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Zionist Newspaper Distorts Views of Toldos Avraham Yitzchok

Nov. 16, 2009

For the past several weeks, American Jewry has been privileged to host Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Kahn, the Toldos Avraham Yitzchok Rebbe, who has come from Jerusalem to visit followers and raise funds for his religious schools. The Rebbe leads one of the largest anti-Zionist communities in the Holy Land, who do not participate in the Israeli elections, do not accept government funding for their schools, and in general refuse to recognize the existence of the Zionist state.

The Rebbe’s grandfather, Rabbi Aharon Roth, the Shomer Emunim Rebbe (1894-1946), was the founder of the community. It is said that Rabbi Aharon Roth was once taking a walk in the field and his disciples wanted to bring him a chair to sit on and rest. But Rabbi Roth refused, preferring to sit down on a rock. “I don’t want to sit on something that the wicked Zionists made,” he said. “I would like to sit on a place that these wicked people did not yet touch and defile.”

The Rebbe’s father and predecessor was Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Kahn, known as the Toldos Aharon Rebbe. He passed away in 1996. Two years before the end of his life, he wrote in his book Igros Divrei Emunah (p. 225) that Zionism has become a worse sin in the eyes of G-d now that religious Jews have become the strongest Zionists. This places the entire Jewish people in danger. “As long as Zionism was a largely secular movement,” he said, “the defending angels in G-d’s court could at least say that the keepers of the Torah, the most important segment of the Jewish people, has nothing to do with this state that violates G-d’s decree of exile. But now that many religious Jews have begun to speak of Eretz Yisroel as if it is ours and it is forbidden to return it, thus aligning themselves with the Zionist ideal, the angels no longer have any defense, may Hashem have mercy.”

The current Rebbe continues faithfully in their tradition. But last week, when he visited the Modern Orthodox community of Lawrence, New York, this tradition brought him into conflict with the local community members, most of whom are strong Zionists. As the Rebbe held a tish and spoke with individuals, some in Lawrence asked why they should give money to support an anti-Zionist community. The controversy was deepened by the perception that Toldos Avraham Yitzchok members were central players in the recent demonstrations in the streets of Jerusalem against a parking lot opened by the mayor on Shabbos.

Seeking to make peace between the Rebbe and the Lawrence community, Larry Gordon, editor of the Five Towns Jewish Times, went to interview the Rebbe and his wife and then made the interview the subject of a lead article in his newspaper. Quite understandably, Gordon set out to portray the Rebbe as a Zionist, whose only complaint is that the State of Israel is not religious enough. However, the way in which he went about it, using falsified quotations and his own specious arguments, does not reflect well on the reliability of his journalism.

We should mention that the Five Towns Jewish Times is a weekly paper that reads less like a source of news and more like a Zionist propaganda organ. For example, this past week, under the headline “Toldos Avraham Yitzchok: Perception vs. Reality” (i.e. it is not anti-Zionist as it appears) were two other headlines: “We Are All Israelis” and “This Land is Our Land”. The paper is distributed all over Flatbush and given out for free, in restaurants and street-corner boxes. It is clearly an ideologically motivated publication.

In the article Gordon wrote: “Their Old World traditions handed down through the generations, however, are also shrouded in controversy, as fringe elements organize sometimes violent demonstrations on the streets of Jerusalem on matters they feel come into conflict with the sanctity of Shabbos, particularly in their carefully cut-out conclaves and neighborhoods. Who the actual players are in these unnecessary and embarrassing demonstrations is largely unclear.

”These activities, though, combined with the community’s official position of non-recognition of the legitimacy of the secular State of Israel, brought them at loggerheads with others this week as they seek material support from communities who are identified by their strong support for the State of Israel.

”I sat down with the Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe and his Rebbetzin between appointments to see people last Sunday—some of whom had flown in from other parts of North America—to try to clarify and understand where the Rebbe and his chassidim stand on the all-important issue of support for the State of Israel.

“’What it comes down to, very briefly, is that the government violates Shabbos and sanctions this desecration,’ the Rebbe said clearly and calmly in Yiddish. ‘If there would not be this violation of Shabbos, we would have absolutely no problem with the State of Israel.’”

Click here to read the whole article.

The publication of these words in the Rebbe’s name caused an uproar in anti-Zionist communities throughout the New York area and elsewhere. Dozens of people wrote to the Five Towns Jewish Times website and other sites where the story was republished, declaring unequivocally that the Rebbe must have been misquoted. Our own organization, Jews Against Zionism, received incredulous phone calls and emails asking us to get to the bottom of this.

We contacted the Rebbe’s wife, who told us as follows: 1) It was not the Rebbe who spoke to Gordon, only she. The Rebbe was present at the meeting but did not say anything. 2) The Rebbe and the Rebbetzin were not aware that this was an interview, much less with a Zionist newspaper. Had they known this, they would not have agreed to speak to Gordon, lest he misrepresent their views. They were under the impression that Gordon was just another one of hundreds who come to speak with the Rebbe. 3) She did not make the statement quoted in the article. She did speak against those demonstrators who throw stones, saying that the Rebbe was strongly opposed to that. On that point Gordon quoted her correctly. 4) The Rebbe has decided not to fight the newspaper for misquoting him, or to issue a denial, because these Zionists are impossible to deal with, and even a denial will not help.

Mr. Gordon continues to postulate about the Rebbe’s “Zionism”:

“Based on what the Rebbe and his wife had to say, and taking them at their word, it seems that they are simply principled people who, as observant Jews, find the desecration of Shabbos in the land of the Jews intolerable…

”To many of us, the image of Israel and her survival is the greatest and most challenging undertaking of our time. I don’t believe that the Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe feels any differently about this issue. It may very well be that those chassidim of various sects—perhaps only on the periphery—who question the entire concept of Zionism, its proliferation, and support do so because of the fashion in which Shabbos has been trampled on all too often over the years…”

Actually, the greatest challenge of our time is the challenge that the Zionist state presents to Judaism. By substituting a man-made state for G-d’s promise of redemption, the state has undermined the foundations of our faith, and has made a mockery of the hopes of Jews for 2000 years. Thank G-d that there are still Jews who remember those hopes and have not thrown them away to jump on the Zionist bandwagon. The most challenging undertaking of our time will be to bring back the rest of the Jewish people to their original faith and to undo all the damage the Zionists have done.

To suggest that the main issue is observance of Shabbos is to trivialize the true main issue. We hope that from now on nobody will take Larry Gordon’s articles, or anything in his newspaper, seriously.


The above story was posted on vosizneias together with the following response by Larry Gordon:

1. At least one other person was in the room when I conducted the interview with the Rebbe and Rebbitzen. The comments that were made in response to a series of questions can be independently verified.

2. Both the Rebbe and Rebbitzen were made aware, in my presence, that our conversation was, in fact, for a newspaper interview. A copy of the paper was shown to both of them.

3. All statements or comments attributed to either the Rebbe or the Rebbitzen were carefully transcribed and are accurately quoted. Considering the

circumstances they are in, I can understand the rationale in not fully revealing to this group some of the things that were said. It's probably important to note that after several remarks the Rebbe or the Rebbitzen asked that a specific remark not appear in the article. That request was honored.

The 5 Towns Jewish Times stands by its story and does not have to explain anything to people who write from the shadows.

Subsequently, talk show host Zev Brenner invited both Larry Gordon of the Five Towns Jewish Times, and Yirmiyahu Cohen, a spokesman for Jews Against Zionism, on his program on November 22 (in the second hour) to debate the subject.