Agudath Israel and other Orthodox leaders rebuke Senator Schumer for his anti-Netanyahu speech

Schumer’s speech on the senate floor called for new Israeli elections and for removing Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel

Senator Chuck Schumer. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock

Mar 18, 2024 1:15 PM


Agudath Israel of America, an organization that lobbies for Haredi interests in the U.S., issued a statement last week calling out Senator Chuck Schumer for his speech on the senate floor, in which he called for Israel to hold new elections and for voters to remove Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu from office.

After praising Schumer’s yearslong support for Israel, the statement went on to say, “We are saddened, though, that important aspects of Senator Schumer’s address crossed a line. Indeed, it was the wrong message at the wrong time.”

The statement added, “These intrusive assertions by Senator Schumer would be inappropriate, offensive, and counterproductive at any time. But leveling accusations and criticisms against a steadfast friend during a time of war will only further endanger Israel’s soldiers while they are fighting and dying in pursuit of eradicating the scourge of terrorism.”

Agudah’s statement stopped short of endorsing Israeli prime minister Netanyahu or his government’s policies, focusing instead on an implied threat in Schumer’s speech. As Agudah described it, Schumer threatened the Israeli public that unless they vote for a change in leadership to Schumer’s liking, “the United States ‘will have no choice’ but to leverage its aid to Israel in a manner that will exert pressure on Israel.”

Agudath Israel walks a fine line when it comes to Israel. They tend to express support for Israel and its citizens but avoid endorsing or supporting the Israeli government and its leadership. Leading Israeli government figures have often clashed with Haredim on issues like subsidies for Torah students and exemptions from the military draft.

In November, Agudath Israel was listed as a sponsor of the pro-Israel rally in Washington D.C., but immediately prior to and during the rally, several members of Agudah’s Council of Torah Sages, known as the “Moetzes,” expressed opposition to the rally.

Agudath Israel has a longstanding relationship with Senator Schumer. Last November, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president Rabbi Dovid Zwiebel thanked Senator Schumer in a video statement for working to raise security funding for houses of worship from around $300 million to $1 billion dollars due to the rise in antisemitism in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks.

Schumer has also spoken at various Agudah functions over the years, including at a 2016 dinner in which he reportedly said he’d be upset if his daughter married a non-Jewish man.

Other Orthodox voices have also expressed outrage at Schumer’s remarks. Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, said in a statement, “This is not the speech of a Shomer Yisrael.” Shomer Yisrael is a biblical term for “Guardian of Israel.” The comment appeared to allude to one part of Schumer’s statement: “My last name is Schumer, which derives from the Hebrew word Shomer, or ‘guardian.’”

On X, formerly Twitter, Haredi publication Ami Magazine, called Schumer a “self-hating Jew.” In a subsequent post, Ami Magazine appeared to have a more personal gripe with New York State’s Jewish senator: “@chuckschumer always declined to speak with Ami, which is the largest Jewish publication located in his hometown. Says something about his Jewishness.”

The reaction in the Haredi world is in line with a poll that found that the vast majority of Haredim support the war and many would like to see Israel take over the Gaza strip and permanently displace its current population.

The negative Haredi reaction to Schumer’s speech has come primarily from the non-Hasidic sector. Satmar, one of the largest Hasidic sects in the New York area, has explicitly banned Ami Magazine due its pro-Zionist stance, and Satmar leaders have long enjoyed a friendly relationship with Schumer, who is the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history.