“ON HIS 18TH YAHRZEIT: TRIBUTES TO RABBI MEIR KAHANE THROUGHOUT ISRAEL” by Fern Sidman

The Heichal Dovid Hall in Jerusalem was filled to capacity on Monday evening, November 10, as followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, ZTK”L gathered to pay tribute to his legacy on the occasion of his 18th yahrzeit and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Jewish Defense League. Gunned down at a midtown Manhattan hotel on November 5, 1990 (18 Cheshvan) by Egyptian born convicted terrorist, El Said Nosair, Rabbi Meir Kahane was remembered as a man “who spoke the truth, despite the often ominous repercussions.” Founder of the Jewish Defense League, the Kach political party in Israel, and The Yeshiva of The Jewish Idea in Jerusalem, Rabbi Kahane was memorialized by those who maintained close personal ties to him and many shared recollections of the man behind the political persona.

The featured speaker of the yahrzeit was Rebbetzin Libby Kahane, his wife of over 34 years who recently authored a meticulously researched biography of his life, replete with numerous personal stories entitled, “Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought – Volume One 1932-1975”. Referring to him by his first name, Rebbetzin Kahane said, “Meir had a special gift for relating to people. He inspired many to believe in Hashem and His Torah. Every word Meir said came from his heart and it was clear to everyone that he was completely sincere.” As to the impact that Rabbi Kahane had on an assimilated generation of Jews in the 1960s and 70s, Rebbetzin Kahane recalled, “One man, who joined JDL when he was a teenager, said, “He inspired me and many of my generation to stay Jewish.” When I was interviewing people for my book, the most meaningful praise for Meir were the words: “I am raising my children the way the Reb would have wanted.”

Other speakers at the yahrzeit included former JDL security chief, Garth Kravat who regaled the audience with his personal memories of the early years of the JDL and the various demonstrations and actions that took place in the defense of poor and elderly inner city Jews. Meir Weinstein, current chairman of the JDL in Canada spoke of how Rabbi Kahane taught him, “never to back down” in the face of rabid Jew hatred and detailed of the proliferation of vehement anti-Israel activism on such college campuses as York University in Toronto.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the evening was the presentation of a documentary style film utilizing old black and white footage of a young Rabbi Kahane at age 38 speaking about the ideological origins of the Jewish Defense League and why the formation of this seminal movement was “an idea whose time had come.” Rabbi Kahane’s prescience, wisdom and foresight leaped forth from the screen as he described the objectives of the JDL. “We are not seeking to create a new Jew, but rather to re-create the old Jew, the Jew of the Torah, the Jew who is devoted to G-d, to Torah and mitzvos, but who also rises up to defend himself and his people. We wish to create a generations of Jews who emulate Moshe Rabbeinu, King David and Shimshon HaGibor.”

Other events organized to mark the yahrzeit of Rabbi Kahane included a gala concert organized by Mike Guzofsky at the settlement of Tapuach in the Shomrom, which was home to the late Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane, ZTK”L, son of Rabbi Kahane and his family. The younger Kahane and his wife Talia were also murdered in an Arab terrorist attack in December of 2000. The Kahane Tribute Concert took place on Motzei Shabbos, Parshas Vayera and included such performers as Shlomo Katz, Gavriel Sachs, Ron Weissman, Yerachmiel Ziegler of the Optimystical Band, Ari Ben Yam, Ben Levine and Yosef Hasdiel. The crowd of over 350 people, comprised mostly of young American and Israeli yeshiva students also listened to words of praise for Rabbi Kahane, as several featured speakers took the podium.

Rabbi Baruch Kahane, an erudite Torah scholar and the only surviving son of Rabbi Kahane urged the bochurim to make a Kiddush Hashem and to honor Rabbi Kahane’s memory by consistently being “B’Osek in Torah” (making Torah their daily business) and thereby transforming themselves in to exemplary Torah students and outstanding Jews. “My father was a man of truth, as he knew that the hallmark of Hashem is truth and it is up to us to emulate truth every single moment of our lives, despite the ramifications” said his son.

Other JDL leaders and prominent Jewish activists also weighed in on the significance of Rabbi Kahane’s legacy and the eternal lessons of his message. Shelley Rubin, wife of the late JDL chairman Irv Rubin, of blessed memory, who traveled to Jerusalem to attend these events but did not speak at the yahrzeit dinner said, “Rabbi Kahane and the other early leaders of JDL saw the necessity and viability of an organization that would boldly and unapologetically advocate authentic Torah values, Jewish strength and Jewish pride, and buck the trend of the establishment.” Former Jewish Press columnist and founder of Victims of Arab Terror, Shifra Hoffman said, “In his last speech, Rabbi Kahane advocated an emergency aliyah program for all Jews. The grim realities of the current world economic crisis makes the Rabbi’s message even more crucial for Jewish survival. I implore all Jews to come home to Israel before it is too late.”

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Fern Sidman holds a B.A, in political science from Brooklyn College. She was the educational coordinator for the Betar Youth Movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was national director of the Jewish Defense League from 1983-1985. She was a researcher for several books written by Rabbi Meir Kahane, ZTK”L. She was the managing editor of the publication entitled, The Voice of Judea, and is a regular contributor to its web site. She is currently a writer and journalist living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in The Jewish Press, The Jewish Advocate, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and numerous Jewish and general web sites including, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Pipes and Michael Freund.
We are delighted to have Ms. Sidman as a regular contributor to the Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian’s Blog.

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