Monday, April 10, 2006

Shemtov Defies the Rebbe (but Chabadniks Defy Shemtov)

The position of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (z"tl) on shlamus haAretz (keeping the land of Israel whole) is clear and well documented. And Baruch Marzel, running under the banner of the National Jewish Front, was the only candidate running for the Knesset supporting that position. But that wasn't good enough for the self-annointed. Levi Shemtov, Chabad's representative in Washington, D.C. (appointed by his father Avroham Shemtov, Chabad's would-be Capo di tutti capi) got his nose out of joint when talking to The Forward and stated that the rabbinical court in Kfar Chabad directed followers not to vote for Marzel.

"They [told] people not to vote Marzel," said Shemtov, "because they wanted two things to happen: every vote to be counted, and for people to make their own decisions. Voting Marzel undermines the idea of every vote being counted."

Make their own decisions. But don't vote for Marzel. Apparently, Levi comes by his skip logic honestly. His father said, last week, that meshichists are a minority of a minority.

Here's the happy ending: Defying the "advice" of their "rabbis," 30% of Kfar Chabadnik's voting in Israel's main election cast their ballots for Marzel, who advocated the mass expulsion of Arabs. Sadly, Marzel failed to reach the 2% threshold needed to qualify for a Knesset seat and, perhaps more strikingly, failed to win a single vote in dozens of municipalities throughout Israel. Even in the West Bank, where opposition to Israeli territorial concessions is much higher than it is in Israel, Marzel — a 46-year-old Boston native and a disciple of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane (z"tl) — managed to win significant support in only a few of the smallest, most extreme Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

But in Kfar Chabad — the Lubavitch town located inside Israel proper, just east of Tel Aviv — Marzel won almost a third of the 1,714 votes cast.

Marzel's support from Chabad voters poses a potentially embarrassing development for the global network of Shemtov-Krinsky-controlled shluchim.

Marzel's party is viewed as a continuation of Kach, the banned Israeli political party founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane. He had his own explanation for his success with Chabad followers: "What attracts them to me," he told the Forward, "are my positions on keeping the wholeness of the Torah the wholeness of the Jewish nation and the wholeness of the Land of Israel." Marzel said that he could have won as much as 80% of the vote had the Kfar Chabad rabbinical court not issued a decision before the elections discouraging followers from voting for smaller parties like his. In the last elections, in 2003, Marzel ran with the Herut party, which won 73% of the vote in Kfar Chabad.

Marzel said that the recent rabbinical ruling was driven by the Chabad leadership's decision to advance its economic interests by backing a party that would win parliamentary seats and try to increase the money budgeted to the community.

A 40-year-old teacher living in Kfar Chabad, who asked to be identified only as Moti, said that he ignored the rabbinical edict and followed through with his decision to vote for Marzel.

"All the other large religious parties have cooperated in the past with governments that have given up Jewish lands," said the teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was concerned his opposition to the court's decision might stir up antagonism towards him in his community. "Marzel would never enter into a government coalition which gives up land."

Moshe M. Weighs In

The only saving grace of the Meshichistin is that they are pathetic lightweights; they’ve been dismissed. Had they the cunning of a Herson, they would have lost everything.
—Moshe Morganstern

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Holocaust Survivors Snubbed by Herson's Chabad

David and Hilda Landsman are looking for a place to live. After four decades of residing in Rockaway, New Jersey, where they helped found the first and only Orthodox minyan in the area, the retired couple feels pushed out by Chabad of Northwest New Jersey.

“All they wanted from us was our money,” says Mrs. Landsman whose husband is a retired baker. “That’s the only time the Lubavitchers talked to us. But I couldn’t keep giving them money. I have my own bills to pay. And when I stopped giving them money, suddenly no one was buying our challohs.”

The Landsmans were one of several families who poured heart and soul into building an active, dedicated Orthodox group in White Meadow Lake, a suburb in Rockaway Township. Then Asher Herson of Chabad came to town promising to help build the community and offered to take over the minyan. “They wanted us to pay his mortgage,” recalls Mrs. Landsman. “But I could barely afford my own.” The Hersons did manage to get financial support from wealthy backers outside the community, then they took over the small group. But today, most shomer-Shabbos members have been driven away from the community by the lack of observance they've seen; today, any number of cars pull up to the “shul” on Shabbos, then drive off after services. The Chabad Center, whose leadership includes mixed marriages, encourages membership from wealthy patrons as far as 20 miles away.

Mrs. Landsman, whose husband fought in the Israeli War of Independence after being released from a concentration camp, laments over what Chabad has done in Rockaway. “They said they came to help us but they didn’t help us,” she says. “So we’re painting the house now and in a few more months and we’ll be gone. They don’t need us here anymore.”