Antisemitism

‘Satmar Hasidic Jews are certainly not antisemitic’: Nadler invokes Haredi anti-Zionism on floor of Congress

Several congressmen with Haredi constituents opposed a GOP-sponsored resolution that declares all expressions of anti-Zionism to be antisemitic, noting that many Haredim are themselves anti-Zionist

Congressman Mike Lawler after attending a Satmar event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Credit: Shtetl

Dec 5, 2023 4:15 PM

Updated: 

Congress voted today to pass a Republican-led resolution that declares all expressions of anti-Zionism to be antisemitic — even after several House members pointed out that many Haredi Jews are themselves anti-Zionist.

U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler, Jamie Raskin, and Dan Goldman — all Jewish Democrats — invoked the views of Satmar Hasidim as part of their argument against the pro-Israel resolution, which was sponsored by congressmen David Kustoff and Max Miller, the only two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives.

“The resolution states that all anti-Zionism is antisemitism. That is either intellectually disingenuous or just factually wrong,” Nadler said in remarks given on the House floor. “I can assure you that Satmar Hasidic Jews are certainly not antisemitic.”

In a speech delivered on Sunday, Satmar rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum said, “The very foundation of the state of Israel is against God and his holy Torah.” He added, “We pray for our Jewish brethren in the Holy Land, but not for the success of the Zionist state.”

Teitelbaum, who is the leader of the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, is among many Haredim who would now be considered antisemitic under the House resolution.

Congressman Pat Ryan, who represents a district that includes Kiryas Joel, opposed the resolution on Tuesday on the grounds that it “attempts to label thousands of faithful Jewish people in my district as antisemitic,” according to a statement he released on X, formerly Twitter.

Congressman Mike Lawler, who maintains close ties with the Satmar leadership but represents a more diverse Haredi population in Rockland County, supported the resolution.

Satmar Hasidim are opposed to the establishment of a Jewish state before the arrival of the Messiah, and because of Israel's secular orientation. After the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, though, Satmar newspapers offered not only religious perspectives, but also political views that, in some instances, mirrored progressive talking points. One newspaper, Der Blatt, wrote that right-wing Israeli leaders “openly and rudely incite against Arabs and set up new settlements in [Palestinian] areas.”

At the same time, Satmar leaders are wary of their anti-Zionism being used for political purposes, according to a post on a social media account on X linked to Satmar's Aaronite faction. “Our anti-Zionist stance is deeply rooted in religious beliefs, and is fundamentally distinct from political anti-Zionism,” the post read. “Our stance is a principled religious position, and is clearly not a political tool to cover for antisemitic Jew-haters.”

The post did not weigh in on the resolution currently in question, and a representative for Teitelbaum did not immediately respond to a request for the rabbi’s stance on the resolution. 

While the three congressmen didn’t support the resolution, they didn’t vote against it either. “We will vote Present, and we urge our colleagues — regardless of their substantive views of the resolution — to do the same,” they said before the vote, according to a joint press release in which they also invoked Satmar Hasidim.

Goldman’s district includes part of Borough Park, a largely Haredi neighborhood, along with parts of Manhattan and other parts of Brooklyn. Nadler, who was first elected to Congress in 1992, represents parts of Manhattan, but previously represented Goldman’s current district. Raskin represents a district in Maryland.

Lauren Hakimi is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, New York Jewish Week, WNYC/Gothamist and more. She graduated from CUNY Hunter College with degrees in history and English literature. Hailing from an Iranian Jewish community on Long Island, she looks forward to shining a light on stories that matter to the Jewish community. Follow her on Twitter @lauren_hakimi.