, Staff Writer
NEW YORK–A synagogue belonging to the Monsey, NY-based Neuturei Karta International, Jews United Against Zionism, a community of Orthodox Jews, was destroyed by fire on the eve of Passover. Fire officials report that no one occupying the three-story building was injured. The senior rabbi and his family that occupied the top floor were not home at the time of the blaze, according to officials.
An Apr. 2 Associated Press (AP) story stated that suspicions were raised that the blaze may have been deliberately set “to target members who participated in a conference on the Holocaust in Iran” in December.
“They have threatened us, they have warned us, that have harassed us,” Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, a spokesman told the AP. “This fire is a desecration of God’s name.”
The AP story also mentioned who the group has associated with: “They have appeared publicly with many critics of Israel, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
In a press release on their website, www.nkusa.org, entitled “Why We Went to Iran,” they exclaimed that the reaction to their Iranian trip borders on the “hysterical.”
“The vicious nature of this reaction has puzzled us for some time. Why should an attempt to create goodwill between the Jewish people and the Iranian government, in particular, or the Islamic world in general, be viewed as negative effort?” the statement stressed.
In their explanation for the Iran trip, the rabbis explained that they “affirmed the reality of the mass murder of Jews during the Second World War.”
The rabbis mentioned a meeting with President Ahmadinejad, and that he “condemned anti-Semitism in no uncertain terms.” On Mar. 1, Neturei Karta held a counter-demonstration outside of the Iranian Mission to the UN, to “condemn the escalating Zionist approach of inflammatory rhetoric and personal attacks on nations and their leaders.”
“Speaking against Zionism does not label one as an anti-Semite. In fact, in our case, a population of about 25,000 Jews reside in Iran in peace and harmony,” the rabbis stated.
On Feb. 1, Neturei Karta members demonstrated outside of the hotel in mid-Manhattan where the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held their annual dinner. “Philanthropists and government representatives should be apprised that supporting Zionism and the State of Israel does not help Jews or Judaism,” Rabbi Weiss told reporters.
“History clearly attests to the fact that Jewish existence in all Muslim countries was mostly harmonious and only since the inception of Zionism has this relationship been destroyed,” Rabbi Weiss added.