Category Archives: Chabad and the Holocaust

Who Owns The Holocaust?

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Twelve years ago, the British Union of Jewish Students launched a project called 50 Days For 50 Years, an effort to commemorate the Holocaust by having Jews learn something each day for 50 days in memory of a Jew murdered in the Holocaust. A book of 50 essays written by leading (Orthodox) rabbis and scholars was published and the program was launched. In 2005, TRIBE, a section of the British United Synagogue (Modern Orthodox, Jonathan Sacks is their chief rabbi) relaunched the program under a new name, 60 Days For 60 Years. It then changed the name to 60 Days For 6 Million and "syndicated" the program to communities around the world.

Fine. To a point. Now groups like Aish and Ohr Somayach have gotten on the bandwagon (please see the pictures above for an example), and use this program as a way to draw non-Orthodox Jews to Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodox Jews to haredism.

But the problem with this program is deeper than subterfuge from Orthodox outreach organizations. First of all, many of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were secular or non-Orthodox, and they were secular or non-Orthodox by choice. They were Jews who left the backwaters of shtetl Orthodoxy for the bright lights of the Enlightenment. Is the proper way to remember those Jews learning Orthodox theology and theodicy?

Some of you will argue it is, claiming that Orthodoxy has a monopoly on theological truth. I beg to differ. Leaving aside the overwhelming failure of Orthodox rabbinic leaders leading up to the Holocaust (please see our discussion here), I would still argue that an Orthodox monopoly on this endeavor is wrong. Why? To me, it is too much like the Mormon baptisms of long-dead non-Mormons.

The proper way to do this, I think, is to take a Jewish text we all accept and study it or sections of it. For example, take the Pentateuch. Use the text to show how traditional commentary (like Rashi and Ibn Ezra) work, show how halakha is derived, codified and implemented. Show how the Documentary Hypothesis works, how modern Biblical Criticism works, and how Orthodoxy (for the most part) rejects it.

Another possibility is to deal with the exact issues the 60 Days program does, but bring varied, pluralistic responses to each one.

Of course, when an Orthodox organization sponsors an event like this, one expects the viewpoints to be Orthodox. That is why I don’t have much of a problem when the OU sponsors 60 Days, or the British United Synagogue does. But when Orthodox outreach organizations get involved, especially when those organizations have a history of deception and when their involvement is partially masked by community organizations like the Jewish Community Relations Council (please see above pictures) or the non-Orthodox day school, I think a line has been crossed.

Should the Holocaust be used as a marketing tool to bring Jews to Orthodoxy? If you think it should, shouldn’t information like Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman’s letter (which I first read in the Aish HaTorah beis midrash) and the behavior of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe be presented right along with it?

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Haredim And The Holocaust

How do haredim relate to the Holocaust? Ha’aretz reports:

…Professor Menachem Friedman, however, one of the leading experts on ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel, attributes it to Haredi society’s reluctance to confront the most difficult questions arising from the period. Questions like "Where was God in the Holocaust?," and those raising doubts about the rabbis’ performance during those dark years. These questions were seen by ultra-Orthodox society as threatening to their way of life, and pushed it into a defensive stance.

"Even now, the Haredim cannot ask, at least not openly, how the Gerrer, Satmar and Belzer rebbes and others fled and saved themselves, leaving their followers behind. The question is not only why the rabbis refrained from warning their followers, but also why they prevented them from migrating to Israel for fear of ‘spoiling’ them," says Friedman.

Friedman says these questions, which Agudat Yisrael newspapers dealt with passionately immediately after the Holocaust, gradually became taboo over the years.…

The bulk of the article is about one woman, Esther Farbstein, who has changed this to a small degree:

…Farbstein, who presented the research at both Haifa University and Yad Vashem, believes these are historic documents that shed light on various issues and add insights into Jewish life before and after the Holocaust. …

The most interesting dilemmas are those pertaining to survival itself. Rabbi Weinberger of the town of Turka, in Galicia, contends with the question of whether or not to leave. Despite family pressure to leave, he decides to remain with his community. The prefaces also reveal that the option of pretending to be a gentile presented a halakhic dilemma, as adopting a non-Jewish identity can be tantamount to idol worship.

The question of whether to go to the Land of Israel also worried the ultra-Orthodox rabbis, many of whom strongly objected to Israel for ideological reasons.

For it’s part, Chabad was not different. The Rebbe Rayyatz followed in his father the Rashab’s virulent anti-Zionism. (Did you know that a significant part of Neturei Karta’s ideology is based on three hasidic Rebbes’ anti-Zionism, the Satmar Rebbe, the Munkatcher Rebbe and the Rebbe Rashab of Lubavitch?) The Rayyatz told his followers there would be no war and Warsaw was safe for them. He did this in the summer of 1939, a couple of months before the Nazi destruction of Poland.

