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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Thirty-Six


By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update March 05, 2015)

A Jewish Awakening During a Time of Political and Religious Slumber

As with Christianity during this period, Orthodox (traditional) Judaism seemed cold and uninspired to many young American Jews. The Fourth Great Awakening inspired an awakening within the hearts and minds of many of these Jews. The initial flow of young Jews making aliyah (returning home to Israel) had now slowed, but the idea of working on an Israeli Collectivist Kibbutz was inspiring a new batch of young Jews to return to our ancient homeland. Jews everywhere were raising funds to plant trees in Israel. Stirred on my the renewed ancient Jewish music of people like Shlomo Carlebach (January 1,1925 - October 21, 1994) Judaism was beginning to flourish again. Jewish mystics like Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (October 23, 1934 - January 28, 1983) was drawing Jews and non-Jews alike into the long concealed truths of the Kabbalah. Other Jews focussing on tikkun olam through social justice. Many of the leaders of Civil Rights Movement for racial and gender equality were Jews. A new age was dawning the Jewish youth were committed to being part of it.

Rabbi Meir Kahane (Z"L)

Rabbi Meir Kahane (August 1, 1932 - November 5, 190) was keenly aware that although Jews were awakening, our enemies were still actively attacking our people. Among these modern day Haman's, for the Rabbi, the Soviet government was among the worst. He used his rabbinic authority to speak out about the plight of Russian Jews as no one else of his generation. It was fine to march for the rights of Blacks and others, but who was standing for the Jews? Rabbi Meir Kahane stepped up and created a group known as the JDL, the Jewish Defense League.

Rabbi Kahane's words ring truer with each passing day. Today many Jews are speaking out about so many causes, but getting them to publicly confront the rising tide of public anti-Semitism is almost impossible! When there are pro-Israel rallies most of the participants will be Christian Zionists! It was true in the 1960 and 70's and it is even truer today, with some exceptions B"H. May the rabbi's wisdom and his martyrdom inspire us all to action and to ever greater Torah observance.

On the evening of November 5, 1990, the great Israeli Rabbi and politician Meir Kahane held a speech in the second-floor lecture hall of the Marriott hotel in Manhattan, located at 525 Lexington Avenue, to an audience of mostly Orthodox Jews. After his speech a crowd gathered around the Rebbe asking him questions as is normal. Shortly after 9:00 PM an armed Muslim assassin disguised as an Orthodox Jew approached Rabbi Kahane and shot him with a .357 caliber pistol. The Rabbi was hit in the neck and died of his wounds shortly thereafter.

After the assassination, the assassin fled from the hotel and reached Lexington Avenue where, in front of a local post office, he attempted to take over a taxi at gunpoint. Carlos Acosta, an on duty police officer, saw this and drew his pistol, ordering the assassin to 'freeze'. Instead, the Muslim assassin turned toward the officer and shot him in the chest. The officer shot the suspect, hitting him in the chin. Afterwards the suspect was arrested. The Rabbi's killer was an Egyptian-born American Muslim citizen, named El Sayyid Nosair, then living in Jersey City.

The Rabbi was very prolific. His open letter "Dear World" perhaps best expressed his heart and the heart of our people:

DEAR WORLD, by Rabbi Meir Kahane (Z"L) -- (November, 1988)

Dear World,

It appears that you are hard to please. I understand that you are upset over us, here in Israel. Indeed, it appears that you are quite upset, even angry and outraged! Indeed, every few years you seem to become upset over us. Today, it is the brutal repression of the Palestinians; yesterday, it was Lebanon; before that it was the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Baghdad and the Yom Kippur War campaign.

It appears that Jews who triumph and who, therefore, live, upset you most extraordinarily. Of course, dear world, long before there was an Israel, we, the Jewish people - upset you.

We upset a German people who elected a Hitler and we upset an Austrian people who cheered his entry into Vienna and we upset a whole slew of Slavic nations - Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians, Hungarians, Romanians. And we go back a long, long way in the history of world upset.

We upset the Cossacks of Chmielnicki who massacred tens of thousands of us in 1648-49; we upset the Crusaders who, on their way to liberate the Holy Land, were so upset at Jews that they slaughtered untold numbers of us. We upset, for centuries, a Roman Catholic Church that did its best to define our relationship through Inquisitions. And we upset the arch-enemy of the Church, Martin Luther, who, in his call to burn the synagogues and the Jews within them, showed an admirable Christian ecumenical spirit.

