Chabad & Zionism – Complicated Relationship

By: Sholom Kesselman

Chabad is in a very complicated relationship with the State of Israel. We are pro Israel but anti Zionism. We support the country and its military and work / pray for its success but don’t sing Hatikavah or hang any Israeli flags in our Shuls. We love Israel but we don’t mark or celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.

I would like to shed some light on this otherwise complex issue and perhaps suggest an approach which might be helpful to anyone looking for the genuine Chabad ideology vis a vis Israel.

There are three main reasons why the Chabad Rebbes were vehemently anti Zionism.

  1. The state was being founded by secular- anti religious people with a deliberate anti religious agenda. Many G-d fearing Jews lost or gave up being religious because of Zionism.
  2. Founding an independent Jewish state before the coming of Moshiach is Halachically problematic.
  3. The establishment of the state was being considered “Aschalta D’Geulah” – “the beginning of the redemption” and this was seen as almost blasphemous.

Because of these reasons, the Chabad Rebbes fought the Zionist movement and were against the establishment of the State.

It seems though that their position softened somewhat during and after the Holocaust. It became apparent then that we Jews had nowhere to go and we needed a safe haven somewhere. As such the only viable option was Israel and the founding of the state.

Furthermore once the state was established, there was no longer a point to fighting its existence. The fact was that there was a state and it was there to stay. So we accepted the situation and turned our effort instead to helping Israel in any way we could.

The further reality that millions of Jews were settling there meant that the fate of the Jews was tied to the fate of the land and therefore the state had to be supported. So Chabad became pro Israel because we are pro Jews and it was no longer possible to separate the issues. The country had to flourish economically and militarily for the sake of the Jewish people and so Chabad threw all their resources into “Yishuv Ha’aretz” – developing the land.

However we remained anti Zionism.

The nature of the founding of the state in 1948 remains problematic and the anti religiousness of it forever cast it and its founders in a negative and sad light. We can never celebrate that accomplishment or see it as redemption like.

To us Israel is the country given to us by G-d in the Torah, it is a Jewish country that should be filled with holiness and Torah and that is the country we will support and work to establish.

We won’t celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, sing Hatikvah, raise an Israeli flag or say Hallel, in fact quite the contrary. We will forever contemplate what could’ve been and how Jews coming back to Israel could’ve constituted a revival of Torah and Judaism and possibly then had Messianic meaning.

But at the same time we will strongly support the Jews there, the military, the economy and the development of the state. We love Israel and we love Jews and wish only success for our country.

Instead of fighting the secularism of the state, we have made it our mission to spread Torah and Judaism there and reach out with love to all our Jewish brothers and sisters there to help them see the light and beauty of the Torah.

We don’t believe that the founding of the state was the beginning of the redemption but we are at the forefront of the effort to bring Moshiach. We believe that very soon Moshiach will come and then we will see G-d’s presence return to Zion!


p.s We would love to hear your feedback and comments on this article. Please use the comments section to continue this discussion further.

40 thoughts on “Chabad & Zionism – Complicated Relationship

  1. Very well stated.
    Its sad how so many Lubvitchers and Shluchim have forgotten how much Agmas Nefesh this whole Parsha gave the Rabeim.
    You state our objections in no uncertain terms but still have us come across as lovers of Israel as we are.
    Yasher Koach


    1. 2.000 years of a cruel diaspora didn’t teach us nothing ?
      6 million Jews ,among them 1.5 million children slaughter in the Holocaust didn’t make us think about the importance to have a Jewish State, with a Jews army,for “never again” be a reality and not just another prayer?
      Mashiach will come when the time is the right one. And in the meantime we went from powerless to powerful.
      Zionism is the Liberation Movement (from death !!) of the Jewish Nation, and is amazing that chasidim and antisemitics delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel. How sad is it ?


    2. Just like you supporting Israel but will not sing hatikva just like you won’t celebrate yon hahazmahut. I will come to your synagogue and pray but I won’t give you a dime. I can surly afford but I will not


  2. Does the State of Israel need to be re-established to fulfill the vision of Moshiach? Or can it grow naturally from the present situation?
    In other words, is it compatible with Chabad ideology to say that the establishment of the State of Israel can be used (or transformed) into a step in the direction of Moshiach — that now קיבוץ גלויות, מלכות ישראל, בנין בית המקדש, etc. will be easier to accomplish? Or do we hold that the State in its currently established form can never be part of the era of Moshiach?


