Charles Jacobs and Ilya Feoktistov
Why would a rabbi help raise money for a Hamas front group?
On July 25, 2017, his temple jam-packed with 250 congregants and guests, Rabbi Howard Jaffe of Temple Isaiah in Lexington, Massachusetts presented three local Muslim leaders as wonderful people and friends of the Jewish community. The program, titled “Out of Many, One,” was billed as an interfaith bridge-building event.
But video of the gathering as well as printed hand-outs (materials) show that what happened in Lexington was something quite different: it was an effort by Muslim radicals, posing as moderates, to enlist Jews in a campaign against U.S. government counterterrorism efforts.
Even more problematic, at the close of the event, the audience was asked to donate money to support CAIR — the Council on American Islamic Relations, which has been identified by the FBI and others as a front group for Hamas. Hamas’s charter calls for the murder of every Jew on the planet.
The rabbi’s Muslim guests were Nadeem Mazen, a New England director of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, Stephanie Marzouk, the founder of the Muslim Justice League (MJL), and Samer Naseredden, the director of youth programming at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) — New England’s largest mosque.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the FBI, “CAIR and its founders were part of a group set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas.” In 2009, a federal district judge ruled that prosecutors have established “at least a prima facie case as to CAIR’s involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas.” Since then, CAIR has been inciting American Muslims against the U.S. government’s counterterrorism efforts, and the ISBCC and MJL have recently joined its cause.
The rabbi presented his guests as people who are allied with the progressive values of his congregation. In fact, however, Naseredden’s Islamic Society of Boston mosque has a youth training curriculum which can only serve to radicalize the historically moderate Boston Muslim community. Indeed, before it was exposed, the mosque had on its website instructions on how Muslim men should beat their wives. The ISBCC and its sister mosque in Cambridge, where Nadeem Mazen is a prominent member, have been home to at least thirteen convicted, killed, or fugitive terrorists, including the Boston Marathon bombers.
Many of these terrorists are still considered heroes by a significant fraction of the ISBCC’s membership. A few years ago, the ISBCC held a pep rally in support of almost two dozen convicted terrorists from around the country. During the rally, an ISBCC imam called America “the land of the coward, the home of the slave” and threatened that “this nation, by God, will be brought to its knees.”
After the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama’s Justice Department initiated a program called “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) to deal with American-based terrorism. New England’s ADL became an integral part of this effort. Its executive director, Robert Trestan, insists that CVE is vital to Jewish safety, telling Boston’s Jewish Journal: “Islamic extremists are trying to recruit people for violence, particularly violence against Jews. We can’t afford to waste time discussing any longer. We need to take action to prevent them from recruiting vulnerable people in our community.”
Yet, Rabbi Jaffe’s second guest, Ms. Marzouk, told the congregation that she founded the Muslim Justice League to fight against the very CVE effort that ADL considers vital to the safety of New England’s Jews.
Marzouk argued that American Muslims should refuse to give aid to law enforcement officials investigating Islamist terror plots against their fellow Americans. She handed out flyers citing the case of Tarek Mehanna, an ISBCC member and hero among the Massachusetts Islamist community, whom she portrayed as a good fellow unfairly prosecuted and stripped of his liberties by the Obama administration’s anti-Muslim witch-hunt.
What Ms. Marzouk’s fliers didn’t mention was that Mehanna had pledged his loyalty to Al Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of the Islamic State, and that he had plotted a machine gun massacre at a Massachusetts shopping mall. According to the Department of Justice, “Mehanna and his coconspirators, who shared videos of the deaths of American servicemen, seemed to delight in the most horrific atrocities.” (The videos included American soldiers having their rib cages ripped open and set on fire with gasoline. “[N]ice juicy BBQ,” Mehanna gloated. “Texas BBQ is the way to go. . . . I want more BBQ sauce videos.”)
None of this was presented to the congregation, but much of it was known by Rabbi Jaffe — because we had previously shared it with him.
