RABBI MEIR KAHANE'S LEGACY REMEMBERED AT THREE NEW YORK EVENTS
BY: FERN SIDMAN
"Today we gather to pay tribute to the life and legacy of the greatest Jewish leader of our time," said Gennadiy Fabyshenko, a Russian-Jewish activist who taken the lead role in organizing previous yahrzeit commemorations for Rabbi Kahane, ZTK"L. Over 500 people gathered at the Ocean Avenue Jewish Center in Brooklyn on Sunday, November 7th to commemorate the 20th yahrzeit of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League and head of the Kach party in Israel. Rabbi Kahane was assassinated on November 5, 1990 at the Marriott Hotel in New York by Egyptian terrorist, El Sayyid Nosair.
Among the speakers were Bob Unger of the Conservative Society for Action, Norman Krug, a Russian Jewish activist, Gennadiy Fabyshenko, Rabbi Herbert Bomzer of the Young Israel of Ocean Parkway, Robert Muchnik of the Manhigut Yehudit party and Meir Weinstein, director of the Jewish Defense League of Canada.
Rabbi Kahane was praised as an exceptionally prescient man; possessed of brilliance, integrity and courage for his role in championing such issues as the freedom of Soviet Jews, the physical defense of Jews throughout the world, and his program spotlighting the demographic threat that the Arab population in Israel represents.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on August 1, 1932 to Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga HaCohen Kahane and his wife Sonia, Rabbi Meir Kahane's love of Zion began as a youth when he joined both the Betar Zionist youth movement and the B'nei Akiva movement. He graduated from the Brooklyn Talmudical Academy High School in Brooklyn and earned his B.A. in political science from Brooklyn College, his J.D. degree from New York Law School and his L.L.M degree from New York University Law School. He received his rabbinical ordination from the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn and gained a reputation for being an erudite Torah scholar, being fully conversant in Talmud and Tanach. He also served as a pulpit rabbi and a teacher in the 1960s.
In 1968, he founded the Jewish Defense League as a response to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in America's inner cities. Under Rabbi Kahane's leadership, JDL members engaged in protests against anti-Semitic teachers in the public school system, provided escorts for elderly Jews and educated Jewish youth in the art of self-defense. With a membership numbering over 15,000, the JDL organized mass rallies in New York against the Soviet Union's policy of persecuting Zionist activists and curbing Jewish immigration to Israel and they played the lead role in the "Free Soviet Jewry" movement through campaigning for the release of Russian refuseniks and their emigration to Israel. JDL also protested against the oppression of Jewish population in Muslim countries, battled Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the United States and resisted Christian missionaries' activity to convert Jews.
In 1980, Rabbi Kahane formed the Kach political party in Israel and in 1984 was elected as a Member of the Knesset (MK). Rabbi Kahane refused to take the standard oath of office upon his election and insisted on adding a verse from Tehillim to indicate that when secular laws and Torah conflict, Torah law should have supremacy over the laws of the Knesset. Rabbi Kahane's legislative proposals focused on transferring the hostile Arab population out of Israel, revoking the Israeli citizenship for non-Jews and banning Jewish-Gentile marriages and sexual relations, based on the Code of Jewish Law compiled by the Rambam in the Mishneh Torah.
As Rabbi Kahane's message continued to strongly resonate with the Israeli population, the Central Elections Committee had banned him from being a candidate on the grounds that Kach was a racist party, but the Israeli high court determined that the Committee was not authorized to ban Rabbi Kahane's candidacy. The High Court suggested that the Knesset should pass a law that would authorize the exclusion of racist parties from future elections, and the Anti-Racist Law of 1988 was later passed. Despite the boycott, Rabbi Kahane's popularity grew. Polls showed that Kach would have likely received three to four seats in the coming November 1988 elections, with some earlier polls forecasting as many as twelve seats (10% of popular vote), possibly making Kach Israel's third largest party. In 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel's basic law, barring "racist" candidates from election. The committee banned Rabbi Kahane a second time, and he appealed to the Israeli High Court. This time the court found in favor of the committee, disqualifying Kach from running in the 1988 elections.
Rabbi Kahane is the author of such books as "Time to Go Home", "Our Challenge", "Never Again", "Why Be Jewish?", "The Story of the Jewish Defense League", "Listen World, Listen Jew", "They Must Go", "Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews", "Israel: Revolution or Referendum". His magnum opus is the two volume set on Torah concepts entitled, "Ohr HaRayon - The Jewish Idea".