  3. I think that the main problem of Zionism is missing over here. like the Rebbe N”E (rash”b) writes in his famous letter about Zionism: until Zionism it was clear that being Jewish meant keeping Torah laws, whoever left the practice of Judaism was clearly making a statement that he doesn’t want to remain part of the Jewish people and it was clear that there was no alternative to it. Zionsim came and said that being Jewish doesn’t consist in practicing Torah but rather the Jewish nation is a nation like any other, and so being Jewish is being nationalist. If you speak Hebrew, live in Israel and celebrate independence day you’re a good Jew.

    This issue remains till today unfortunately.


    1. I don’t know if thats accurate. The haskalah movement existed before zionism. Jews existed in Israel in various states of religiosity prior to the establishment of Israel. And, finally, this perspective excludes the entire Sephardic world (many of whom immigrated to israel and are fundamental to the establishment of it) who did identify/act not in the most observant ways.


      1. This article isn’t discussing immigrants to and residents of EY, but the *philosophy* of Zionism, both pre- and post-state. In that regard, I think it’s quite accurate–Zionism came to replace Jewish identity through Torah observance with a Jewish identity through secular nationalism.


      2. We need to study a little. Inside to the Zionist Movement there were many orthodox rabbis. Is anybody discussing the Rabbinical statue of Rabbi Kook, or a zionist religious movement that build kibutzim while living a life of mitzvot?
        Zionism didn’t come to replace any Jewish identity,but to create a democratic State where all streams of Judaism will have a place to develop and express themselves as they wish.


      3. Thank you Benny for being the voice of reason. Chabad is self-righteous and full of hippocracy, just like all of us Jews. It’s time for them to get off their high horse and raise an Israeli flag for crying out loud. They probably just want to finally be taken seriously by Satmar so they don’t celebrate Israeli Independence. Wow, that has so much integrity…


  4. Just stumbled upon your blog, and I identify with everything you wrote regarding this matter and about chabad lite. From what I read so far, your Hashkofos are very much correct, and well written. Please continue to write.


  5. I heard from my father that the Rebbe stated that, if the State of Israel had declared that the 6-Day war was miraculous, Moshiach would have come.
    He also said the impact of the 6-Day war on Americans Jews publicly identifying as Jewish was unmatched. Jews started wearing kippot on the street, and G.I. Joe came out with a Jewish soldier.
    In other words, I think it’s like the process of teshuva. It can be gradual… or it can be overnight… but the person before and after teshuva is both exactly the same person and completely different at the same time.


  6. No one had answered Zalman’s question above.

    Further, how can the restoration of Jewish sovereignty and the ingathering of a large proportion of the exiles be said not to have any messianic import?


  7. It’s hypocritical of Chabad not to celebrate Yom Ha tzma’ut and it lacks major integrity, especially in this day and age. It’s time for Chabad to get off it’s high horse. Are they afraid of Satmar further dismissing there hassidus, is this part of the reason? As far as I’m concerned all the reasons you mention lack integrity and it’s time to re-think this decision.


  8. Yasher koach!
    Very well written and BH finally clarified for a lot of us… Yes, an answer Zalman’s and Avi’s questions would be much appreciated…

    Is the Author former YG Melbourne Shliach (2006) and Menahel of Cheder Menachem in Los Angeles/ a relative of current YG Melbourne Shliach


  9. We’re in great shape. Everybody is dancing at their own wedding. There are hundreds of nusachos, customs vary in abundance, this one doesn’t eat that ones shchita, a plethora of kashrut agencies and neighborhoods that are exclusive according to which Rebbe you follow.
    What a great army we make. It’s pathetic and all the so called religious leaders will one day have to answer for why they were more interested in themselves than in the Jewish people and their needs.


  10. chabad forgives countless jews for their past actions and opens its heart to the possibility of improving its future, yet chabad cannot forgive the leaders of zionism for what they had to do in order to create a state that has saved or improved the lives of millions of jews. more torah is studied today in israel than was studied in the entire world before 1948. the creation of the state was a miracle and the zionist leaders were strengthened by hashem’s hand to perform the will of hashem.


  11. My thinking is that 70 years after the establishment of the state of Israel the Moshiah did not come and Israel is a democratic state with freedom for its citizens.It is a thriving state opening up new financial opportunities with India ,China,Japan and other countries in the east. Israel is now helping African countries to improve their farming output. Therefore Israel is doing well without the Moshiah who will never come.The story of Moshiah is a phoney fable without any mention in the Torah.Why should Hashem abrogate his authority to a fictional personage?If the Moshiah did not come during the holocaust or life of the Rebbe he will never come. Time to realize the futility of this folk tale.


