The Ideological Case Against Joining the Zionist Movement


world-zionist-organizationBy Rabbi Natan Grossman

The widespread controversy following Shas’ decision to join the World Zionist Organization reflects the astonishment at efforts to legitimize cooperation of the chareidi community with the secular nationalist establishment. The underlying worldview of chareidi Jews is that there can be no coming to terms with heresy. The shock with which the recent move of Shas was received points to the trepidation truly G-d-fearing Jews feel toward any undermining of the foundations of our beliefs.

Gedolei Yisroel urged Yated Ne’eman (Israel) to voice strong protest against the decision, which shows disdain for the basic consensus and underlying foundation of chareidi Jewry during the past hundred years. Our rabbonim used unusually harsh terms in describing Shas’ shameful decision, which undermines the foundations of the Torah concept of strictly avoiding the Zionist establishment and its ideology, which steered Am Yisroel off the path of Torah. “A disgusting move that has no parallel,” was how they expressed it.

“According to Torah law you may not enter the World Zionist Organization,” the Chazon Ish told Poalei Agudas Yisroel, “and I doubt if [even] Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah has the power to permit it” (Pe’er Hador, I, p. 92).

When in 5698 (1938) a proposal was raised for Agudas Yisroel to collaborate with the Mizrachi movement on religious matters, as part of efforts to uphold Torah laws in the future state, Agudas Yisroel published a declaration stating, “Clearly, as long as the Mizrachi [movement] is a part of the World Zionist Organization, there can be no discussion of any permanent union between the two movements” (Kovetz Igros Achiezer, I, p. 306).

Ever since the Zionist movement’s founding, our rabbonim instructed chareidi movements and their representatives not to take part in any meeting or cooperation with declared Zionist institutions, whose driving aim is to plant Zionist and nationalist ideas thereby creating a “new Judaism” divorced from the foundations of emunoh and halacha. When the Mizrachi movement decided to join the WZO and rebel against gedolei hador (saying they had their own rabbonim who permitted it), they separated themselves from the chareidi public and turned into a hybrid, compromise movement. The results are plain to see: they do not even exist in name any more having become the “Jewish Home” party.

If Shas does not come to its senses, they are essentially issuing an open declaration that they have decided to follow in the footsteps of the Mizrachi movement. Have they decided to assume that image, with all it entails?

Every Jew with yiras Shomayim understands that Zionism, in essence, is a bitter and cruel enemy of faith and of the keepers of Torah. The Zionist idea, which holds Am Yisroel can be sustained without Torah relying instead on “national symbols” and the trimmings of “the Jewish heritage,” undermines the foundations of the Jewish faith. This is without even considering all heretical ideas that were attached to this central concept of destroying Yiddishkeit and rising up against the Kingdom of Heaven, such as personal self-redemption and provoking the nations of the world. In general, the values of Zionism and nationalism, like other non-Jewish concepts such as liberalism and humanism, to name a few, pose an existential threat to the Jewish people, and therefore our rabbonim zt”l and ylct”a, declared war against them.

Over 120 years ago, in a letter dated 19 Elul 5659 (1899) (printed in Kovetz Michtavim, a collection of letters by gedolei Yisroel), Reb Chaim Brisker wrote that it is surprising that there are observant Jews who still fail to recognize the evils of Zionism. If one does not understand this on his own, he wrote, what can we say to persuade him?

“I read his other remarks regarding the `Zionist cult’ that has recently united strongly, and I am not ashamed to say I do not know how to find a way to counter them. Unknown malignant figures, each in his own respective location, including some who have become well known in this matter, have already declared their goal and publicized that their intent is to uproot the foundations of the Jewish religion. Towards that end they also intend to try to fill the positions of power and community control in all Jewish communities in order to foster their aim, and they have made all this known and revealed their thinking in periodicals. What more can we add in this regard? Would our remarks be any more convincing than theirs after they have said and revealed the matter themselves?”

He goes on to wonder at those who held joining forces and finding a “common language” with them would achieve certain positive aims. “It is beyond belief that after they have revealed their malevolent intentions openly there are still straight thinking people who are willing to join them. This leads one to wonder about the entire Diaspora – how could they allow these ideas to gain a foothold and even receive backing, while it is known that they will cause the masses to sin?”

