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Neturei Karta


At demonstrations against Israel in New York, marching with our enemies (as they do at Israel parades) was a small pathetic clique of Chassidim in their distinctive uniforms called Neturei Karta, literally The Protectors of the City in Aramaic. If ever there was irony in a title, this is it! Not protecting is more likely. They can also be seen visiting the Iranian Mullahs, supporting those who wish to see Israel cleared of Jews, and Hamas whose charter makes no distinction as to which Jews should be murdered, ethnically cleansed, or simply murdered. They seem to believe that if they play nice with  Israel haters, they will not be included on the kill list.

Neturei Karta is simply not representative of Chassidim, though the ideology of anti-Zionism does have a foothold in the Charedi world. The movement founded in 1936 opposed secular Zionists because they believed the Jews had to wait for a Divine state ushered in by the Messiah. They opposed those rabbis like the saintly Chief Rabbi  Avraham Isaac Kook who wanted a religious state and believed that any Jew could help bring about it about, and it would become a spiritual beacon to the world. Neturei Karta, small as it is,  is an embarrassment to everyone except themselves. And for all their hatred directed at the State of Israel, I have not heard of any one of them actually decamping to Ramallah, Amman, or Teheran.

They are often associated with the Satmar Chasidim because they share their anti-Zionist ideology adhered to by the founder of Satmar Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum (1887-1979). He was spirited out of Hungary ( thanks to Zionist agents) and in 1945 arrived in Israel. He did not stay long. In 1946 he moved to Williamsburg in New York where from some hundred or so followers his Chassidim now number hundreds of thousands spread out across New York and New Jersey. Not to mention those who live in Israel, Belgium, and England. In this at least Satmar has become a wild success.

His ideological opposition to Zionism was expressed in his book “Vayoel Moshe” in which he argued that a Zionist state was against the will of God and would make life harder for the Jews in the long run by fomenting and maintaining conflict. He also argued that if Jews gathered into one single state they might more easily be exterminated altogether.

He based this on a Talmudic that when the exile began, God made the Jewish people swear not to return armed to the land of Israel. Almost every rabbinic scholar does not take this literally and anyway, the vow was conditioned on God not allowing the non-Jews to oppress the Jews in exile. A binding condition needs both parties to deliver. He refused to recognize the State or benefit from its institutions. However, Satmar did not encourage the sort of public displays of opposition that the Neturei Karta delights in. 

They have actually been a thorn in the side of Satmar. So much so that for the first time, the main SatmarRebbe ( there are two, R. Zalman the younger in Williamsburg, and R. Aharon in Monsey)  came out publicly last month dissociating himself from Neturei Karta.

The rebbe’s speech was shared on social media, “It’s a terrible desecration of God’s name to support murderers in the name of the holy Torah and God’s name.” He lambasted the group for lacking traditional values and boundaries and acting without Torah guidance. His elder brother in Monsey has made no such statement.

In contrast, Ger, Belz, and Vishnitz the largest Israeli Chassidic dynasties and Chabad have all been involved positively in the State from the very beginning despite their ideological opposition to secular Zionism. The pioneering Rosh Yeshiva, R. Yosef Shlomo Kahneman,  who rebuilt the Lithuanian Yeshiva, Ponevezh, in Bnei Brak, recognized Independence Day. He recognized the importance of the return of the Land of Israel to Jewish hands. He even raised the Israeli flag over his Yeshiva. My great Mir Rosh Yeshiva, R. Chaim Shmulevitz also understood the importance of the State to the Yeshiva world and publicly praised the IDF for protecting his Yeshiva during Israel’s wars.

Anyone interested in the subject of Charedi ambiguity and the ambivalence of many of them to the State should read Rabbi Nathan Slifkin’s excellent blog Rationalist Judaism where he wages a courageous campaign against Charedi excess and hypocrisy.  But I am glad to say that there are signs of a change in the Charedi attitude and the present war has brought the best out of many of them supporting the soldiers and refugees. More and more have volunteered to join the army including a grandson of the Satmar Rebbe. But sadly, the leadership of the Charedi world has not yet realized how out of sync it is.

I can understand the antipathy of many people in the Charedi community to secular Zionism as I can understand the antipathy of secular Israelis to Charedi insularity. But public demonstrations supporting the Ayatollahs and Hamas is a betrayal. If anyone will have to give testimony to the Heavenly Court on their betrayal of the Jewish People, it will be Neturei Karta for desecrating God’s name. They are regarded by most Jews as an embarrassment. We have always had our internal troublemakers and those who betrayed us. Most of whom had enough shame to remain outside the tent and not to piss in it.

Jeremy Rosen

Last Day of Chanukah

December 2023