  12. what Chabad should be doing is beating their breasts on Yom Kippur asking forgiveness from all those who were told by their Rebbe and almost all Orthodox Rabbis not to leave Europe and got to Israel as the Zionists were begging them to do. They totally misread Jewish history and they still don’t get it. It is Medinat Yisrael which rescued 800,000 Jews from the Arab countries; 1,000,000 from the Soviet Union; 100,000 from Ethiopia and will do the same for French Jews if they are next in line to feel threatened. Chabad does a good job with bringing Jewish souls back to Yiddishkeit. Kol HaKavod to them. But it is Medinat Yisrael that saves the bodies that those souls are in and Chabad’s inability to get off it’s nonsense philosophy about what and when is the ‘Geulah’ (as if they have any idea) is a horrible sin against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Luckily their views on this do not hold sway and Medinat Yisrael is there to save their bodies in Israel. Chabad prayers and study won’t save a single Jewish body – and without Jewish bodies there is no opportunity to refine their Jewish souls. Shame on Chabad for their blindness, their stubborness and most of all their self imposed ignorance.


  13. Halacha overlooks the TWO worldwide returns. ( Yeshuayahu 11:1ff Isaiah speaks of the second and last return *with the messiah. The first return happens out of extreme persecution and in preparation for judgement the second worldwide regathering takes place in preparation of the Messianic kingdoms ( the world to come). Understanding these two returns explains this present return in unbelief (ie secular leaders and nation) and it prepares the nation for the future final return.


  14. Hello all
    I was wondering how does Chabad explain all the miracles that have been associated with The state of Israel. Do you know that Ben Gurion, the same anti religious socialist that committed a lot of acts against anti religious jews, was the one that insisted that the declaration of independence of the state of Israel would end with the words: “Mitoch Bitachon Bezur Israel we are putting our signatures here today” which means that with confidence in the “Hashem” we sign our names here today, and had to convince all the socialist and communist delegates for it…. That is why there is a big space between the end of the writings and start of the signatures….. This sentence was added after the signatures of the religious parties were placed, when Ben Gurion convinced his communist and socialist to include this end statement since he realized that it would take the grace of G’d to enable the Jewish state and people to survive against all the armies that were ready to annihilate it. This fact was disclosed by his former secretary Yitzchak Navon who was one of the presidents of Medinat Israel….And if any of the Chabad scholars had read “Toldot Milchemet Ha’komemiut” (the ten volumes of all the stories of all the battles included in the wars for independence in 1948) , they would have come across so many thousands of instances when due to “inexplicable causes” as stated in these book, the battle ended in victory of the Jewish soldiers….
    How about all holocaust survivors that mounted the buses going to Latrun to fight for opening the road to Jerusalem during the Independence war, since they knew that without Jerusalem the state of Israel will be like a person without its heart…. and many of them died. Can you say they were fools and died in vain? And how about of the wonderful people that gave their souls to defend and maintain the State of Israel. What can you tell their families? I wonder….
    And how about the miracles of the Six Days War and the miracles of Yom Kippur war when a great victory took place in the former, and no massacres happened in the latter?
    Don’t you Chabad people recognize it the Acts of G’d for the State of Israel?
    When will you wake up?
    And how about the young generation of kids you educate in your Sunday Schools? Why don’t you teach them Hebrew to make it easier for them to make Aliya should they elect so? In depriving them from fluency in Hebrew you violate one of the elements that kept Jews Jewish in ancient Egypt (they conserved their Hebrew language)……
    Did you know that nowadays there is a revival of Yiddishkeit in Israel? High schools have classes like SInai Scholars in the States that introduce them into our heritage and invite tem to spend Shabbat with a religious one? Did you know that many communist Kibbutzim have synagogues built and the third generation of the founding socialist “fathers” are Chozrim Betshuva?
    Why do think the arabs hate “Zionism”? They accept the Jews as second grade citizens in their own states, that can be put down or massacred if they so willed, but do not accept the Zionist revival of the Jews that resulted in the Jewish State of Israel, and fight it at all frontiers….They do not accept that fact that we are living the Godly promise to Abraham : Lezar’acha Eten et Ha’aretz Hazot…. And you do the same by not accepting Medinat Israel.
    What is the matter with you? You need to open your eyes and see what G’d has done and is doing day by day.
    Being an Israeli born person, I say what lots of people (of all streams) say, when being asked by Israelis “Ma Shlomech” ( “how do you do”): “Yitbarach Shmo Yom Yom” (May His name be blessed every day)….
    Something to think about for all of us.


