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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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The Jews of the United States

Rabbi Meir Kahane on U.S.-Israel relations: "The State of Israel must send leaders to speak directly to the masses of American Jews. Not timid spokespersons, who equivocate and apologize and fear to call the Arab spade a spade."
Rabbi Kahane

Years have passed since Rabbi Kahane penned this essay, but it still rings sadly true today. Rabbi Kahane was known for saying uncomfortable things that comfortable Jews didn’t want to hear. In honor of his yahrtzeit, here’s another one of his brilliant and illuminating writings, which was published almost 25 years ago in The Jewish Press and was recently reprinted in the fabulous, opus, seven-volume collection of Rabbi Kahane’s short writings, “Beyond Words.”

The Jews of the  United States

March 25, 1988

Jewish leaders in Israel and the world have long warned that the Jewish State risks standing bereft of “allies.” That should Israel take “extreme” and provocative action, i.e., be prepared to do the difficult and painful things that it must do in order to survive, it faces the hazard of standing alone against a hostile world. What is just as clear to perceptive Jews is that, should the State of Israel do what is necessary to survive, i.e., take steps that go against the basic grain of liberal, Western democratic views, it risks splitting a large part of the United States Jewish community. And, indeed, the signs of dissent and hostility are there for all to see. They raised their ominous heads during the war in Lebanon, and, emboldened, are louder and more vociferous, today.

Once, in the wake of both the Holocaust and the establishment of the Jewish State, it was simply impossible for any Jew who sought to be recognized as a member of the community, to condemn Israel. The terrible Holocaust and the terror it meant for Jews who lived through that period gave Israel— as the haven for Jews from such future terrors — an immunity from attacks by Jews. But as with all things that are based on emotion, rather than logic and ideology, as times changed and as a generation changed and moved on to make way for another, so did the attitude toward and the status of the Jewish State.

There was always a built-in contradiction within the Jewish Establishment leadership and certainly within the intellectual community. While they supported Israel, they were essentially products of non-Jewish, Western culture and values. They were first and foremost liberals, before they were Jews. Not for them was “my people and Israel, right or wrong.” They wanted “right,” and the standards by which they judged morality were liberal ones. Indeed, they had persuaded themselves that they were also “Jewish,” since peace of mind and conscience — as well as awesome ignorance — demanded the equating of Judaism and Jefferson, the “Hebrew prophets” (sic) and liberalism.

In the first 20 years of the Jewish State, there were few abrasive moments and few opportunities for the ridiculous equation to be tested. But following the Six-Day War, and as the euphoria wore off, as the Yom Kippur War badly tarnished the image of the Israeli Superman, and, most importantly, as the distance from Auschwitz grew longer and a generation grew up that knew not the horrors — things changed. Liberal Jews, with their psychological inability to be winners (losing is so much easier and losers so much more lovable), began to squirm over the “occupied territories,” the use of force by Jews against “civilians, women and children,” albeit to save Jewish lives. Talk began to be heard in certain Jewish circles about Israeli “intransigence” and unwillingness to compromise. The poor “Palestinian” refugees were, more and more, the subject of Jewish concern (though not, apparently, how they had become refugees). The terms “moderate Palestinians” (and even “moderate terrorists”) began to find their place in the lexicon of liberal Jews and certain Jewish Establishment groups.

And then, of course, came Lebanon and Sabra and Shatila, and all the submerged and sublimated liberal hostility to Israel emerged. And that is, of course, the proper term. “Hostility.” And it was hostility on the part of many Jews, especially Reform and Conservative rabbis, who always sensed the impossible contradiction between Zionism and a Jewish State, and the liberal, Westernized values they truly believed in. And so, pulpiteers ordered their congregants to rise at Yom Kippur services and beat their breasts for Israeli sins against helpless “Palestinians.” And more and more Op-Ed pieces by Jews and Jewish leaders began to appear, dissenting from Israel and criticizing her. Until, today, a real and major split is before us. And the question is: What to do about it?

