Israel

YY Jacobson on Neturei Karta: ‘I doubt they’re really Jewish,’ claims they are agents of Iran

The popular Chabad rabbi said members of the anti-Israel group are “very sick people” and their actions “like marching with Hitler”

Neturei Karta members at a pro-Palestine demonstration. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dec 26, 2023 6:45 PM

Updated: 

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson, a leading Chabad rabbi and popular speaker for Haredi audiences, said earlier this month that he does not believe members of the anti-Israel Neturei Karta group are “really Jewish,” saying they and others who share their views are “very sick people” and are “poison.” 

Jacobson, a well-known figure within Monsey's Haredi community, offered his remarks at an event on the 19th of Kislev, the anniversary of the day when Chabad’s founder, known as the Alter Rebbe, was released from prison. 

Chabad and Neturei Karta are at opposite ends of the Haredi spectrum of beliefs about Israel. Members of the Neturei Karta, a very small group founded in Jerusalem in 1938, often join pro-Palestine protests and believe that Jews should not have their own state before the arrival of the messiah. Members of Chabad, a prominent worldwide Jewish movement, tend to be strongly supportive of Israel and its military.

“It's like somebody marching with Hitler,” Jacobson said during his talk, and suggested that his audience “have compassion” for Neturei Karta members, “but not tolerate their views, because they're lethal, they're poison."

Jacobson also said he believes Neturei Karta members to be “Iran agents,” though he offered no evidence for this. 

Members of Neturei Karta have met numerous times with leaders of Iran, which, according to Israel, poses an existential threat to the Jewish state and its citizens. In 2006, a spokesperson for Neturei Karta defended those meetings, saying, “We are trying to establish a dialogue with those who are the enemies of the Jewish people.” Neturei Karta has also faced physical violence over its stance, according to a report in the New York Times.

While many Haredim hold anti-Zionist views, Neturei Karta has differed from others by cheering Palestinians after attacks on Jews and believing that Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups constitute legitimate resistance movements against Israel.

In recent days, a short excerpt of Jacobson’s speech circulated widely on social media, though it received some pushback from other Haredim. Jake Turx, the White House correspondent for the Haredi magazine Ami, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Judaism demands love of every Jew, “especially the ones that are the hardest to love.”

Neturei Karta has been strongly criticized within the Haredi world. Last month, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, a leader of one faction within Satmar, which is itself anti-Zionist, condemned Neturei Karta for supporting those who committed atrocities against Jews. "It's a terrible desecration of God's name to support murderers in the name of the holy Torah and God's name," Teitelbaum said.

In an email to Shtetl on Tuesday, Jacobson seemed to back away from his own comments. “I have no real knowledge on this,” he said regarding his claim that Neturei Karta members were not Jewish. “The video was taken in response to a question at an event so I just shared my feelings.”

Jacobson is the son of Gershon Jacobson, who was the founder of the Algemeiner Journal, a newspaper focused on Jewish and Israel-related news.

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.