At first, it seem like a cruel April Fool’s joke when a “congregation” misleadingly named “Tzedek Chicago” officially and “proudly” announced last week that it was adopting “anti-Zionism” as its “core value.” Palestinian Arab terrorists murdered 11 innocent Jews, Druze, Christians and Ukrainians in Israel the same week, and were threatening and planning more terror. Jews in synagogues throughout the world were mourning and offering heartfelt prayers for the well-being of Israel and her people. Why, then, was a supposed Chicago congregation siding with, and giving aid and comfort to, the murderers of innocent fellow Jews and others?
Since we had never previously heard of this “congregation,” we decided to investigate. It turns out that Tzedek Chicago is essentially an anti-Israel political group, an offshoot of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) that distorts and omits the essence of Judaism—the Jewish people’s 2,000 years of prayers for “next year in Jerusalem!”
Tzedek Chicago’s address is a P.O. box. A Twitter contributor noted that the group’s sole live event in March was a 30-minute meeting in a church basement. “Anti-Zionism” is actually nothing new for Tzedek Chicago. It previously described its same “core value” as “non-Zionism.” Its Israel-bashing website repeatedly defames Jews and Israel, and relies on hyperlinks to vicious anti-Israel defamation groups B’Tselem; Human Rights Watch (HRW); and JVP.
Tzedek Chicago was founded in 2016 by Reconstructionist Rabbi Brant Rosen, who is a leader of some of the worst anti-Israel organizations. Rosen simultaneously works as the Midwest regional director for the virulently anti-Israel American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). He also co-founded and co-chairs the Israel-hating JVP “rabbinical council.” These anti-Zionist groups are leading promoters of anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and every imaginable calumny against Israel and the indigenous Jewish people living in the Jewish state.
In addition, Rosen founded “Jewish Fast for Gaza” to protest against the weapons blockade that prevents Hamas from obtaining even more missiles with which to murder innocent Jews. What soullessness and insanity impels a supposed rabbi to side with Hamas, which is dedicated to murdering every Jewish man, woman and child throughout the world?
On Twitter, someone aptly replied to the Tzedek Chicago announcement: “You may wanna change your name then cus [because] it comes from a pretty blatantly Zionist verse in the Torah.” The famous verse, in Deuteronomy 16:20 is: צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙ וְיָֽרַשְׁתָּ֣ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ—“Justice, justice shall you pursue, for the sake of living and inheriting the land the Lord, your G-d, is giving you.” Among other meanings, the verse underscores the justice of Zionism—the justice of Jews living in and reconstituting the indigenous, G-d-given Jewish homeland.
Yet Tzedek Chicago falsely accuses Israel and the founding of the Jewish state of every possible horror and injustice.
And then, it plays the victim, and complains on its website about Natan Sharansky’s description of anti-Zionist Jews as “Un-Jews.” Sharansky explained that he calls anti-Zionists “un-Jews” because they seek to undo the essence of Judaism, Jewish peoplehood and “how most Jews do Judaism”: The anti-Zionists “den[y] the need for a Jewish state, thereby declaring war not just on Israel’s existence but on modern Judaism as we know it.”
Sharansky spent nine years in Soviet prisons in order to achieve the Zionist dream of living in Israel. He understands and described the phenomenon of Jewish Jew-haters and anti-Zionists throughout history, including in the Soviet era and again today. He wrote, among other things:
“As Soviet communism turned more repressive after the Bolshevik Revolution, it naturally recruited un-Jews to torment their former co-religionists. The Evreyskaya Sekcia—Jewish Section of the Communist Party—took special glee in freeing the Jews from the shackles of religion, of peoplehood, of community, of tradition. Believing their traditional communities to be as burdensome to them in much the same way that woke Jews feel Israel is burdensome to them today, these Jewish Communists destroyed the synagogues and cheders they had been raised in to advance the Jewish idea of social justice which they first encountered in those spaces.” (The Un-Jews: The Jewish Attempt to Cancel Israel and Jewish Peoplehood by Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy, June 16, 2021.)
Tzedek Chicago officially joining the ranks of the anti-Israel propagandists last week is mind-boggling. On Passover, we speak of the wicked son who cuts himself off from the Jewish people. We pray that these anti-Zionist “wicked sons” will finally see the light and reconnect with real Jewish and Zionist values.
Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Elizabeth A. Berney is ZOA’s director of special projects.