Rabbi Yoel Schoenfeld, scion of one of the most venerated rabbis in the Modern Orthodox world, told Arutz Sheva in an interview that American Jews had failed the residents of Gush Katif by not speaking out against the plan – just as they failed European Jewry by not speaking up during World War II to prevent the Holocaust.
Rabbi Schoenfeld is rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, New York. He is the son of Rabbi Fabian Schoenfeld, who is respected as one of the deans of Modern Orthodoxy in the United States. Rabbi Yoel Schoenfeld took over as rabbi of the synagogue two years ago, with the elder Rabbi Schoenfeld still associated with the institution.
“My memories of Gush Katif are of the place three weeks before the government threw out all the Jews from there,” said Rabbi Schoenfeld. “We were there and saw how people farmed, prayed, studied and learned, how children played in the streets and how mothers came and went. We could not imagine that just a few weeks later it would all come to an end. It was a beautiful place.”
It seemed no accident that the removal of the Jews from Gush Katif occurred right around the Ninth of Av, the day the Holy Temples were destroyed and other tragedies occurred for the Jewish people. “What is worse than those other tragedies is that this one was caused by Jews, against Jews,” the rabbi said.
One reason the tragedy was able to take place, Rabbi Schoenfeld believes, is because American Jewry did not protest.
“We did not do enough to protest the disengagement,” he said. “We did nothing serious – not the Jews in the streets, and not the Jews in the organizations. Anyone who had eyes in his head was able to see what would happen,” how Hamas would take over and start two major wars, and fire tens of thousands of rockets from its new base.
“We give away a beautiful part of our land to terrorists and we expect that will bring peace? Obviously we were dreaming, or hallucinating – or we didn't want to think about it.”
American Jews saw it as an Israeli problem, not a Jewish one for them in New York – and they were wrong, he said. “This is the greatest tragedy of the last decade,” he said.
It was similar, he said, to the lack of action by Jews in America to protest the Holocaust.
“That is a stain that has remained on our soul until today,” and the lack of protest of the disengagement has left a similar one, he added.