It is because we became so upset over upsetting you, dear world, that we decided to leave you - in a manner of speaking - and establish a Jewish State. The reasoning was that living in close contact with you, as resident-strangers in the various countries that comprise you, we upset you, irritate you, disturb you.

What better notion, then, than to leave you and thus love you - and have you love us? And so we decided to come home - to the same homeland from which we were driven out 1,900 years earlier by a Roman world that, apparently, we also upset.

Alas, dear world, it appears that you are hard to please. Having left you and your Pogroms and Inquisitions and Crusades and Holocausts, having taken our leave of the general world to live alone in our own little state - we continue to upset you.

You are upset that we repress the poor Palestinians. You are deeply angered over the fact that we do not give up the lands of 1967, which are clearly the obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Moscow is upset and Washington is upset.

The Arabs are upset and the gentle Egyptian moderates are upset. Well, dear world, consider the reaction of a normal Jew from Israel. In 1920, 1921 and 1929, there were no territories of 1967 to impede peace between Jews and Arabs.

Indeed, there was no Jewish State to upset anybody. Nevertheless, the same oppressed and repressed Palestinians slaughtered hundreds of Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Safed and Hebron. Indeed, 67 Jews were slaughtered one day in Hebron - in 1929.

Dear World, why did the Arabs - the Palestinians - massacre 67 Jews in one day in 1929? Could it have been their anger over Israeli aggression in 1967? And why were 510 Jewish men, women and children slaughtered in Arab riots in 1936-39? Was it because of Arab upset over 1967? And when you, World, proposed a U.N. Partition Plan in 1947 that would have created a Palestinian State alongside a tiny Israel and the Arabs cried and went to war and killed 6,000 Jews - was that upset stomach caused by the aggression of 1967? And, by the way, dear world, why did we not hear your cry of upset then?

The poor Palestinians who today kill Jews with explosives and firebombs and stones are part of the same people who - when they had all the territories they now demand be given them for their state - attempted to drive the Jewish State into the sea. The same twisted faces, the same hate, the same cry of "idbah-al-yahud" - "Slaughter the Jews!" that we hear and see today, were seen and heard then. The same people, the same dream - destroy Israel. What they failed to do yesterday, they dream of today - but we should not "repress" them.

Dear World, you stood by the Holocaust and you stood by in 1948 as seven states launched a war that the Arab League proudly compared to the Mongol massacres.

You stood by in 1967 as Nasser, wildly cheered by wild mobs in every Arab capital in the world, vowed to drive the Jews into the sea. And you would stand by tomorrow if Israel were facing extinction. And since we know that the Arabs-Palestinians daily dream of that extinction, we will do everything possible to remain alive in our own land. If that bothers you, dear world, well - think of how many times in the past you bothered us.

In any event, dear world, if you are bothered by us, here is one Jew in Israel who could not care less.

The history of the JDL, founded by Rabbi Kahane in 1968, consists of partial truths, politically motivated lies, and a not a small about of Anti-Semtism. There is no question that their zeal for the defense of Jews and Jewish nationalism at times led some members too far. Bad things were done in the group's name. Like other political groups of the period, the JDL does not have completely clean hands. After the assacination of Rabbi Kahane some members decided that fighting back was their only option. Depite that, the JDL was, and its covert members largely remain, an organizaton of good Jews dedicated to combatting Jew Hatred. With the rise of Islamic State, the likelihood of a nuclear Iran soon, the cancer of BDS and other Jew-hating groups, many are praying for the return of the JDL under new and capible management.
The Five Fundamental Principles of the JDL
  • LOVE OF JEWRY: One Jewish people, indivisible and united, from which flows the love for and the feeling of pain of all Jews.
  • DIGNITY AND PRIDE: Pride in and knowledge of Jewish tradition, faith, culture, land, history, strength, pain and peoplehood.
  • IRON: The need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means including strength, force and violence [when neccessary].
  • DISCIPLINE AND UNITY: The knowledge that he (or she) can and will do whatever must be done, and the unity and strength of willpower to bring this into reality.
  • FAITH IN THE INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE: Faith in the greatness and indestructibility of the Jewish people, our religion and our Land of Israel.

The JDL was classified as "a right-wing terrorist group" by the FBI in 2001. It is considered a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the JDL consists only of "thugs and hooligans." JDL's sister movements, Kach and Kahane Chai are both outlawed in Israel as terrorist organizations; they are also banned in the United States and the European Union. The French JDL group the Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ) is legal there.

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