The Rayyatz was saved by American intervention. As he was being wisked out of bombed out Warsaw, what did he ask his American saviors for? To save more Jews? No. He asked for his book collection (largely secular books like Sherlock Holmes in Yiddish) and his household silver. The Rayyatz wrote several letters to President Roosevelt during the war. He never once asks Roosevelt to save Jews.

Only one man spoke with prescience regarding Europe’s Jews – Vladimir Jobotinsky. And it was followers of Jobotinsky who created and organized the so-called Rabbis March on Washington, which brought the ceation of the War Refugee Board, which saved more than 200,000 Jews. These followers of Jobotinsky were for the most part not Orthodox.

In other words, for the most part, listening to haredi rabbis meant dying on the ash heaps of Auschwitz. Never forget that.

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Chabad’s Anti-Zionism: The Rebbe Rashab’s Letter

Chabad was viciously anti-Zionist until after the founding of the State of Israel. When Jews could have fled Europe and gone to Israel or America, Lubavitch rebbes opposed leaving Europe. The 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, a vicious anti-Zionist in his own right, told followers there would be no war and that it was safe to stay in Europe. He did this from Warsaw in the summer of 1939, less than four months before WW2 began with the bombing and invasion of Poland. He was rescued by the American government. What did he ask for as he was brought to safety from amidst the destruction and horror? To save more Jews? No. The man asked for the rescue of his silver collection and his rare book collection – Sherlock Holmes in Yiddish translation along side of "sefarim". Not a peep from the holy man’s mouth about saving Jews.

Click on the continuation link to read his father’s – the Rashab, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe’ – infamous letter on anti-Zionism, written about 1900 and widely circulated:

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Chabad And The Holocaust

Reading for Yom HaShoah. (As always, please scroll down to the bottom of the linked page and read the posts from the bottom up.)

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Rescue Of Lubavitcher Rebbe From Nazis Made Into DC Comic Book

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Famous comic book artist and creator Joe Kubert has drawn a six-part series for DC comics. Sergent Rock: The Prophesy, ‘based’ on Brian Mark Rigg’s book Rescued From the Reich, "tells the story" of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn’s rescue from the Nazis early in WW2. The New York Jewish Week reports:

A U.S. Army reconnaissance unit parachutes into Vilna in 1943.

Surrounded by the Nazi and Russian armies, under heavy shelling, the American soldiers rendezvous with a Lithuanian partisan, a bearded hulk of a man named Bear. Stepping out of the rubble, Bear declares “We got package for you, very valuable, very … breakable.”

Then the soldiers overpower a pair of German tanks. Bear and the resistance fighters find refuge from the barrage in the shell of a building. Bear departs, and returns with his “very valuable package,” someone covered with a cloak.…

Kubert’s story is based on a true tale, the rescue of Rabbi Joseph Schneersohn, leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement, from Warsaw in 1940. It was the subject of Bryan Mark Rigg’s 2004 book “Rescued from the Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

A friend gave Kubert the book last year. “I felt it was a real interesting story,” he said.

Rigg’s book does tell an interesting story, but it is not the story Joe Kubert tells. Kubert has changed the facts and distorted the story to make his comic book more exciting. This would be fine if no mention was made about the historical event that inspired him. To to promote the comic book on that event while distorting that event in the comic book is reprehensible.

Perhaps DC Comics can clarify the issue and explain their marketing. I’ll keep you posted.

For the actual details of the rescue along with other posts about Chabad and the Holocaust, please click the Chabad and the Holocaust link at the bottom of this post, scroll down to the bottom of the page and read upward. Thank you.

UPDATE: In this article written last month, Kubert describes the rabbi as a "snotty kid." I’m still waiting a reply from DC Comics, but it appears the comic book does not mention the Lubavitcher Rebbe by name, and does not mention Rigg’s book either, so the only link between Chabad and the comic book is the Jewish Week article linked above. This would explain why Chabad’s spinmeisters have not yet attacked Kubert. I suspect this will turn out to be a case where Kubert simply wanted to acknowledge Rigg’s book for the basic idea of a rabbi being rescued from the clutches of the Nazis, but no more than that. Perhaps he even made this clear in his Jewish Week interview, but the JW blew the coverage. Or, perhaps he was not clear enough. More on this if and when DC Comics and others involved respond.

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Chabad Rears Its Anti-Zionist Head: Sharon “False Messiah,” Do NOT Pray For State, “We do not believe in the rule of the heretics, and disregard their laws.”

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"We do not believe in the rule of the heretics, and disregard their laws."

