Recently in the Forward, I read about this “synagogue,” Tzedek Chicago, which has the tragic distinction of being the first anti-zionist synagogue in America. They claim they are all about justice, as their name “Tzedek” supposedly implies, and as their website values state:
…the creation of an ethnic Jewish nation-state in historic Palestine resulted in an injustice against the Palestinian people, an injustice that continues to this day.
However, the facts do not match the rhetoric. Anti-Zionism, whatever its source, is ultimately about hatred of Jews.
False claims to justice exist throughout history.
- Already 3,400 years ago, when the Jews were in Egypt (after Joseph saved the Egyptians from starvation), Pharaoh enslaved and afflicted the Jewish people and killed the firstborn males in a literally upsetting case of justice, accusing their former saviors: “lest (the Israelites) multiply…and make war upon us.
- Even in modern times, the notorious Adolf Hitler (name erased) who murdered 6,000,000 Jewish men, women and children claimed he stood for justice: “As a Christian, I I have no duty to let myself be deceived. , but I have a duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.
- Similarly, in America, Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation were depravedly viewed as just and slave owners routinely meted out what they saw as justice to their slaves through brutal beatings, rape and lynchings.
Highlighting their ignorance of basic Judaism, there’s also a funny and sad Instagram reel from @margoexplainsitall mocking their portrayal of a photo of the Ten Commandments, only this set only had eight. Sadly, it corresponds to their rejection not only of their fellow Jews and of Israel, but of the very Torah which states (Deuteronomy 30:5):
The Lord your G‑d will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it, and he will do you good…”
Moreover, the famous Jewish scholar and kabbalist, the Ramban, writes in his commentary on Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot (quoted here):
We are commanded to inherit the land which the Almighty gave to our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. and not to leave it in the hands of other nations or desolation, as it says, “Inherit the land to dwell in, for unto you I give the land to occupy…” (Numbers 33: 53)
Unfortunately, I don’t see Tzedek Chicago living anything resembling Jewish values.
- They don’t seem to care one iota about what the Torah says about Israel.
- They do not seem sympathetic to the plight of Jews massacred by Arabs in Israel, including tens of thousands of Israelis who have been killed in wars and campaigns of terror by surrounding Arab nations.
- I see nothing in their values to shed a tear for the millions of genocidally oppressed and murdered Jews throughout history from all over the world.
Where is the justice in all of this?
- The Arab League consists of 22 Muslim nations with an area of over 5,000,000 square kilometers of land.
- The Jewish people have and want only one homeland, Israel, which comprises only 8,550 square miles.
When Tzedek Chicago calls Israel “historic Palestine,” I can only wonder how they so easily overlook the many trips to Palestine in the 1800s that found the land desolate and almost devoid of people. Remember the famous American writer, Mark Twain, who said in 1869:
Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Above her broods the spell of a curse that has withered her field and chained her energies…in whose bitter waters no living thing exists…on whose borders nothing grows but weeds…
Moreover, unlike the Palestinian Authority, Israel is a land of freedom, democracy and diversity. More than half of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel where Arabs serve in the Israeli army, are members of the Knesset and even sit on the Supreme Court.
Although this misguided congregation may think they are showing compassion, that is not justice. Indeed, they embody the saying:
He who is compassionate towards the cruel will eventually become cruel towards the compassionate.
Like King Saul who took pity on the Amalekites, the historical enemy of the Jews, and saved their king contrary to Gd’s command, Tzedek Chicago weeps for the Palestinians! Yet it is the Palestinians who have repeatedly rejected every overture to peace, from the UN partition plan to the Camp David accords and beyond. They demand the total annihilation of the Jewish people “from the river to the sea”.
Seventy-seven years after the Holocaust, it is sad and unfortunate that a Jew can find justice there.
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently on Jewish life, culture and security. All opinions are his own.