HaRav Elchonon Wassermann Hy”d, warned against the illusion of finding any linkage between the keepers of the Torah and figures representing nationalism and heresy. He also warned that eventually any idea in this vein would wind up like the Mizrachi movement, which put itself to shame in the eyes of those it sought to flatter and win their favor.

“We must let those who agree to this know that they are causing the masses to sin and are desecrating the Name of Heaven, for there is no longer any distinction between them and the Mizrachi movement,” he wrote. “Go forth and learn from the end of the Mizrachi movement, whose task was always to provoke yirei Hashem in order to flatter the wicked. And what became of it? “False witnesses are held in contempt by those who hire them.” … they became despicable and lowly even in the eyes of the wicked they bowed down to…” (from Kovetz Michtavim)

Gedolei Yisroel have spoken out against Zionism as a denial of the foundations of Yiddishkeit and determined there is no possible dispensation to justify recognizing the nationalist idea or its lexicon. “Zionism, which was clothed in idealism and spirituality,” the Chazon Ish wrote to HaRav Wassermann in 5695 (1935), “has drawn in its wake heretical education and other non-Jewish ways and idolatrous vanities, and those who enter into their company at first, later start worshiping their idols, which touch on all aspects of life” (Kovetz Igros, 111).

In his book Maasei Ish, HaRav Tzvi Yabrov quotes HaRav Moshe Sheinfeld in a piercing letter written in 5721 (1961). “I had the privilege of frequently spending time under the wing of our holy rabbi, the Chazon Ish, and from him I acquired my worldview that Mizrachi poses a greater danger than Mapai!” he wrote.

“It seems to me that this sense is not subject to debate, and all of those who are truly G-d-fearing always feel instinctively what they should avoid and what they should bring closer, as if a spirit from the Heavens was cast upon them,” wrote the Chazon Ish to Vilna in 5695 (1935), two years after settling in Eretz Yisroel. “… I know of almost no disputes among the Torah faithful in these matters. All those who are inclined to bring them closer where we push them away should be considered suspect, based on the chareidi instinct” (Kovetz Igros, II, 75).

• • • • •

We must learn the lessons for ourselves, as Maran HaRav Shach wrote: The true Torah hashkofoh, as Torah knowledge itself, is as hard to acquire as golden vessels, and as easy to lose as glass.

If we let down our guard and do not constantly protest that we have no part of false ideologies, we are liable to find ourselves faced with surprises like this recent one. We must let our voices be heard by those who violate the norms of chareidi Jewry, but we must also be sure that we hear them ourselves, lest we also be affected by the blurring of the lines of the Mizrachi and those who follow their lead.

{Yated Ne’eman-Israel}

{Yair Israel}


  1. This is all wonderfull of all whats written above. When Ashkenazi ‘Charedi’ individuals and general schools start accepting sephardim into the schools and treating Sephardim like regular citizens then fine ‘shas’ will maybe consider. There is a lot to meet the eye. There second class in Israel, and it started since the begining of the state. At least with WZO they wont feel that way to be in a second category.

  2. Here are three telling quotes From the article”

    “Gedolei Yisroel urged strong protest against the decision…”

    “Our rabbonim used unusually harsh terms in describing Shas’ shameful decision, which undermines the foundations of the Torah…”

    “A disgusting move that has no parallel,” was how they expressed it.”
    Huh? Which gedolim? Whom are these rabbonim?
    What are the names of the “they” who called Shas “disgusting?” Once again we have diatribes from one segment of the chareidi world against another, all behind a cloak of anonymity.

    Notice that the author only quotes gedolim who are no longer living. Theirs are the only voices who have names attached to them. Why do the present day chastisers remain nameless?

    And forget, of course, the fact that times have drastically changed in the past sixty years. Forget about the fact the the secular Zionists, who were once on the offensive, are now facing ever powerful religious-political power from the Torah world. Isn’t it at least conceivable that Shas is correct in their analysis of the PRESENT DAY situation? that now is the time to increase the power of Torah from INSIDE powerful establishment organizations like the WZO?

    As an American chareidi Jew (and ba’al teshuva of 30 years) I am totally embarrassed by this display of superiority and arrogance. We are not dealing here with Reformism and Conservativism, but with people who are shomrei Torah and mitzvos. The attitudes and behaviors being demonstrated in too many segments of the Litvish chareidi olam in this generation is devastating. Ribbono shel Olam: we need the geula desperately to fix all the Chillulei HaShem plaguing the Torah world.

