Thank you to the Teaneck Police and the security crew for ensuring everyone’s safety at the recent pro-Israel rally. Kudos to everyone who showed up. Well, almost everyone. With COVID hopefully in check, the hundreds of people who expressed communal support for Israel represented another step toward resuming normalcy. Predictably, “normalcy” as it pertains to support of Israel (or lack thereof) also attracted 150 or so pro-Hamas supporters—including Jews.
My 12-year-old son asked me why there were otherwise “frum-looking” people with pro-Hamas signs at the pro-Israel rally. Having been briefed ahead of time, he fully expected to see some Palestinian flags but was taken aback by the otherwise observant-looking Jews holding antisemitic signs. I explained that Neturei Karta wrongly demonized those they see as irreligious and elevated false frumkeit to the degree that they befriend the true enemy who wants to eradicate not only the “goyishe tziyoinim”—but all Jews.
Sensing that that answer needed more context in order for him to fathom it, I added some history to shed some light. “Jews were chased out of Israel by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Neturei Karta people believe that any attempt by Jews to go back to Israel without Hashem making wondrous miracles like He did when Jews left Egypt is wrong. They think that until that happens, Jews have to be subservient to the nations of the world, including Iran and its proxies like Hamas. Neturei Karta believes that supporting modern-day Israel is like supporting the people who tried unsuccessfully to storm into Israel after the incident with the original spies (the ma-apilim in last week’s parsha). Neturei Karta takes it a step further and says that modern-day Israel should not exist. Just like the Iranians and Hamas say.” The conversation ended with his shocked, raised eyebrow.
I remember being just as shocked at my first interaction with Neturei Karta. I was walking back to our car after the Israel Day parade in New York in the mid-1980s with my grandparents. My grandfather, z’l, a Holocaust survivor, got into a shouting match with them in Yiddish and then told them in English that Israel is every Jew’s backbone, including theirs—whether they acknowledged it or not. Their freedom to protest comfortably in religious garb, my grandfather reasoned, was owed, in part, to Israel’s existence.
Notably, this week’s parsha is Exhibit A for misguided frumkeit run amok. Korach cloaked his arguments in false piety, too. Pirkei Avot teaches us that our arguments should resemble Hillel and Shamai’s, and not Korach and his followers. One can disagree without being disagreeable.
Regrettably, Neturei Karta turn the concept of machlokes l’shem shamayim on its head and, like Hamas, cynically use their children to highlight their twisted ideology. At the pro-Israel rally, for instance, visibly Jewish children held hateful signs while standing arm-in-arm with non-Jewish Pro-Hamas supporters. You don’t favor Israel’s policies or like the government? OK, don’t ever visit. But cavorting with those who openly and literally advocate for another genocide of Jews? Inexcusable for any Jew to be so blind—let alone one who wears religious garb and davens three times a day toward Jerusalem.
I never intended to write a letter to the editor 2 weeks in a row. Really. However, after discussing the rally with my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, I felt compelled. Not knowing that I had discussed the Neturei Karta with my son earlier in the day, my avid-Jewish-Link-reading-grandmother actually asked me to write another letter to the editor. “What should I write about, Nana?”
“The Neturei Karta who came to the parade.”
“What should I say?”
“That if we had Israel in the 1930s and 1940s, we would not have lost 6 million.”
“If I were there, I would tell them like Papa told them in Yiddish – they have no shame, they are a Chillul Hashem and they are putting other Jews in danger!” Well said, Nana.Jonathan Schloss