Another of the rabbi’s guests, CAIR director Nadeem Mazen, complained to the gathered Jews that New York cops embedded informants within MIT’s Muslim Students Association when he was its president. But Mazen did not disclose any of the obvious reasons for them to do so: During the time Mazen attended MIT, for example, his spiritual leader, MIT Muslim chaplain Suheil Laher, happened to run Al Qaeda’s main fundraising base in the United States and was linked by the FBI to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The MIT Muslim chaplain openly called for jihad against non-Muslims on his MIT website, and under his influence, another MIT graduate became Al Qaeda’s most notorious female leader, at one point being the most wanted and dangerous woman in the world. Boston’s Islamist leaders consider her, “Lady Al Qaeda,” a hero.
The three honored guests seemed to count on the ignorance of Temple Isaiah’s Jews. Mazen unleashed a string of howlers: “Of course, 0% of Muslims are doing violence in the Greater Boston area,” he insisted. “I would argue that 0% Muslims are doing violence in America at large.” According to Mazen, “it turns out that CAIR isn’t Muslim Brotherhood.” “I mean the Muslim brotherhood doesn’t really exist in this country,” Mazen told the congregation. “There’s no political Islam,” he said. All this in the face of significant amount of federal trial evidence and academic research.
Mazen then blasted Israel and the US. He suggested that the congregation should “engage in difficult conversations” about the supposed “maleficence” of both Israel and the United States, whose governments “often subvert… the will of the people and the natural democracy that it is owed.”
As the program came to a close, the Islamists asked the Lexington Jews for money. “My project this year is I have to raise a million dollars,” Mazen announced. “Don’t send clothes, send money. I’m not afraid to say it anymore.” “Go out and donate to any Muslim organization, ISBCC, CAIR, Jetpac, Muslim Justice League, come on, donate to us,” urged Marzouk.
It seems inconceivable that a Jewish leader would help raise money for organizations connected to terrorism. What would induce the well-intentioned Rabbi Jaffe to do this? Discussions are yielding somewhat differing opinions:
First, it could be political/social pressure. “Jews are like everyone else,” the saying goes, “only more so.” If America is torn by the politics of the day, the Jews are torn more so. Muslims who pretend to be moderate can come to Jews with a tempting proposition: “Trump hates you Jews — he’s got Bannon and the Alt-right. And he hates us with his Muslim ban. So we victim peoples need to band together against this new fascism.”
Many American Jews, feeling rejected on campus and elsewhere by forces on the left for being Zionists, want to cling to their liberal/progressive homes. They can be easily blinded.
On the other hand, some contend that the rabbi is not blinded, and despite his denials, actually knows who these people are, but chooses to act in a way he believes is in the best interest of the Jewish community. Perhaps he believes that, given that Islamist extremists are here and control a growing Muslim population, we must engage them with the hope of influencing, not so much the extremist leaders, but the larger, more moderate Muslim community. Projecting communal goodwill, and demonstrating how wonderful and generous the Jewish community is can only help in this view.
Another view, less kind, is that the rabbi suffers from moral narcissism. Because of an overpowering need to be seen as a morally superior person, he engages in activities that provide him such public recognition — regardless of the consequences. In his progressive milieu, prioritizing the interests of “the other” over the “parochial” interests of the Jews functions as an act of “virtue signaling.”
This view of the rabbi’s actions fits with the morally-inverted social justice priorities of his synagogue, where non-Jewish causes take precedence. Embracing “the other,” even Hamas-affiliated Islamists, seems a more important, and a more virtuous act to Rabbi Jaffe than concern about the plight of the Jews in Europe or the intimidation of Jewish students on campus.
The third view is the simplest, and also the unkindest: Perhaps Rabbi Jaffe is merely a confused and foolish person whose ignorance on a topic is so great that he does not recognize when he is making a foolish mistake. “The fool doth think he is wise,” as Shakespeare wrote. In modern social psychology, this is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. In East European Jewish folklore, it was cautioned against in the Yiddish stories of the “Wise Men of Chelm” (an imaginary city of fools).
Whatever the explanation, it is clear that the ISBCC and CAIR are enlisting an army of delusional, narcissistic but also well-intentioned Jewish rabbis who are unwittingly willing to support organizations and policies that harm the Jewish community, but which provide these rabbis with “social justice” accolades. Boston’s Islamists are planning more “Out of Many, One” events with other rabbis — Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, Massachusetts is next. Rabbi Jaffe was one of their first recruits. He won’t be their last.
Dr. Charles Jacobs is President and Ilya Feoktistov is a member of the Board of Americans for Peace and Tolerance