  15. I don’t think the seventh Rebbe was anti Zionist or against me
    dinat Yisrael. The sixth Rebbe was. The last Rebbe never used the word and never spoke against the state. He was very against ceding any territory, he was supportive of Israeli soldiers and there are quite a few chabadniks who did and do serve in tzahal. Zionism simply means supporting a national homeland for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael. Every dictionary says that. The Hungarian Rebbes such as Muncasz and Satmar were virulently against it based on the three shevuos, a very dubious proposition. That’s medrash not halacha. You want find it in the Rambam or shulchan aruch and no Litvishe (maybe some) takes it seriously. Others are against it because the originators were not frum or anti frum. That didn’t deter Rav Kook or Rav Kalisher, no light weights. It all seems academic now anyway. Are the antis really going to be on the side of the Arabs? A few are.


  16. Zionism is very basic belief that Jews have a right to have a state of their in our ancient homeland. This state came to being in 1949. This state welcomes all the different types of Jews whatever their degree of obeying the mitzvot or if they do not obey the mitzvot.

    This state protects all Jews. Given the continuous antisemitism in the world it is very possible without the State of Israel (Zion) the Jewish people could vanish from the earth. Supporting the State of Israel and Am Yisrael is a mitzvoh. All Jews should support Israel and its people.


  17. 1. “Founding an independent Jewish state before the coming of Moshiach is Halachically problematic.”

    So doesn’t the insistence that Shneerson is still alive resolve this issue?

    2. If I wanted a dead moshiach I would join a Christian church.

    3. There is good reason for me to fear that your great-grandchildren might kill my great-grandchildren for not accepting Shneersus as the Messiah.

    4. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the “tefillin at gunpoint” tactics perpetuated by Chabadniks during my college days.

    5. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the shtick Shemtov Sr. pulled in Philadelphia 40 years ago on my newly-widowed grandmother to get her out of her house so that one of his acolytes could purchase it cheaply.

    That said, I was pleased to no end when Lubavitch of Montgomery County opened up its facility on Fort Washington Avenue, just a few hundred meters from Upper Dublin High School, in the late 1990’s. When my family moved to the area, my sister and I were Jewish Kids Number 7 and 8 (or 9 and 10, depending upon how you counted the Mischlinge) in the junior high school. I shall not now detail all of the incidents, from Day One, which made us uncomfortable, but the shul on Fort Washington Avenue is a fitting payback to Upper Dublin.


  18. The Chabad Movement is probably the most inclusive, least judgmental stream of Judaism in the world. The Rebbe (Menachem Schneerson z”l) promoted cooperation with, and actually influenced and aided streams of Progressive Judaism (specifically Reform) in bringing back traditional observances and halacha.
    Chabad is also the most influential stream of Judaism in the world. With hundreds of schluchim in virtually every country, with access to and influence with foreign leaders, Chabad could with ONE CHANGE help Israel’s security, objectives and goals with foreign countries and those leaders.
    Now is the time for Chabad to endorse and celebrate the success of Zionism, acknowledge that the Zionist leaders had Neshuma and (whether they knew it or not) were doing the will of Hashem, ingathering the Jewish people to the land that He gave to us. Chabad should, with one stroke, sing the Hatikva, raise the Israeli flag, and promote the “spoken” Hebrew language among its youth. Chabad, with its respect around the world, could be the most important force since the early Zionist dreamers, leaders and pioneers for the security and well being of Israel.
    For me, it’s chutzpah for Chabad leadership to represent they definitely know the will of Hashem, and not acknowledging that Israel may be the necessary link in preparing for the ultimate coming of the Mosiach.
    The Jewish people are to be the light unto the nations. As the Aleinu states, we are not unlike other people, and pray one day all humanity will recognize and acknowledge Hashem. Israel is fulfilling this prayer – the most exciting startup nation in the world in medicine, technology, agriculture, and humanitarian tzdekah to those countries in need.
    Time is now for Chabad acknowledgment. It will make a difference, and hasten the return of the Mosiach.


  19. Thanks for this article. I am teaching a course on religious views on the State of Israel in my shul and find this valuable. 2 observations:
    1. What you describe is the Lubavitch view. Not all Chabad Chassidim were Lubavitch. The obvious counter example is Rav Zevin who was a card carrying member of Mizrachi.
    2. You don’t entertain the notion that the 6th and 7th Lubavitcher Rebbes had different views on this matter. I don’t know either of their works well enough to construct an intelligent argument one way or the other, but this always seemed to me to be a relevant factor.


  20. I affiliate with a Chabad congregation, and I greatly respect and am deeply grateful to this organization and to the Rebbe, but if you don’t see Hashem’s hand actively at work in creating Israel, you are blind. Too many “coincidences,” too much “luck,” too many unlikely things happening, like bitter enemies (the US and USSR) BOTH supporting its creation. Hashem knew EXACTLY what He was doing. Wake up!


