exchange for blessings.

Shapira is often referred to by the name of his important series of responsa, Minat Elazar (8 vols.; 19021938). He wrote more than a dozen other works, among them his collected teachings, Divre Torah (9 vols.; 19221936) and amishah maamarot (1922); sermons (Divre kodesh; 19291930); discussions of liturgical customs (Darkhe ayim ve-shalom; 1940); homilies on the Jewish festivals (Shaar Yisakhar, 3 vols.; 19391940); and commentaries on the Shulan arukh: Nimuke ora ayim (1930) and Darkhe teshuvah al hilkhot mikvaot (1936). Many other collections of Shapiras teachings and descriptions of his personal customs were published posthumously, along with several hagiographies.

After Shapiras death in 1937, the leadership of Munkatsh Hasidism was inherited, for a brief period, by his son-in-law, Barukh Yehoshua Yeramiel Rabinowicz (b. 1912). After the Holocaust, Rabinowicz moved to Israel, whereupon he was condemned by traditional Munkatsher Hasidim as a Zionist. He eventually renounced all claims to the leadership of the dynasty, which he bequeathed to his son, Mosheh Yehudah Leib Rabinowicz (1940 ), who replaced him as Munkatsher rebbe in Boro Park.

Yitsak Alfasi, Rabi ayim Elazar Shapira mi-Munkatsh, in Shishim giborim, pp.132137 (Jerusalem, 1998/99); Allan Nadler, The War on Modernity of R. Hayyim Elazar Shapira of Munkacz, Modern Judaism 14.3 (1994): 233264; Aviezer Ravitzky, Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism, trans. Michael Swirsky and Jonathan Chipman (Chicago, 1996), pp.4051; Shmuel ha-Kohen Weingarten, Ha-Admor mi-Munkatsh, Rabi ayim Elazar Shapira: Baal teushah bikortit, Shanah be-shanah (1980): 440449.

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YIVO | Munkatsh Hasidic Dynasty

Iran’s Rouhani calls on Mideast states to ‘drive back Zionism’

Posted By on April 18, 2019

Tehran (AFP) - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called on Middle East states on Thursday to "drive back Zionism", in an Army Day tirade against the Islamic republic's archfoe Israel.

Speaking flanked by top generals before troops began their annual march-past, Rouhani also sought to reassure the region that the weaponry on display was for defensive purposes and not a threat.

"The regions nations have lived alongside each other for centuries and never had a problem... If there is a problem, it is caused by others," he said in the speech broadcast live on state television.

"Let us stand together, be together and rid the region of the aggressors presence."

Rouhani assured neighbouring countries that Iran's armed forces are "never against you or your national interests" but are "standing against the aggressors."

"The power of our armed forces is the power of the regions countries, the Islamic world." he said.

"If we have a problem in the region today, its roots are either with Zionism or America's arrogance."

Rouhani called on Muslim nations to band together and "restore the historical right of the nation of Palestine," saying that "Zionism ... has been committing crimes in the region for the past 70 years",

"The final victory will surely be with the righteous," he said.

The military parade was held next to the south Tehran mausoleum of the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

It showcased some of Iran's latest weaponry, including the domestically designed and manufactured Kowsar fighter jet, which was first unveiled last year.

Iran also displayed its short-range Zelzal missile and an upgraded model of the Russian S-200 air defence system.

US-manufactured Bell, Cobra and Chinook helicopters bought before the Islamic revolution of 1979 also took part in the air display.

- 'Cancerous tumour' -

Diatribes against Israel are standard fare of official speeches in Iran, although some, such as a call by Rouhani's firebrand predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be "wiped off the map", have triggered international condemnation.

Iran does not recognise Israel and opposition to the Jewish state has been a central tenet of official policy since the revolution.

Iran has supported Palestinian radical groups and has vociferously opposed the now moribund Middle East peace process under which the Palestinians were offered limited autonomy in the territories captured in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Rouhani has previously called Israel a "cancerous tumour", and called on Muslim governments to unite against it and its US ally.

Iranian officials have warned repeatedly that Israel will soon cease to exist, but have usually been careful to underline that that will come about not through a direct attack by Iran.

"In 25 years' time, with the grace of God, no such thing as the Zionist regime will exist in the region," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in 2015.

- Syria tensions -

The presence of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in Syria supporting President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the eight-year civil war has sharply increased tensions between the regional foes.

Israel has said publicly that it has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes targeting the forces of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that he will never allow Iran to establish a long-term military presence in Israel's northeastern neighbour.

Netanyahu has been an outspoken opponent of a landmark nuclear deal Iran signed with major powers in 2015 and was the leading supporter of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from it and reimpose crippling economic sanctions last year.

Washington's European allies have refused to follow suit and they, along with China and Russia, continue to support the deal.

But the Trump administration has sought to forge an anti-Iran axis within the Middle East bringing together Israel and the Gulf Arab states to make common cause against what they see as Iranian "meddling" in the region.

Last week, Washington placed Iran's Revolutionary Guards on its blacklist of "foreign terrorist organisations," the first time it had imposed the sanction on a military arm of a foreign government.

Rouhani warned Washington on Thursday that "an insult to the Guards... is an insult to the great nation of Iran."

"America's leaders are lost in their delusions," he said, adding that Washington was the real source of "terrorism" in the region.

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Iran's Rouhani calls on Mideast states to 'drive back Zionism'

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