Separation of Synagogue and State by Ruth King


American Jews have participated in outsize numbers in social movements and organizations. Among them Zionism and the effort to obtain security for Jews have taken pride of place and many organizations were formed whose  mandate was to promulgate Zionist ideals and protect  Jews from bias and harassment.

Haddasah, the largest women’s organization in the world, is a great example. At a meeting at Temple Emanu-El in New York City on February 24, 1912, Henrietta Szold encouraged Jewish women to promote the Zionist ideal through education, public health initiatives, and the training of nurses in what was then Palestine. The women called themselves “The Hadassah chapter of the Daughters of Zion” and Szold became its first president. Hadassah’s charter articulated twin goals:  public-health initiatives and nurses training in Palestine, and fostering Zionist ideals through education in America.

Both the goal and the results were noble. Hospitals and public health systems were established in pre-state Israel and vocational training, counseling, housing, and succor were given to the traumatized and wretched survivors of the Holocaust. After Israel’s independence, dislocated Jews from Arab nations became the beneficiaries of Hadassah’s activities. Hadassah performed an epic role and attracted members in every state.

When a historically large number of Jewish voters strayed from their Democratic roots to help elect Ronald Reagan, some thought this was the harbinger of a sea change in American Jewry. But the putative tide of Republican Jewish voters quickly receded when several large Jewish organizations became alarmed by the large number of Evangelical Christians whose support for Israel was full throated, but whose social policies collided with Jewish adherence to the principle of separation of church and state.

Now here is the irony. Even as these organizations denounced the political involvement of Christian groups, they became increasingly involved in advancing the agendas of feminists, abortionistas, radical environmentalists, homosexual rights advocates and those demanding the removal of prayer and religious symbols in schools and public institutions.  These issues are open to debate in a democracy, but what do they have to do with fostering Jewish and Zionist education and ideals?

Haddasah, again, is a prime example:  To accommodate the growing feminist and “reproductive rights” movement, the organization’s mandate was formally altered to read: “But while Hadassah’s heritage and mission remain as strong as ever, the role of women and Jewish culture here and in Israel, has evolved over time. The organization, too, has evolved, taking on new challenges and developing new programs.”

Those new programs include legal and political advocacy for the Family and Medical Leave Act, opposition to government aid to religious schools, opposition to the posting of the Ten Commandments in public and national institutions, and demands for national funding of sex education programs that inform students about abstinence, contraception and methods of AIDS/STD prevention.  The new challenges and programs also include climate change, e.g. a Hadassah-sponsored workshop on “Water Security and Climate change.”

And, of course, there’s the mother lode of feminist activism: Hadassah opposes any attempts—through state administrative regulations, legislation, public referendum, or court action—to restrict the right to reproductive choice and/or use of family planning programs delivering any and all services.

“Hadassah urges regions and chapters to educate their respective members and communities with regard to any attempt by their own legislatures to restrict or interfere with a woman’s reproductive rights and encourages Hadassah units to join in coalitions with freedom of choice advocacy groups, participating as full members in pro-choice activities.”

Ladies! How dare you? Why are you advocating for issues that have nothing to do with Israel or Jewish education and advocacy?  You are entitled to your individual opinions on these issues but not to speak on behalf of women who may not share them. These are not Jewish concerns, especially at a time when Jewish survival is in peril throughout the world.

An irate member posted this ten years ago:

”Does a people whom the world is determined to exterminate need to champion the cause of abortion? Is this what Hadassah was designed to do? Does this bring glory to the membership? Why don’t we stick to Hadassah Hospital? (see her article: The Trouble with Hadassah) Aren’t there other organizations devoted to that cause?”

I could easily go on and on with hundreds of examples of Jewish support organizations (like the Anti-Defamation League) which have bowed to the dictates of political correctness and violated their charters and mandates.

Alas, it filters down to the pulpit where during the coming season of holy days, too many rabbis will sermonize about issues that have absolutely nothing to do with dedication, atonement and defense of our brethren. Where is the separation of synagogue and state?

While they inveigh against the Second Amendment which protects the right to militias and guns, they flout the Second Commandment which prohibits the worship and service of false idols– which is exactly what these hypocrites do.

Henrietta Szold


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Article by Ruth King

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Editor: Rael Jean Isaac
Editorial Board: Herbert Zweibon, Ruth King

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March 2018
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