One of the oddest incidents during The Religion Guy’s decades on the beat was an annual Nation of Islam rally in Chicago led by Minister Louis Farrakhan (who was notably entangled with President Barack Obama’s former United Church of Christ pastor).
The oddity was that Farrakhan, America’s most prominent anti-Semite, invited Jewish rabbis to speak.
Not routine rabbis, of course, but spokesmen for Neturei Karta of Monsey, NY, a fierce faction of Orthodox Jews that condemns Zionism as “heresy” and accuses Israel of committing “aggression against all peoples.”
Orthodox Judaism’s traditional opposition to Zionism was a theme in Chaim Potok’s beloved 1967 novel “The Chosen” (a must-read for religion writers of all kinds). Potok depicted a friendship after World War Two between two Orthodox boys, the son of an ardent Zionist educator, and the heir to a Hasidic dynasty opposed to establishment of modern Israel.
Reporters on foreign affairs, politics, and religion should be aware of Rabbi Shalom Carmy of Yeshiva University, whose latest column for the interfaith journal First Things discusses Orthodoxy and Zionism. If not there already, firstname.lastname@example.org belongs on your prime source list, since Orthodoxy is trickier to cover than Judaism’s other branches.
Carmy makes a key point: “Secular journalists typically ascribe pockets of rigorously Orthodox antagonism to Zionism to the belief that Jews will only govern themselves in the land of Israel when the Messiah comes.”
That’s true for some Hasidic groups, he says. But historically, the rest of Orthodoxy had a different objection.