Kaddish for Hamas: the Orthodox Response

Two weeks after the event, the UK’s non-Orthodox synagogue movements still fail to acknowledge just how crass and offensive Kaddish for Hamas was. Just look at the Reform Movement’s statement (signed by three leaders of the movement):

On Wednesday 16th May, young adults from across affiliations in the Jewish community demonstrated outside Parliament regarding the situation on the Israel Gaza border. We know that many of our members were disturbed by this. As leaders of Reform Judaism, we deliberately chose not to attend. No one attended this event in any capacity whatsoever as representing Reform Judaism nor RSY-Netzer. We are certainly not shy of saying what we think in public and had we wanted to have been there to amplify our messages, we would have been. When our youth movement, RSY-Netzer, discovered that most of those killed in Gaza were claimed as Hamas operatives, they acknowledged that had they known, they would not have shared this on Facebook.

We as a Movement value that our young people want to engage in the complex issues around Israel, and we are happy to enable respectful and candid conversations about this for people of any age.

What’s wrong with this?

1. They weren’t ‘across affiliations’. The vast majority – maybe all – were from the Reform and Liberal movements.

2. This wasn’t ‘engaging in complex issues around Israel’. It was mourning terrorists who have killed Jews and yearn to kill more.

3. There is no criticism of the event. The three leaders say ‘We know that many members were offended‘ ………… Weren’t they themselves offended then?

Liberal Judaism’s statement is no better:

To all members of Liberal Judaism,

Many of you will have seen the recent news stories and comments pertaining to a Kaddish event at Parliament Square. I want to make it absolutely clear, despite social media claims to the contrary, that this was not a Liberal Judaism supported event. There was no organisational sponsored involvement and no one considered themselves to be there representing Liberal Judaism or our affiliated youth movement, LJY-Netzer.

Liberal Judaism has always supported the right of individual members of Liberal Judaism to voice their own personal opinions, even when they differ from others. We have within our membership a spectrum of views, which are always particularly visible in regards Israel and Palestine. Our ability to hear different voices and respect the other continues to be one of our strengths.  While, I personally would not have participated in this event and know that many of our members are disturbed by the actions of this group, I equally refuse to be drawn into the violent abuse that has been levelled at those who did participate.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky
Director of Strategy and Partnerships

Again no  criticism – and an attempt at diversion (…’violent abuse…’).

In my blog dated 21 May, I called on communal leaders – ‘including the Rabbinate – yes, including the Chief Rabbi – to speak out to condemn the obscene event’.  I wrote “It should surely not be left to a few bloggers to show the red card.” There is an agreement – called the ‘Stanmore Accords’  – between Orthodox and non-Orthodox that neither should criticise the other in public. But this nightmare crossed every red line. Several participants (or would-be participants) were RSY Netzer youth leaders, meaning they are in charge of young people. Others have similar leadership positions. And therefore Orthodox Rabbis have begun to speak out – it’s too important to stay stumm:

Rabbi Andrew Shaw, CEO of Mizrachi UK, wrote this at the end of last week.

By now, many of you will have seen the despicable scenes of a group of young Jews saying Kaddish for Hamas terrorists in-front of the UK Parliament! I would post the link to the video but it contains some very explicit language from a very (quite rightly) livid person who comes across this revolting ceremony.

For me what was even more tragic is that the group present had amongst them leaders and educators of the young Jewish community from certain Zionist youth movements who are responsible for teaching our young people about Israel!’

He has a similar piece in Jewish News (30/5):

‘People have to realise that unless there are dramatic changes in some of our Zionist education, we have to question the funding from within the community for these organisations. We do not tolerate extremism such as Neturei Karta. Why should we tolerate it here?’

Rabbi Geoffrey Hyman of Ilford Synagogue wrote this on his Facebook page:

Sad indeed that a spiritual leader fails to understand why her group’s action of reciting a kaddish over the recent deaths of citizens of Gaza (mostly Hamas terrorists), during the violent border riots bring such condemnation.

Yes, there are the well known Rabbinic texts that calls on us to be compassionate e.g. that we only say the Half Hallel from the 2nd Day Pesach, as the Egyptian enemy perished in the Red Sea; and 100 shofar notes are blown on Rosh Hashanah because Sisera’s mother cried a hundred cries when he did not return home. (Sisera was the commander of the Canaanite army of King Jabin of Hazor, who is mentioned in Judges 4-5 and was a vehement enemy of our people.) Whilst the Pesach message of not saying the usual full Hallel indicates a degree of emotional restraint, does the Rosh Hashanah reference really indicate the necessity to hold a memorial service for Sisera? Nowhere did our rabbis call on us to make memorial services for our enemies, except to remember to condemn them – so we have: “remember what Amalek did to you”, (Deut 25:17). Remembering the sobs of our enemy’s mother stands in order to teach us to be a compassionate people – that war must not be allowed to dehumanise us, for that is the greatest danger to a civilised humane people . The prophetess Deborah praised Jael for killing Sisera – he was after all a great enemy of Israel! And Hamas and their supporters are extremely evil enemies of Israel. So let us remember the wisdom of King Solomon: “In the fall of your enemy do not rejoice”,(Proverbs 24:17). So let us not rejoice when are enemies are defeated but saddened when life is lost when we have to defend our country.’

Joseph Cohen (not a Rabbi but an Orthodox Jew) made this video.

Here is what Rabbi Dansky of Redbridge wrote.

Here’s a letter in Jewish News 30/5/18

jewish news 30 may

And Rabbi Schochet of Mill Hill Synagogue has a terrific piece in Jewish Weekly (31/5).

Rabbi Schochet _ Kaddish Hamas _ May 18.jpg

Terrific putdown of Leah Jordan, by Yosef Rabin of Tel Aviv.

I will add other Orthodox responses as they are published. If any members of non-Orthodox synagogue wants to send me their critical responses to Kaddish For Hamas, I’ll publish them too…………. provided they are printable ………