When Yitzchak Rabin a’h was murdered in 1995, newspapers erroneously reported that that heinous crime was the first time one Jew was politically murdered by another Jew in Israel. In your Oct. 16 cover story, Jeanette Friedman (no relation) tells the gripping story of the murder for political motives of Rudolf Kasztner in Tel Aviv by a (former) agent of Israel’s secret service. To the tally of Jew-by-Jew political murders, we can add the murders of Jacob de Haan, Haim Arlosoroff, and Emil Grunzweig, all of which exposed fault lines in the Jewish community in Israel.
Last fall, I taught a class entitled “6 Political Assassinations that Shook Israel” at the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies. In our class, more than 20 students grappled each week with understanding the depth of ideological fervor that led to each murder. We came to realize that the return of Jews to the land of Israel in large numbers at the beginning of the 20th century and the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 have been the catalyst for the bringing together of people with very different outlooks toward religion and toward the interrelationship of politics and religion. We used these assassinations as prisms with which to analyze the deep-seated ideological fissures among Jews to this very day. In the case of Rudolf Kasztner, we devoted four weeks to discussing the moral dilemmas that Kasztner faced as he chose whose life would be saved by boarding the “Kasztner transport” and as he negotiated with the Germans knowing that on each day of negotiation over 10,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
I hope that other Jewish high schools will consider using study of the Kasztner case (and the others I mentioned) as tools to understand the divisions between religious and secular, left-wing and right-wing, and Zionists and anti-Zionists that continue to plague the Jewish people. Your article and the upcoming movie about Kasztner bring these issues to the greater Jewish community.