Baltimore Jews call rabbi victim of his preaching

November 07, 1990|By Robert A. Erlandson

Baltimore-area Jewish religious and lay leaders reacted with horror yesterday to the assassination in New York of extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, with some saying he fell victim to the anti-Arab violence he preached.

Those interviewed deplored the fact that Arab-Jewish tensions of the Middle East had been transferred violently to the United States and that murder was again considered a possible solution.

Among the views expressed about the slain leader -- a New York native who emigrated to Israel in 1971 -- was that he held "aberrent political views," "made a career of preaching violence" and "was not a positive Jewish role model."

At Beth Israel Congregation in Randallstown, Rabbi Seymour L. Essrog said the assassination ratchets Arab-Israeli tension up several notches and will inevitably lead to further violence. Rabbi Kahane himself "became a victim of the violence he espoused," said Rabbi Essrog.

William H. Engelman, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said that while Rabbi Kahane was philosophically "not part of the mainstream" of Jewish thought, "everybody deplores the shooting. The violence is upsetting no matter who's involved."

Allen L. Schwait, the Baltimore Jewish Council's former president and executive director, said he was horrified by both the assassination and reports that two elderly Palestinians were shot to death in the Israeli-occupied West Bank by a motorist driving a car with Israeli license plates in apparent retalation for Rabbi Kahane's death.

At the Columbia Jewish Congregation, Rabbi Martin Siegel said: "We see now that if you create a climate where people see others as antagonistic it can end up in violence," he said. "Let's hope this event reminds people that we need to avoid the polarization Kahane represented. His death tells us where it can lead."

Rabbi Murray Saltzman of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation said the Kahane slaying is "tragic for us as Americans" and has "a chilling effect because of the fearful prospect" that political violence can strike anywhere.

A wave of fundamentalism and reaction is sweeping the world, Rabbi Saltzman said, and "the tension and anxiety leads people to assume rigid, demagogic positions. That is the reality we find at work and in its hey-day."

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