Rabbi Korff’s Jewish Activism

Rabbi Avi Shafran devoted a recent column (Features, Jan. 17) to the exploits of the late Rabbi Baruch Korff, including Rabbi Korff’s participation in a 1947 plan, inspired by the militant group Lehi, to bomb building s in London (reportedly timed so as not to injure people) and drop leaflets from a plane over London to protest the British occupation of Eretz Yisrael.

In his column, Rabbi Shafran made an off-hand swipe at those who refer to Lehi as the Stern Gang.

Lehi’s legacy includes assassination of British officials as well as the murder of Jewish policemen with the Palestine Police Force, leaving Jewish wives widowed and Jewish children orphaned.

In January 1941, Lehi leader Avraham Stern dispatched Naftali Lubenchik to meet the German Consul General in Beirut, Lebanon, to offer a proposal to form an alliance to fight the British. It is not clear what the Germans thought of Stern’s bizarre invitation. Lubenchick was arrested by the British on his way back from Lebanon and later died in 1946 in a British prison.

We ought not to laud the exploits of a group which murdered Jews and found common cause with the Nazis, no matter how they may be called.

David Gurvitz

Rabbi Shafran responds:

Dear Mr. Gurvitz,

When mentioning Lehi in passing, I noted that it is more commonly and “derisively” known as the “Stern Gang.” I did not intend to “swipe” anyone, off-handedly or otherwise. Since Lehi is more commonly referred to by the latter name because of some of the group’s unsavory activities, I meant only to identify it clearly.

I don’t feel adequate to passing judgment on Lehi’s attempts to reach an agreement with the Nazis to fight the British in exchange for the relocation of European Jews to Palestine. We should remember that future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was a Lehi leader at the time.

Finally, at no point did I “laud” the exploits of Lehi. I merely noted — for to do otherwise would be to withhold pertinent facts — that Rabbi Korff consulted with the group when plotting “to set off bombs in London (placed and timed to prevent human casualties) in protest of British policy in Palestine, and to drop leaflets over the city from a plane.”