The Jerusalem Post and Ynet are reporting Rabbi Sholom Dovber Wolpe, the most popular Chabad rabbi in Israel, has published a new book arguing against Religious Zionism. The book, based on the Rebbe’s teachings, is creating quite a stir in Israel. Rabbi Wolpe, deemed a "rebel" by "official" Chabad for his open endorsement of the late Rebbe’s "messianship," is also planning a museum based on the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate what he calls "Sharon’s destruction of the
Jewish communities in Gaza and the evil people who took part in that
crime against humanity". Rabbi Wolpe’s "theology" is mirrored by another wildly popular Israeli Chabad rabbi, Yitzhak Ginsburgh, who has been arrested several times for incitement.

The Jerusalem Post report starts here. (Ynet follows at the bottom of the post.)

In Between Light and Dark, Wolpe states, in an I-told-you-so way, that the disengagement proved Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last Chabad-Lubavitch rebbe, was right about rejecting Zionism as a way of hastening the messianic era.…

Wolpe was instrumental in organizing anti-disengagement demonstrations before the Gaza pullout. Two weeks ago Wolpe organized a rally under the slogan ‘we won’t forgive, we won’t forget‘ that drew thousands to the Jerusalem Convention Center [Binyanei Haumah].

"If this is redemption how could something so horrible happen?" asked Wolpe rhetorically. "The disengagement is God’s way of saying that only the messiah, not the state will bring redemption."…

Rabbi Yehoshua Magnus, a spokesman for Rabbi Avraham Shapira, one of religious Zionism’s most senior and respected spiritual leaders, said that Shapira and his many followers have not budged in their belief that the state of Israel has inherent holiness.…

Magnus said that although Shapira appeared on the same stage during a post-disengagement rally with Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzberg, another Chabad rabbi who rejects the religious Zionist idea that the state is a vehicle for redemption, he opposed Chabad’s anti-Zionist theology. "For Rabbi Shapira the state is a religious entity."

Arel Cohen, secretary for Rabbi Zalman Melamed, rabbi of Beit El and a staunch opponent of disengagement, said that Wolpe’s and Ginzberg’s ideas are rejected by even the most extreme religious Zionist settlers.

"Rabbi Melamed always makes a clear differentiation between the state, which is a vessel that God, in His incredible loving kindness, gave us to bring the redemption, and the government, which is full of evil people. We don’t thing we should be throwing the baby out with the bathwater," he said.

Melamed agreed to appear with Ginzberg and Wolpe at demonstrations under the banner ‘we won’t forgive [perpetrators of the disengagement], we won’t forget’ because, explained Cohen "Rabbi Melamed thinks they have a healthy way of thinking.

"They don’t have the sickness some people have of hugging soldiers who come to kick you out of your house," said Cohen referring to more moderate religious Zionist rabbis such as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who have been attacked by Melamed for not encouraging religious soldiers to refuse IDF orders to evacuate Gaza.…

Yigal Amitai, a Yitzhar spokesman, said … while Chabadniks believe that only the rebbe can bring redemption, religious Zionists believe that a Jewish state, perhaps not this one, will eventually help usher in the messianic era.

Rabbi Yehuda Rubin, a Chabad emissary in Elon Moreh, a settlement, like Yizhar, that is located near Shechem, said that he read and agreed with Wolpe’s book.

"But I won’t put it in my synagogue library. It would only make people angry."

Rubin said that Chabad Hassidim oppose much of religious Zionism’s theology.

"The rebbe prohibited his emissaries and Hassidim from saying the part in the prayer for the state of Israel that talks about Israel being the ‘beginning of the burgeoning redemption’. He said this was a dangerous belief because it fools people into thinking that we don’t need a messiah. He likened it to believing that darkness is light."

Still, for tactical reasons Rubin said he refrained from discussing the rebbe’s views on these issues with residents of Elon Moreh unless he was specifically asked.

Wolpe said he has not decided yet whether he would translate his book into English.

"The rebbe told me twenty years ago that the time was not ripe to translate what he says against Zionism and the state of Israel into foreign languages. He did not want goyim to know that he talked badly against other Jews. "It gives strength to evil forces."

In the meantime, while he decides whether to translate his new book, Wolpe is keeping busy. He is raising money for a museum modeled after the Yad VeShem Holocaust Memorial that would commemorate what he calls "Sharon’s destruction of the Jewish communities in Gaza and the evil people who took part in that crime against humanity".

Rabbi Wolpe’s continued misuse of the Holocaust is troubling, as is the acceptance on the hard right (Chabad included) of the Disengagement=Holocaust, Sharon=Hitler theology he popularizes. It has been condemned in the strongest terms by Yad VaShem. Yet Rabbi Wolpe persists.

He also endorses violence against the State and the army (see the Ynet article below) and labels Prime Minister Sharon – whom he equates with Haman, the arch-enemy of the Jewish people – a "false messiah"

Rabbi Wolpe asks: "If this is redemption how could something so horrible happen?" asked
Wolpe rhetorically. "The disengagement is God’s way of saying that only
the messiah, not the state will bring redemption."