  21. If you arr anti zionism iwould respect your position a lot more if you didnt use any welfare or social services by the state. Are all large families in kfar chabad paying their own way ot are they using services that woukd not be available to them if the ottomans or british were stilm calling the shots? I love chabad but this is a chink in your moral armour


  22. It’s 2018. Israel’s 70th birthday. I have had dreams of being a mother holding a baby in a concentration camp and unable to get out of the barracks even though it’s completely empty. It’s with great pride that Gratitude that I owe the pioneers of Israel my life for without them we all know it can happen again. Look around it already is. So, I thank Hashem for Israel. I thank Hashem for the gift to his Jewish people. There would be no state of Israel if G-d didn’t want it to be. I am Pure Jewish and Pure Zionist. Chabad can do what they please as Hashem will do as he pleases and Israel pleases Hashem.


  23. I was reading or overflowing the previous comments before writing mine. In the negative responses I sensed hate, obviously or most probably rooted in some personal negative experience with some individuals in Chabad, or in the perception that religion means oppression of personal freedom. To all who feel hate against Chabad, or any other Jewish person, congregation or organization, a very humble suggestion: as long as you agree that hating Isa matter of choice, Jew hating Jew is not a choice, irrespective how much you disagree with her/his/their position. Further humble suggestion, based on a long life’s experience: don’t attack a position, based on assumptions; study and understand first the standpoint, then make your informed decision. If you don’t act the wise way, you are a leadings the wind of populists who suck your energy to gain power and manipulate masses, while giving you the sweet deceiving sense of freedom and free will.

    And now my comment to the actual article: I agree in principle with the statements about Zionism, reasons against it, as well as with support for Israel as country. I would though emphasize more the miracles keeping this country alive – proof, I guess and hope, of Hashem’s support for it; the amazing transformation of ALL the Jews in Israel, including the secular or semi-secular ones (compare their courage and honesty with the state of spirit of the Jews in 19 century’s W Europe, or in beginning 20 century’s E. Europe), I would humbly recommend to show respect for the state symbols, especially for the flag with its truly mystic and powerful symbol Magan David, and I would also dare to admire the state’s institutions, especially its legal system: it is not (yet) Halakha indeed (therefor we wait for Moishach), but is probably the most righteous among all nations’… Let’s remind ourselves: Moshe’s mission with Israel, given by Hashem, was to create a nation of priests, but when the folk settled down among other nations, they wanted to adjust and chose Saul as king. And Didn’t Hashem accept the compromise? Is it appropriate, dear Chabad, to consider that Hashem agrees again to today’s compromise. But, to your point, dear Chabad, from Moshe to Saul, to the Romans and to the Shoah, the spiritual trip was descending. It appears to me, may this be, with G-d’s help, blessed be He, that the current spiritual trip in Israel is ascending, in Israel, towards Moishach’s arrival, and is miraculously contrary to what happens elsewhere in the world…


  24. So you were against Zionism and the creation of Israel until you realized how necessary it was during and after the Shoah. Then you wanted somewhere to be safe. You were against Zionism because the Messiah was not sent and G-d didn’t signal it was time for Israel, but the threat of annihilation changed your minds. You now are grateful for what Zionism brought about but you still are anti-Zionist because Zionists created a secular state – even though YOU DIDN’T WANT A RELIGIOUS STATE BECAUSE G-D DID NOT YET COMMAND IT!? Yet you enjoy it and reap it’s fruits. You wanted secular Zionists to enforce religion on the Jews who moved to Israel yet it wasn’t the minds of religious Jews who brought about Israel it was the thinking of secular Jews and you still don’t accept the Zionist parts of their minds and hearts.

    I think you need to take a long look in the mirror and think about what you owe to Zionists and how right they are/were. You want to peacefully and respectfully encourage secular Jews to take up religion in Israel (no implication as to your current behavior here)? I’m ok with that. But you should not reject Zionism simply because it did not force or even encourage religion on Israelis. You should realize that Zionism was just a way to create a safe home for Jews and Israel happened to be ideal and available. You should realize there was no attempt to eradicate religion or violate G-d’s instructions and realize how hypocritical it is to fault Zionists for making a SECULAR state without G-d’s signal to make a RELIGIOUS state and then support that state but still snub the ideology that brought it about.

    I’ve repeated myself a bit but oh well. I’m a proud Zionist and all I want is a place where Jews are free from persecution of any form – and that includes secular Jews free from persecution for their agnosticism, atheism, or even their apathy.


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