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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37 Responses to “The Jews of the United States”

  1. HoneyBee Deborah says:

    Recently I was rebuked publicly because I am not orthodox or should I say "Jewish enough." I would like to remind all of us that our blessed Torah states one of the highest mitvots is ahavat Israel, love your neighbor. Yesterday my rabbi (chabad) discussed the importance in how we treat our fellow man. We are all of G-d, we all carry His spark, and it is up to us to see the spark and respect it. I was once rebuked for not being "enough of a Jew" because I discussed Kaballah in front of other more religious Jews, and I am not orthodox. The person who did the rebuking committed a sin- she humiliated me publicly. She did not apologize for it. I ask myself when I am in Jerusalem, and I see the 20 different black hats, which of them has a complete lock on truth. In other words which hat has the right shape. A Fedora or a bowler? I am a proud Jew, as good as you, and certainly no less. I wear no shaitel, I do not wear long skirts, and I drive on Shabbos. I do light candles, I do attend Shabbat services, I do study Torah, but mostly I follow a golden rule- I honor my neighbor, I see the spark in him. All I ask is that he see that within me. Shalom

    Of the hundreds of mitzvots that we can perform, every Jew misses some. Of all the shortcomings, harshly judgng our neighbors and spreading hatred and dissention between Jews is the most damaging to Israel, and our people. The Second Temple fell because of causeless hatred, and alas I see no evidence that the lesson as been learned today. Debby
    Recently I was rebuked publicly because I am not orthodox or should I say "Jewish enough." I would like to remind all of us that our blessed Torah states one of the highest mitvots is ahavat Israel, love your neighbor. Yesterday my rabbi (chabad) discussed the importance in how we treat our fellow man. We are all of G-d, we all carry His spark, and it is up to us to see the spark and respect it. I was once rebuked for not being "enough of a Jew" because I discussed Kaballah in front of other more religious Jews, and I am not orthodox. The person who did the rebuking committed a sin- she humiliated me publicly. She did not apologize for it. I ask myself when I am in Jerusalem, and I see the 20 different black hats, which of them has a complete lock on truth. In other words which hat has the right shape. A Fedora or a bowler? I am a proud Jew, as good as you, and certainly no less. I wear no shaitel, I do not wear long skirts, and I drive on Shabbos. I do light candles, I do attend Shabbat services, I do study Torah, but mostly I follow a golden rule- I honor my neighbor, I see the spark in him. All I ask is that he see that within me. Shalom

    Of the hundreds of mitzvots that we can perform, every Jew misses some. Of all the shortcomings, harshly judgng our neighbors and spreading hatred and dissention between Jews is the most damaging to Israel, and our people. The Second Temple fell because of causeless hatred, and alas I see no evidence that the lesson as been learned today. Debby

  2. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Wonderful, just wonderful. You are absolutely right. But would it be so terrible to keep Shabbat and wear long skirts? Vats so scarey in that?

  3. I got your number sweety. You're right on. I'm big, fat and ugly but that an't gona stop me from bein myself and lovin livin in Israel. You all will find that hatrid in californa more than in Israel. Israel ez the melting pot of the world of Jews so ther's lots of diferant Jews here that you'd feel rite at home and even feel better not drivin on Shabat.

  4. HoneyBee Deborah says:

    Of course not- I don't mind it, as long as there is no guilt trips or judgementalism, or negative pressure. When you put it like that, no problem :)

  5. HoneyBee Deborah says:

    Tzvi when put so sweetly, not a problem at all for me.

  6. HoneyBee Deborah says:

    Beulah Banias, I love your attitude. Yes I grew up here in sunny CALifornia, and had many street fights as a young girl- ignorance passed on from their parents. No Jews here in the OC when i came. But I learned how to fight them off, and have been a strong activist and advocate for Israel ever since. I took the negative and used it to empower myself. Thank G-d iIwas born a Jew, and this was the best place to learn to appreciate it <3

  7. Liad Bar-el says:

    Great blog!

