Rabbi’s remarks reignite kaddish row
AN ORTHODOX RABBI has been criticised for “dangerous and divisive” behaviour after he was said to have called those who took part in a kaddish for Palestinians killed on the Gaza border kapos.
Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, of Mill Hill United Synagogue, described the memorial prayer recital last month as “kapo’ism” and branded the attendees “crackpots” in his ‘Ask the Rabbi’ newspaper column.
“Kapo” refers to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Rabbi Schochet described those who took part as being “far from the front lines of Israel, oblivious to the reality on the ground, who have nothing to fear but their own shadows but who have no problem selling their brothers and sisters down the river”.
He was responding to a reader’s question which suggested Yachad, a left-wing Israel advocacy group, had been behind the event, held on May 16, after 62 Palestinians, including at least 50 Hamas terrorists, died in clashes on the Gaza border.
Rabbi Schochet said that while he did not believe Yachad had organised the kaddish, he believed the group was “happy to take credit for it”.
A Yachad spokesperson said the claim in the column, which appeared in the Jewish Weekly freesheet, was “completely untrue”. They added: “Yachad was not involved in the kaddish event he criticises. It is also totally unacceptable for Rabbi Schochet to compare members of our community to Kapos who collaborated with the Nazis.
“Shutting down debates and labeling members of our community who you disagree with as traitors is dangerous and divisive.”
Olivia Marks-Woldman, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chief executive, condemned Rabbi Schochet’s use of the word.
“The role of ‘kapos’ in concentration and extermination camps remains an historical and moral challenge for us all to reflect on,” she said.
“Using this terminology against Jewish people today borders on antisemitic. If non-Jews described a Jew as a ‘kapo’ it is highly likely it would be interpreted as antisemitic. Using the term ‘kapo’ today risks trivialising the Holocaust and minimising the experiences of those caught in unimaginable situations beyond their control.”
Rabbi Schochet also criticised “socalled leaders stepping up and condemning those of us who speak out against this loathsomeness”.
Representatives of Reform and Liberal Judaism have distanced their denominations from the event.
There has also been criticism of the abuse the kaddish attendees received.
Movement workers of LJY-Netzer, the youth movement of Liberal Judaism, attended the kaddish, while RSY-Netzer, the youth movement of Reform Judaism, publicised it.
Rabbi Schochet concluded his piece with “a word of warning to many parents, particularly from within the mainstream United Synagogue movement. If you’re sending your kids on Israel tour with some non-United Synagogue denominations, be aware that this may be what they will be exposed to out there, especially as apparently some of their tour leaders were part of these infamous ‘kaddish crackpots’.
“If the notion of reciting kaddish for terrorists repulses you, as it should, you ought to rethink your kid’s exposure.”
Nina Morris-Evans, of RSY-Netzer, wrote after attending the event: “Who these people [in Gaza] were — or what group they were affiliated to — is an insignificant issue compared to the reality of their murder. We were not condoning terrorism, Hamas or violence of any form. Rather, we were facing up to the ugly reality of what the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by the State of Israel results in time and time again.”
Ms Morris-Evans is scheduled to lead one of RSY’s Israel tours this summer.
UJIA, which runs the tour groups, said in a statement that “following intense dialogue” Reform Judaism and RSY-Netzer had decided she would be allowed to continue in her role “on the condition that she will be mentored”.
Rabbi Leah Jordan leads the prayers