  3. Dear Rabbi,
    Perhaps the shortfall in your argument is your inability to consider that you could be wrong and others could be right. Perhaps what applied in the times of the Brisker Rav no longer applies? Understand your own limitations, maybe Rav Ovadia Yosef knows better than you and maybe his gadlus is still great when he disagrees with you and not only when he agrees.

  4. sefardim have a different metality, derech in torah, and tradition. Of course they are going to have a harder time getting into ashkanasi schools. Just like they want the best families to go to the Yiddish run schools.

  5. We are not Askenazim and just like we have our own different sidurim we have our own Haskafot and B”H for that.
    If Rabbi Ovadia was Ashkenazi he would be known as the Gadol Hador which to the Sephardim he is, and if he says that its OK for us Sepharadim who are you Askenazim to say he is wrong Shame on you Askenazim for trying to make us a carbon copy of who you are. Leave us folloow our gedolim we in our lands didn’t harbor hatred for other jews, let us continue in our ways

  6. Hey! I don’t understand why words are being wasted with stam politicians here when b’H we have rabbanim in the picture… remember them ?? Nu so what does HaRav Ovadia shlita have to say about all this?? Why are politicians saying their part when this is SO blantantly a hashkafic and halahic question?? Why aren’t the gedolim speaking to HaRav Ovadia directly rather than through newspapers?? And why have we not heard any daat Torah on this from Shas??

    P.S. to number 1: with WZO nobody’s second category – EVERYONE’S LAST!!

  7. Ashkenazim have always treated sephardim shamefully. It has nothing to do with chareidi or non-chareidi. that was the reason Rav Shach ZT”L convinced the sephardim to start their own party- so they will be treated as equals. The Chazon Ish ZT”L used to rail against the bias against sephardim by chareidi Roshei Yeshiva. Acheinu kol beis yisroel.

  8. We cannot accept any cooperation with heretical elements. But we should take as much of their money as we can. An elegant philosophy, and very profitable too. The hypocritical Jew at his best.

  9. Zionism is the greatest threat facing the Jewish people today! The Chazon Ish ZT’l once said, ‘ The reason Jews are so confused by the Zionist state is that the state is the 50 gates of defilement. To overcome this we need the 50 gates of holiness. Since the 50th gate of holiness is hidden from us, therefore the confusion is so great, for we cannot stand up against the 50 gates of defilement of the state. (Mishkenos Haro?im p. 1195)

  10. A little seichel please. Remember that seichel carries the weight of a d’oraisa–Lama li kra, sevara hu. Anybody who has rented an apartment knows that you are at the mercy of the landlord, and he can raise your rent or make repairs and renovations at the expense of our privacy, or kick you out a week before your son’s bar-mitzvah or your daughter’s wedding. When you are a homeowner, you cannot be kicked out or told what to do,unless you default on your mortgage.

    This simple logic was all the Zionists wanted in returning to EY. They were fed up with the pogroms, the crusades, the Chmielnickis, the inquisitions, the ghettos, and the discrimination in business. Jews were restricted in many countries in what trades they could enter and told where they must live. This guaranteed a cycle of poverty which was unbearable.

    There is no greater chesed than helping ones fellow Jew. My neighbor’s olam hazeh is my olam haba. Anybody who reads into this simple metzius that the Zionists were somehow anti-Torah because they wanted to start a state to relieve this constant suffering of the Jewish People, is just projecting his own sinas chinam into a simple and straightforward idea.

    What the article doesn’t tell you is that there were just as many gedolim who were thrilled with this idea (Rav Teichtal, Rav Rhein, Rav Mohlivar, Rav Kasher, Rav Kook, Reb Aryeh Levine, etc. etc. etc.) Part of the Agudah game is to bombard you with the notion that only Agudah-affiliated Rabbonim are Gedolim. And the criteria for being a gadol in their book is to be anti-zionist. So of course in this circular way, only anti-zionists are gedolim, and therefore it “follows” that all gedolim are anti-zionist.

    You will never see an Agudah or Artscroll biography of a pro-zionist gadol. They are blotted out from selective history.