So, why not say this, Rabbi Wolpe? "If this is redemption how could something so horrible happen? The Rebbe’s death is God’s way of saying that the Rebbe was not the messiah, and we know only the messiah can bring the redemption. It is time for us to move on."

But, of course logic (and truth) have nothing to do with Rabbi Wolpe’s – or Chabad’s – theology. Period, end of story.

Ynet’s coverage begins here:

Rabbi: Disengage from State

In new book, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe says Israel should be replaced with ‘true Kingdom of David,’ calls on followers to refrain from praying for Jewish state’s wellbeing. ‘We are now in exile,’ he says
By Efrat Weiss

Rabbi_sholom_dovber_wolpe_2A prominent Jewish messianist has called for religious Jews to disengage from the State of Israel due to the evacuation of Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip last summer.

In a new book entitled "Between Light and Darkness," Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, a leader of the Chabad Chassidic sect that believes its chief rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the messiah, says religious Jews should view the secular government as an "administrative body, like the British government who controlled Israel before the country’s establishment.

Wolpe also says, "The religious Zionist public should prove that the State is unholy, and cannot serve as a means for achieving salvation. It must not pray for the country’s wellbeing. We are now in exile and are waiting for the kingdom of the house of David."

Wolpe’s call represents a sharp change from traditional Chabad-Lubavich thinking and match similar calls by some segments of the national-religious
community to disengage from the State in reaction to the Gaza disengagement. While Chabad, like most ultra-orthodox groups, has always been reticent about secular Zionism, group members serve in the army and have rejected insular approach of other orthodox groups in favor of engaging the secular world in order to encourage Jews to observe the mitzvoth, or commandments.

Sharon a ‘false Messiah’

The cover of "Between Light and Darkness" carries a picture of the lit Temple’s Menorah, and underneath it a darkened picture of the Knesset’s building.

In the book itself, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is referred to as a "false Messiah" and as Haman, the historic nemesis of the Jewish people.

The bulk of the book is dedicated to the disengagement plan and to the uncertainties it spurred within the religious Zionist public.

"So many prayers were said from the bottom of the heart in the last year, in a bid to prevent the eviction and destruction," Wolpe writes. "The heart must wonder, why did God do this to this land? How is it possible that such a wicked man like the prime minister was able to jump over so many political hurdles, until he achieved his goal, the crime of the withdrawal" he asks, and answers:

"It is we that gave him the power. We determined that him, his state and his government are the beginning of our salvation. We blessed him before an open bible every Saturday. With such powers, it is no wonder that the false messiah storms forward without stopping, while taking his devotees and the rest of the Israeli people down to the abyss with him."

‘Replace Israel with true Kingdom of David’

According to Wolpe, the pullout was a sign from God that there is no relation between the existence of the democratic state and salvation, and that the religious public should therefore cease to believe in the holiness of the State and its institutions.

Referring to the religious Zionist teens who forcefully attempted to prevent the disengagement, Wolpe writes that "the Orange youth prays only for one thing: That the current rule, which is called ‘the State of Israel’ is abolished and replaced with the true Kingdom of David."

In the post-pullout period, Wolpe’s ideas are not a rare sight among the rightist public. In a conference held in Jerusalem a few days ago, the participants wholeheartedly supported the principles expressed in the book, and thousands danced to the words of the song, "we do not believe in the rule of the heretics, and disregard their laws."

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Chabad’s ‘Chief Rabbi’ Gets Medal From Russia In Apparent Quid Pro Quo

Chabad’s ‘chief rabbi’ of Russia, Berel Lazar has been given a medal by Russia in an apparent quid pro quo for Chabad’s notorious medal awarded in Auschwitz to Vladimir Putin :

MOSCOW, RuLazar_russia_medal_1ssia – Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar was awarded with the ‘Peter the Great’ First Class Order. The diploma attached to the Order explains that the Chief Rabbi was honored with this award "considering his activities in advancing inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations, and his great contribution to the spiritual rebirth of Russia’s Jewish community and to strengthening Russian state".

The Order was established by the Academy of Security, Defense, Law and Order. It is the highest civic reward in the Russian Federation, which is granted on the basis of unselfish deeds, valor, courage and heroism that is displayed while fulfilling a military, official or civic duty. …

What could that "valor, courage and heroism that is displayed while fulfilling a military, official or civic duty" be? This?

Also of note: According to The Weekly Standard, this is the first year since Andrei Sakharov’s death in 1989 that a memorial concert has not been held in Moscow. Sakharov, perhaps the leading dissident in the Soviet Union, is one of the Russians most responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union. His KGB file has just been published in English. Putin, a former senior KGB leader who regards the fall of the Soviet union as a tragedy of epic proportions,  is still a great admirer of Josef Stalin.

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