"Rabbi Kahane's death does not mean that activists should only come together once a year to remember him", said Norman Krug, a Russian-Jewish activist. "When I was a 15 year-old boy in the former Soviet Union, I read in the Pravda newspaper that there was a group of "fascist hooligans" called the JDL who were fighting for our freedom and I could not have been prouder. When I arrived in the United States I pledged my heart to Rabbi Kahane and joined him in his crucial work. I urge everyone here today to remember Rabbi Kahane's legacy by becoming involved in Jewish causes", he said.
Rabbi Herbert Bomzer of the Young Israel of Ocean Parkway recalled his friendship with Rabbi Kahane that spanned over 50 years. "I first met Rabbi Kahane in 1955 and I so enjoyed the Shabbos meals that he spent with our family. He was a man that was truly "Osek B'Torah", immersed in Torah all the time. He has tremendous gusto and courage and possessed no fear of any person. When I was the principal of BTA, I invited him to address our students and he told them not to become an ignorant activist, but rather to become a scholar-warrior, someone who learns Torah and raises his fists for the Jewish people", he said.
"Rabbi Kahane's blood is crying out to us", declared Meir Weinstein, the director of the JDL in Canada. "Today the Arabs stand poised to annihilate us and we are obligated to keep Rabbi Kahane's message alive by preserving Israel as a Jewish state. If the Arabs won't acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, then they will have to go", he said, as he called for the re-location of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. What we need now, more than ever, are those who have a Jewish head attached to a Jewish fist, as Rabbi Kahane always said", he said.
Following the yahrzeit, Mr. Weinstein led a group of Kahane supporters at a special rally at Ground Zero, where he called Rabbi Kahane the first victim of Al Qeada terrorism on US soil. He decried the proposed building of a mosque at Ground Zero saying that, "the ideology that will be taught in this mosque is the same ideology that is responsible for the murder of Rabbi Kahane". Weinstein said that the mosque would represent Islamic dominance as does the mosque that stands on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and said, "it is yet another attempt to make all non-Muslims subservient to them". Rally participants held aloft signs saying, "From the River to the Sea, the Land of Israel Must be Free" and "Arabs Out Now, it Doesn't Matter How".
Josh Davis, a rally attendee said, "The Jewish people and the nation of Israel now face imminent dangers to their very survival. Had we paid heed to Rabbi Kahane's message of expelling the malignant Arab population back in the early 80s, we would not be at the verge of extinction. Many people still deny that there is a demographic threat even though there are many Arab members of Knesset. Just as Rabbi Kahane said: Through the principle of a western democracy, the Arabs will quietly, democratically vote us out of existence, and if this is not happening today, it's going to happen very soon."
The West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan was the site of a third yahrzeit commemoration of the life and legacy of Rabbi Kahane, as over 250 people joined to hear the words of such speakers as Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D) of Brooklyn, renowned criminal defense attorney, Barry Slotnick, long time radio talk show host, Barry Farber and Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans For a Safe Israel.
Shannon Taylor, Esq, a close associate of Rabbi Kahane, chaired the event along with Cecelia Margules and delivered the introductory remarks, saying that while Rabbi Kahane was alive, he was condemned by the Jewish establishment but now, "everyone In Israel knows that Kahane was right".
Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI), recounted her recent experiences on the semi-annual AFSI Chizuk mission to Israel which she said, "confirms the prophecies of Rav Kahane." She described the proliferation of illegal Arab building throughout the Galilee, the Negev, Jerusalem, Hebron, Judea and Samaria, while highlighting the fact that the Israeli government is threatening to destroy Jewish homes, yeshivas and synagogues in an effort to appease the enemy. She concluded with noting that Rabbi Kahane always included his “only relevant solution: the understanding by the Jew that his fate lies only in knowing that he is part of the Chosen People of G-d…If we walk in His statutes there will be peace and redemption. If not …there will be awesome tragedies and horrors.”
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a former member of the JDL, described his efforts to support the people of Gush Katif before the 2005 expulsion and reminded people that his mother, who was with him in the audience, was a Holocaust survivor. He recounted experiences he had with Rabbi Kahane when he was a youngster, and quoted him as saying, “Let us not fear the world. Those who stood by during the Holocaust and did the same when Israel faced destruction in 1948 and 1967 have nothing to tell us. Faith in the G-d of Israel and a powerful Jewish army are the only guarantors of Jewish survival. Far better a Jewish State that survives and is hated by the world , than an Auschwitz that brings us its love and sympathy.”
Cecilia Margules spoke about her special ties to Rabbi Kahane and then introduced vocalist Michael Elias and musician Rami Yadid, who played a song composed by Cecilia entitled, "A Special Man" as well as "Od Yosef Chai" with music by Ms. Margules and Rami Yadid and lyrics by Evelyn Haies. She then delivered special greetings from Rebbetzin Libby Kahane, the widow of Rabbi Kahane.