    But the proof is in the pudding, and as I posted yesterday in a similar thread here the State of Israel has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams in both Ruchnius and Gashmius. Every day we see open nissim of the RBSH’s Hashgacha. We see the kindness of the state that it treats all children with a warm smile at the health clinics, whether Zionist, anti-zionist, or even Arab. We see emesdig chesed flowing from the hearts of these non-frum Jews in how the entire nation laughs and cries together.

    We see how Jewish brains, freed from all the discrimination in getting an education and a job, rise to the top of world scientific research.

    The mekomos hakedoshim can now be accessed by all Jews. Yeshivas and shuls sprout forth all over. One is greeted at the airport of Artzeinu Hakedosha and the entrance to Yerushalayim with a big Bruchim Habaim sign. It is the biggest simcha and warms the heart of anybody with a Jewish neshama. The Hebrew language has been revived among the common folk.

    But the biggest proof of all is the Chazal that says anybody who lives in Israel and speaks Hebrew is a ben Olam Haba. For this reason, rather than expelling these “traif” Zionists, the RBSH has blessed them with the land bringing forth its fruit. Chazal say ein lcha ketz megulah mizeh. The land which was barren for 2,000 years, to the point which nobody could live there because of the lack of food and desolateness (see Mark Twain’s essay about his trip 125 years ago), is blooming once again, because her children have returned. One can sense the RBSH’s smile and happiness shining down upon his children who are finally back in their own land, brachamei shomayim. Yes, there is room for the leaders to become more attached to Torah and Yiddishkeit, but that will only happen once bnei Torah start behaving with overflowing ahava towards them, and this will spill over and inspire the nonfrum to seek out true Torah warmth which is the source of this magnetic ahavas yisroel. Kmayim hapanim el panim.

    May the RBSH continue to shower the Medina with brochos until everybody recognizes his Father in Heaven who is the source of all bracha, and may this inspire a complete returning of the hearts of all nonfrum yidden, many of whom were broken by the yissurin of the terrible golus and lost their way, as the Zohar states. In this zchus, may we see moshiach tzidkeinu bimheirah byameinu amen.

  11. Sephardic MAN, being ‘second class’ is a poor excuse for going against what the Torah demands of us. It’s unfortunate but in the last century the Sephardim even enrolled their children in the Frank school in Yerushalayim despite the Ashkenazi rabbis’ warning, and subsequently lost those children to the maskilim. This was done for ‘practical considerations’ but the result was disaastrous. Now we are seeing what seems to be a repeat of that behavior, may HKB”H prove me wrong.

    We can only be mispallel that Moshiach comes quickly before more of our Sefardi brothers are lost to these calculating, Torah-hating lost Jews.

  12. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Sephardim suffer from stockholm syndrome. They have fallen in love with their captor, the heretical medina who is responsible for most of the suffering they have endured the past 60 years. For more then two thousand years Jews lived in the lands of Ishmael and only AFTER the formation of the treife medina did Ishmael responded by kicking the Sephardim and Mizrahim out of their ancient homelands! Did all of Ishmael collectively just decide to do this without an justifiable provocation? Hardly! No they did exactly what Chazal said they would do by fullfilling one of the punishments for ascending Eretz HaKodesh in a wall. Is it a coincidence that it is the progeny of Ishmael (the hunter) who is hunting us because our skin is turned to that of an animal? (see Kesubos 111a) Unfortunately, most sephardim are unable to see past their hatred of the hunter Ishmael for exacting the punishment for breaking the Torah and ascending the land as a wall. Dont they understand that if not for the zionists this would not have happened? Dont they understand that the exucutioner is not the judge nor the perp who committed the crime? Why be mad at the hunter? The Rambam says most people dont understand because they treat the symptom and not the disease. This is what sadly too many sephardim and ashkenazi do, they treat the symptom (hamas, iran etc..) and cant see that it is the disease (the zionist state) which is the root of all their suffering. May HKBH send Eliyahu HaNavi and return the sons to the ways of their fathers! Make True Teshuva and stop worshipping the treife medina before it is too late!

  13. Pashuteh Yid (#11): What you wrote is BEAUTIFULLY expressed. I just hope that the length of your comment won’t put readers off…because it really should be read by everyone perusing this thread.

  14. Sephardic MAN —

    The ones who choose to make sefardim “second class citizens: is —- the sefardim themselves.
    THEY are the ones who grovel at the feet of the ashkenazim, in hopes of getting into their schools.
    THEY are the ones whose leaders do not send to their “own” school system, but rather insists on getting into the Ashkenazi schools.
    THEY are the ones who run to the secular courts (against the din since its a chillul hashem)
    THEY are the ones who daven in ashkenazi shuls.