    “But as with all things that are based on emotion, rather than logic and ideology, as times changed and as a generation changed and moved on to make way for another, so did the attitude toward and the status of the Jewish State.”…and toward the adherence to the Torah as well; thus, we find the American Jewish children are not raised to learn and to adhere to any Torah ethics. They then have premarital sex with goyim who were also raised not to have any ethics; thus, they get emotionally involved, calling it “love” which only lasts until the first child comes and then the family begins to split. Jewish wife/mother: “How shall be bring this child up, Jewish or non-Jewish.” Goy husband/father: “Do what you want. I have to go to work. I’ll be home late tonight because my secretary and I have a project to do.” The next morning as the husband sleeps in late and as the wife picks up his dirty clothes, she smells perfume and sees strands of long blond hair on his clothes. After the husband gets up, takes a shower and goes to his closet of clothes to get dressed, he sees old male underwear which are not his.

  8. Tim Upham says:

    The tragedy of American Jews is that most of them have an identify crisis. Because of assimilation and a high degree of intermarriage, most do not know what a Jewish identity is all about. So many will espouse radical right wing support of Israel, which will include physical extermination of the Palestinians or they forced removal. Like what Meir Kahane embraced. I find out a lot of these people are not affiliated with a synagogue, know what a Siddur is, nothing about the Talmud, Halachic law is all about, or know no Hebrew. It is I find my Jewish identity, by saying we have enemies, and we must destroy those enemies. Which goes to show there is a great lack of Jewish education. But what is Jewish education within the United States? Voluntary commitment. But once you make that commitment, then you have an identity, and you do not have to rely on victimizing other people to find it.

  9. Yaacov Barak says:

    I'm in….free at last, free at last….I have reached the hallowed grounds of Rabeinu Fishman's blog….HaRav Kahana Z"L, was a man far ahead of his time….his words will one day be shown to have been the absolute truth.

  10. Michael Rose says:

    Bill Maher is a Jew and he still likes Obama. The media which the Jews own control politics and how this country is run. It is bombarded with Jew media, Jew movies, Jew politics, Jew this Jew that. Why can't your country bail itself out of its own ing problems. You Jews have been in war with Iran for decades. Make some ing peace and save our country some ing debt. Fix your own problems and ing wipe your asses on Iran.

  11. David Levi says:

    You know of course that Bibi must go. he has proven himself as an incompetent and imprudent leader. Israel's present and future well being depends on someone at its helm that can get along with the most important head of state on the globe, namely the President of the U.S. Bibi is unable to maintain good relations with his coalition partners, his opposition and the most prominent Jurors in Israel, let alone important foreign dignitaries. Bibi strikes a very positive pose as the prime minister, a good physique, well modulated speaking voice, wears an impressive tie and suit but as an administrator and a diplomatic leader he remains an abject failure, a superficial impressive image- all image, but no substance Ask any Likud, or MK member and you will find a uniform negative opinion on the real Netanyahu. Sad but very true

  12. HoneyBee Deborah says:

    I disagree entirely- he is not incompetent in any way whatsover. Walk a mile in his shoes and then come back and tell me that David. He is the most balanced leader they have, and he is a genius at keep a coalition together.

  13. HoneyBee Deborah says:

    David Levi I disagree entirely- he is not incompetent in any way whatsover. Walk a mile in his shoes and then come back and tell me that David. He is the most balanced leader they have, and he is a genius at keep a coalition together.

    Reply · Like · 2 seconds ago

    Liad Bar-el · Top Commenter · Jerusalem, Israel
    Great blog!

    “But as with all things that are based on emotion, rather than logic and ideology, as times changed and as a generation cha

  14. HoneyBee Deborah says:

    David Levi who would you appoint to replace him, and why. And I have asked several Likud leaders, friends of mine, and they agree with me.

Comments are closed.

Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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