Beyond the fringe

Beyond the fringe

We all remember with shock and sorrow the Mumbai massacre of 2008 – and the particularly brutal murders of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah, Chabad emissaries to that Indian city. And we remember with a pleasant – although bittersweet – shock that the couple’s toddler son, Moishe, was spirited away from the carnage by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who deserves to be remembered by name. Moishe and Samuel were brought to Israel, where he lives with his maternal grandparents, Rabbi Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg.

Now comes another shock – the shock of outrage.

Grandfather Rosenberg, accompanied by his grandson, was among the 12 Israelis chosen to light 12 torches – representing the 12 tribes of Israel – in an Independence Day ceremony Monday night on Mount Herzl.

Rosenberg told the Israeli radio station Arutz Sheva, “This whole event is very exciting. To light the torch on such an auspicious day, especially this year, when the theme uniting the torchbearers is ‘All Jews are responsible for one another….’ I am not representing myself, rather, all the shluchim [emissaries] of the [late Lubavitcher] rebbe in Israel and the diaspora.”

You would think that those emissaries, and the Chabad movement itself, would appreciate that Rosenberg – so closely associated with history – spoke of representing them. But instead, a group of Chabad rabbis, ostensibly representing the Chabad religious court in Jerusalem, publicly denounced him in a letter printed in haredi newspapers on Monday.

According to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, Rabbi Dovid Meir Drukman, chief rabbi of Kiryat Motzkin near Haifa and one of the signers of the letter, wrote an essay posted on (not an official Chabad site) in which, the newspaper said, he noted “Chabad’s extensive involvement in Israeli society,” while insisting that support “does not translate into support for the state.”

Drukman noted that although Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson loved Israel, he rejected Zionism. The late rebbe, he wrote, would neither permit the singing of “Hatikvah” nor allow “Chabad printed books to sport a Star of David, [because it was] adopted by Israel as a state symbol.” He also would not allow the use of the phrase “Medinat Yisrael,” the State of Israel.

Chabad Zionism, Drukman wrote, was about God sending the messiah and restoring him to the throne of a legitimate Jewish state.

At the international Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, the best a reporter could get in the way of a comment was that the headquarters was not involved in the dispute.

Chabad is not the Satmar or the Neturei Karta; it is not anti-Zionist. Some Chabadniks, albeit not many, even serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Chabad, however, is non-Zionist, and some of its members, at least, want that to be understood with perfect clarity.

Chabad emissaries here do not make a big deal of their non-Zionism. It seems that is not good enough for Chabad emissaries in Israel itself.

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