    If they would have the confidence of our sefardi brethen in Deal – namely the Syrian community, I dont think they would care about getting into “J-Dub” schools, or shuls. I think they would feel that teh Ashkenazim were the second class citizens.

    So get your act together and feel like the MAN that you are !!!!

  15. #17, Rebbe Time, Maybe so, but his father-in-law Reb Aryeh Levine ZTL, not only entered the Knessest bldg, but was given an award on behalf of the entire Medinah and presented by Menachem Begin to honor and recognize his backbreaking work on behalf of the captives and Lochamei Tzion and to show Hakaras Hatov for his boundless ahava towards all Jews.

    PS. The mesirus nefesh of a Dov Gruner and the other Olei Gardom (fighters who were hanged by the British) many of whom brought their tefilin with them to jail, and who sang Hatikvah before their execution, and who wrote that they would willingly do this again, even knowing what would befall them for the sake of Am Yisroel, surely rises to the RBSH’s Kisei Hakavod every day. In their zchus, may He continue to protect His children the Yoshvei Eretz Yisroel and all Jews everywhere.

  16. The difference between you and I is the difference between Hatikvah and Shma! Hatikvah is your anthem while the Shema is mine!

  17. Editor:

    Stop censoring pro-Israel responses.
    The rabbi who wrote the article misrepresents the aims of religious Zionism
    which is rooted in the Torah. HASHEM wants
    His people to conquer and control the Land of Israel without waitting for Moshiakh.

    Whether joining WZO is right or wrong has nothing to do with Halacha. It has to
    do with pragmatic considerations which are
    permissible according to the Torah. Every Jew should join the organization. You have nothing to lose. (Don’t agree with the secular ideologues; change their agenda.That’s our right under representative government with HASHEM’s assistance.)

    Ir is apikorsus to do nothing. Thank HASHEM we have a
    Medina which needs frum Jews to introduce
    positive change. May HASHEM bless Israel.

  18. Anonymous #23, AKA Arnold B:

    The Editor knows how to conduct himself on this website. Your unsolicited advice is unnecessary. The Editor will continue standing up for the Torah HaKedosha, as expressed by all the Gedolei Yisroel — who clearly and unambiguously vigorously opposed Zionism and the State as an abomination against the Torah, Yiddishkeit, and Klal Yisroel.

  19. There is a lovely English expression, “G-d helps those who help themselves”. The blossoming and growth of the State of Israel is ample proof of this.

    And before anyone criticises or sneers at my interpretation, I may be a gentile but I am neither a messianist nor am I a conversionist.

    I thoroughly admire what the Jewish people have done in winning, building and defending their own country. Nothing more and nothing less.

  20. To Shabbos Goy

    In addition, I commend you for understanding that—like any other field of religious endeavor—the mandate to reside in and take possession of the Land of Israel requires action together with trust in Almighty
    God’s Divine Providence.

    Therefore, passivity should not be confused with “Emunah”—faith. True faith requires human effort put forth in accordance
    with the Torah. This principle certainly holds true for the concerted effort made by the Jews
    to build their national homeland in Israel.
    Your comments are appreciated.

  21. Jerusalem Talmud: “Rabbi Hiyah Rabbah and Rabbi Shimon Ben Halafta were walking in the Arbel Valley at the break of morning before the light of day. They watched the dawn as the light began to shine. Rabbi Hiyah, the great one in wisdom, said to Rabbi Halafta, ‘Rabbi, so too unfolds the Redemption of Israel – in the beginning, little by little. And the more it progresses, it increases and grows (Berachot, 1:1).
    The changes in Eretz HaKodesh in the last 60 years are part of this process. We don;t have to be a leftist zionist to be part of this. You can be religious and love/fight for Israel.

    Given that we are in Tu B’shevat week: Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda once again pointed to the Gemara for the definitive sign.

    “The Sages, may their memory be for a blessing, gave us a clear definition of the end of galut. They cite the verse from the Book of Yehezkiel, ‘You O mountains of Israel shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they will soon be coming.’ Rashi comments that there can be no surer sign of the end of the exile than this, when the trees of the Land of Israel give forth their fruits in abundance” (Sanhedrin 98A).