Aug. 1, 1932Nov. 5, 1990

The son of Rabbi and Mrs. Charles Kahane, Meir David Kahane zt’l, hy’d made a commitment to his Jewish identity early in life. As a child he joined the Betar youth movement. An unforgettable moment in the young Kahane’s life was when he was introduced to a close friend of his father who had come to stay for a few days at the Kahane home. That man was the great Zev Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of Betar, and the most influential person in Meir Kahane’s life.

Rabbi Kahane received his smicha — ordination as rabbi — from the world famous Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, N.Y. He also earned an International Law degree from New York University. Rabbi Kahane served as a pulpit rabbi and teacher in NY in the early- and mid-1960’s. During that time he also was one of the editors of the Jewish Press, which is the largest Anglo-Jewish newspaper in the world. He worked as a correspondent for the Jewish Press until his tragic death. Rabbi Kahane was the author of many books on Judaism, Israel, Torah and politics. he wrote books in English and in Hebrew. Rabbi Kahane was well-known for his electrifying speeches on university campuses and in synagogues throughout Israel, America and the world. He was viewed as an eloquent, dynamic spokesman and orator, appearing frequently on radio and TV talk shows. He had made aliyah (immigration to Israel) with his wife and four children in 1971.

Rabbi Kahane founded the militant Jewish Defense League — his greatest legacy — in 1968 to combat the rampant growth of anti-Semitism in the inner cities. At that time, the poor and elderly Jews were easy targets for Jew hating thugs. Rabbi Kahane rescued these abandoned Jews and changed the image of the weak and vulnerable Jew to one of a mighty fighter who strikes back fiercely against tyrants. Jew-haters around the world soon began to respect and fear the wrath and retribution of Kahane’s Chaya Squad, a group within the JDL, which succeeded in instilling fear in the hearts of the would-be criminals against Jews. The JDL went on to conquer other local issues and problems as well as global Jewish problems.

The JDL was the first group to really bring world attention to the plight of Soviet Jewry. They did so by engaging in unconventional and often violent tactics which succeeded in highlighting the plight of millions of oppressed Jews, suffering behind the Iron Curtain. The JDL succeeded in moving the issue off of the back pages and on to the front pages, where it belonged. Kahane was the “Moses” for Russian Jewry. It wasn’t long before the major Jewish establishment organizations were embarrassed and forced into action, after so many years of apathy and indifference. Russian Jews started to flow out by the hundreds of thousands, thanks to Rabbi Kahane’s dedication and vision. But as Rabbi Kahane said, “More than what we did for Russian Jewry was what they did for the young and lost American Jewish youth who finally had a Jewish cause to fight for, and boy did they fight, without sleep and at a risk to their freedom they did that which their parents never did for their Jewish brothers and sisters who perished during the Holocaust.”

Rabbi Kahane was jailed many times and was sentenced to prison terms for his actions related to the campaign on behalf of Soviet Jews. Other famous causes that Rabbi Kahane fought for dealt with Jewish identity and continuity. Far before the Jewish establishment realized that there was a problem, Rabbi Kahane was demanding that Jewish funds go for Jewish causes, primarily for Jewish education. He spoke out against intermarriage and assimilation among Jewish youth. He saved thousands of lost Jewish souls from spiritual destruction. Aliyah to Israel was another key campaign launched by Rabbi Kahane. In fact, he was assassinated lecturing at an emergency Z.E.E.R.O. conference calling for the mass Aliyah of American Jewry. He directly convinced hundreds of Jewish families to make Aliyah.

After Rabbi Kahane immigrated to Israel he formed the Kach movement. Kach was most famous for its platform calling for the removal of the hostile Arab population from Israel and demanding the annexation of all of the territories liberated in 1967 and unlimited Jewish settlement there. He believed that settling the land without removing the hostile Arab enemies would be counter productive. He predicted autonomy and retreat far before Likud ever signed the Camp David Accords and before the Oslo Declaration of Principles were dreamed up. Rabbi Kahane was despised by many for quoting Jewish sources about Jews being a chosen nation and the exclusive owners of Eretz Israel. Many hated him for pointing out the contradiction between authentic Judaism and Western style democracy. “Judaism is not Thomas Jefferson and the Middle East is not the Midwest,” he would say. Rabbi Kahane made “comfortable” Jews feel uncomfortable for forcing them to deal with the painful truth and painful answers to problems they refused to think about. Rabbi Kahane was jailed and imprisoned many times in Israel by both Labor and Likud governments. He was the first Jew to be held under administrative detention without charges or due process. He was also the first Jew charged with sedition for his population exchange proposal, a peace-process proposal now endorsed by several “establishment” leaders.

Rabbi Kahane also pioneered the campaign to save Syrian and Ethiopian Jewry as well as the battle against cults and missionaries in the Holy Land. Rabbi Kahane dreamed of creating an independent Israel which would no longer fear the Gentiles. He dreamed of a state of Israel that would sanctify G-d’s name through Jewish power and faith in G-d.

Rabbi Kahane was elected to Knesset in 1984. He headed the quickest growing party in Israel’s history. Polls predicted him receiving as many as 12 seats in the 1988 elections. If he would not have been banned from participating in the elections he would have turned in to the third largest party in Israel, on the way to becoming its next Prime Minister. The Likud and Labor parties joined together and banned Kahane from the 1988 elections in order to assure their own survival.

Two years later, following Succot, 1990, the Rabbi traveled to America with the intention of establishing a new organization: ZEERO (Zionist Emergency Evacuation Organization). The purpose of the organization was to convince Jews to “liquidate the exile before the exile liquidates them.” On November 11 th 1990, he gave a lecture at the Marriott Hotel in New York, underlining this burning issue, and explaining the importance in the Jewish people leaving the lands of the exile and coming home to the Land of Israel. When he finished speaking, he took personal questions from the crowd when he was approached small, tubby, nondescript man with a scruffy beard lurking close by. As the Rabbi continued to address his supporters and other members of the crowd he was suddenly shot twice and fell bleeding to the ground. The murderer, Arab Egyptian terrorist El Said Nossair, tried to escape (wounding a civilian and a policeman in the process,) but was shot and caught.

Despite all the flashing lights that pointed towards Nossair’s involvement in international Islamic terrorism, and the existence of something much more sinister than an isolated murder committed by a crazed lone gunman, the FBI treated the case as an ordinary homicide, ruling out any idea of a conspiracy. At the trial, the jury found Nossair not-guilty of murder on a technicality, but sent him to jail for illegal possession of weapons. In 1993, however, the short-sightedness of the FBI in their investigation of the murder of Rabbi Kahane was exposed to the world when the Twin Towers was detonated by members of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization, killing six people and wounding over a hundred. Only at this point were federal charges finally opened against Nossair, and in 1995 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for belonging to the same cell which blew up the Twin Towers in 1993. The continued neglect of the FBI during the Kahane murder case in fact contributed to the WTC attack on September 11, 2001. If Nossair had been properly investigated following the Rabbi’s murder, the full extent of the plot would have been unraveled, and he and his cohorts never would have managed to carry it out.

Rabbi Kahane was buried in the Har Haminuchot cemetery in Jerusalem, near his father, his father in law, and his mother in law. The Rabbi’s funeral was one of the largest in Israel’s history, where approximately 150,000 participated.

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