The Hypocrisy of the RCA

The legendary Maggid of Yerushalayim, Harav Shalom Schwadron, zt”l, shared the following story: Once, while he was sitting in his home learning, Reb Shalom heard a scream from outside his window where the children were playing in the courtyard. A child named Meir, who had been playing with Harav Schwadron’s children, fell and was bleeding freely from the wound he had suffered in the fall.

Reb Shalom quickly scooped up the child and began to run to the neighborhood doctor. From a distance across the courtyard, the child’s grandmother, seeing Reb Shalom running with an injured child in his arms, assumed that the child was one of his own. She began to call out words of support: “Kein baiz nit, kein baiz nit, der Eibershter vet helfen, der Eibershter vet helfen.” (It’s nothing to worry about; Hashem will help.)

Reb Shalom wondered if she would stay consistent with this declaration if she knew the child’s identity. Indeed, the closer he got to her, the less confident she sounded with her pronouncement. When she realized that the child was her grandson she began to scream, “Gevald! Meir’keh! Meir’keh!”

Harav Schwadron said that he used this story to make a point to a group of baalei batim in shul. After he had spoken at a demonstration against chillul Shabbos by municipal workers in Yerushalayim, this group of people had asked him why he felt the need to get involved in the affairs of the city. But weeks later, when the municipality raised taxes, these same people began raising a ruckus about it.

Harav Schwadron, in his inimitable style, said, “When it’s someone else’s ‘Meir’keh’ you can easily say ‘kein baiz nit, der Eibershter vet helfen,’ but if it’s your ‘Meir’keh,’ you begin to yell. Shabbos is my ‘Meir’keh,’ money is yours.”

As tens of thousands of frum Jews gathered in Foley Square to protest the forced conscription of yeshivah students into the Israeli army, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) issued a statement. In it, they “condemned” the “ultra-Orthodox anti-Israel rally” and said that the RCA the attempt of a small but vocal group to undermine the image Americans have of strong, unshakeable, wall-to-wall Jewish support of Israel.”

Taking to the streets in America to protest policy positions of the state of Israel is, somehow, in the words of the RCA, “to publicly aid the many enemies who stand ready to destroy, G-d forbid, the Jewish State — and all Jews.”

Interestingly, the RCA felt no such need to condemn an organization it works with, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), for holding a rally back in June of 2005 to protest the Sharon disengagement plan. That rally drew over 10,000 protesters. A quick look through the RCA’s “policies and positions” finds at least five times that the RCA expressed opinions on different issues surrounding the evacuation of settlers from their homes.

While they express opinions on aspects of the disengagement plan itself to calling on the Israeli government repeatedly to treat the settlers with respect, one cannot find any such statement regarding the Lapid Draft Plan. Obviously, that is not their Meir’keh.

They are, however, careful to point out in a statement dated May 18, 2006, “that despite differences the religious community has always had with the governments of Israel, the religious Zionist community has always seen fit to fully support the government of Israel.”

Which brings us to the next point. It is said that someone once told the Chasam Sofer, zy”a, that there was an individual who was saying over the chiddushei Torah of the Chasam Sofer but was passing them off as his own. The Chasam Sofer replied that so long as that fellow only does that but doesn’t attribute his own opinions to the Chasam Sofer, he didn’t have a problem with it.

The most disturbing part of the RCA statement is that it says that the rally, which was called for and planned under the direction of the Gedolim, including both Satmar Rebbes, was “an insult to the memory of the Satmar Rav … For all his well-known opposition to a secular state, he always put the protection of Jewish lives first. It is unthinkable that … he would have countenanced aiding and abetting our enemies.” (It is important to point out that the opposition of other Gedolim to the rally was not for the reasons the RCA condemned it. It was a question of how we, as frum Jews, are supposed to work to get rid of this gezeirah, and whether public protest is an effective method.) It would seem that the RCA president is guilty of the very thing the Chasam Sofer was worried about, and is ascribing his own opinion to the Satmar Rav, zt”l.

In order to avoid making that very same mistake and assigning views we hold to people with whom we are not affiliated, what will follow will be excerpts from a 1957 speech to the RCA from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, who, on the RCA website, is referred to as their “guiding spirit and mentor.” In the speech, as transcribed by Rabbi David Holzer, he speaks in direct contradiction to the 2006 statement that “despite differences … the religious Zionist community has always seen fit to fully support the government of Israel.”

Rabbi Soloveitchik says that “When a Rabbi, a boy from our yeshivah … comes in [to a rabbinic position], he has a tough problem … There is a tendency on the part of the Rabbi to go with the crowd … Observers [of Jewish law] can be very hidden … [and] can become a marrano. You can be a Rabbi and a marrano, it’s quite possible. Many rabbis are marranos…To be a marrano doesn’t work. It’s practically wrong, it’s certainly ideologically wrong … but to display Yahadus is important. To fight for Yahadus! … And this is, of course, steadfastness, displaying non-wavering loyalty to Yahadus. A rabbi who hides is wavering.”

One can speculate if the RCA position condemning those fighting for the future of Yiddishkeit in Israel, and supporting all the state does, even in the face of religious differences, is “an insult to the memory of” Rabbi Soloveitchik. But one thing is clear: they have definitely chosen a different Meir’keh.