Rabbi Meir David Kahane (July 28, 1932 – November 5, 1990) was an Israeli-American journalist and politician, a member of the 11th Knesset, and a leader of the radical right-wing. He founded the Jewish Defense League in the United States and the Kach movement in Israel, which was disqualified from participating in the Knesset elections in 1988 due to its perceived racist goals.
He served as the head of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva, was a biblical commentator, and authored philosophical works. Kahane was assassinated in New York after delivering a speech, by a Muslim assassin named El Sayyid Nosair, who had ties to Al-Qaeda.
Early Life in the United States
Born as Martin David Kahane (Martin David Kahane) in Brooklyn, New York, USA, to Ezekiel Zerach Kahane, a native of Safed, and Sonia, a Latvian native.
In 1949, after completing elementary and high school studies at Deflet Bush Yeshiva, he studied at the Mir Yeshiva in the United States under Rabbi Abraham Kalmanowitz. In 1957, Rabbi Kalmanowitz ordained him as a rabbi.
In the evenings, he studied at Brooklyn College and earned a bachelor's degree in political science and history in 1954. In 1957, he obtained a second degree in international relations and public international law from New York University, as well as an LLB degree in law from the New York Law School.
In his youth, Kahane was active in the youth movements Betar and Bnei Akiva. He edited Betar's newspaper and served as the head of the Brooklyn district of Betar. Later, he became the head of the Bnei Akiva branch in Brighton Beach and the secretary of the New York district. In 1956, he married Libby Blum, and they had four children.
n 1958, just one month after the birth of their first daughter, he went to Israel to find work and a place to live in order to bring his young family to Israel. After about three months, he returned to the United States.
From 1958 to 1969, he worked in various jobs: for two years, he served as the rabbi of the Ward-Beecher community in Queens, New York. The community nearly doubled during his tenure, and most of its members were not religious.
In March 1960, the community decided not to renew his contract because he educated the youth to observe religious commandments. It divided between his supporters and opponents and ceased to function for several years after his departure.
Afterward, he returned to study at the Mir Yeshiva and made a living from journalism. From 1962 to 1969, he was an assistant editor for the American Jewish weekly "The Jewish Press," where he also published a regular column from 1961 to 1990.
In 1963, he worked as a journalist for the American newspaper "Brooklyn Daily" under the pseudonym Martin Kane. He covered the sports field and also reported on the crime that was spreading in New York at that time. One of his articles received an award.
Journalist Yair Kotler wrote a book titled "HaYeled Kahane" (The Kahane Child), in which he presented information that had been published in various articles in the United States. According to him, Kahane was a secret agent for the FBI for several years in the mid-1960s.
He was recruited as part of the FBI's efforts to infiltrate anti-Vietnam War movements, and he was given the alias "Michael King." According to his cover story, Rabbi Kahane was a Christian-Presbyterian journalist, a representative of the South African news service.
He infiltrated the extreme right-wing anti-Semitic organization John Birch Society, operated in it for about three years, and revealed its sources of funding. He also founded an organization to support the United States' participation in the Vietnam War. In response to rumors about his involvement in the Vietnam War issue, Kahane stated that he supported the war but did not work with the FBI in this context.
According to Yair Kotler and other American journalists, during his time working for the FBI, Kahane had a romantic relationship with a non-Jewish model named Gloria Darganu.
In addition, it is alleged that in 1966, he separated from her and told her that he was married with two children, after which she committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. In 1968, he established the "Eastland Foundation" under her name (the name she used in her modeling career). Rabbi Kahane denied living with a non-Jewish woman.
In the eulogy for Rabbi Meir Kahane, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu spoke about his Torah scholarship, his charitable activities alongside his public work, and the distressed women he managed to save thanks to Kahane's assistance.
The Jewish Defense League and the Struggle for Soviet Jewry
In 1968, Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a militant Jewish-American movement, to protect elderly and poor Jews living in the United States who suffered from anti-Semitism. He organized young Jews, many of whom were disconnected from Judaism, instilled in them Jewish pride, and trained them to defend and protect Jews from anti-Semitic attacks.
For this purpose, he had connections with the Colombo crime family, and he even stood alongside the head of the family, Joe Colombo, who was later assassinated by his rivals. Kahane confirmed these details in an interview with "Playboy" magazine in 1972.
The FBI monitored his activities in the organization. In 1971, several legal cases were filed against him: he was charged with disorderly conduct during a protest against the Soviet delegation in 1969 and received a fine. In March, he was arrested along with a thousand other Jews during a protest in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Soviet Refuseniks.
In April, he was arrested during a violent protest in front of the Iraqi mission to the United Nations in Manhattan, following reports of the arrest of thirty-eight Jews in Iraq and the fear that they would be killed.
He was charged with incitement to riot but was ultimately acquitted. He was also charged with manufacturing explosives without a license, as demonstrated in front of JDL trainees.
When asked if he would use explosives against Soviet targets, he replied that he would not hesitate because the Soviet Union was a dictatorship that did not allow any form of protest. The judge ruled that it was not proven that Kahane's actions caused physical harm and sentenced him to five years of probation and a fine of $5,000.
Rabbi Kahane participated in demonstrations organized by Jacob Birnbaum for Soviet Jewry from the mid-1960s. However, he was not satisfied with the non-violent civil rights struggle and, in the late 1960s, left Birnbaum's group and began to work in other ways to open the gates of the Soviet Union to Jews who wanted to emigrate.
JDL activists, under Kahane's leadership, acted against Soviet representatives and diplomats in the United States. This activity included planting bombs, one of which killed a young Jewish secretary; "disrupting" performances by artists who came from the Soviet Union to perform in the United States as part of cultural exchanges; threatening to assassinate Soviet diplomats in response to the execution of Jews in their home country; and violent demonstrations that accompanied Russian diplomats.
Supporters believe that Kahane's activities brought the issue to the attention of the American government, which had not previously been interested in it, and that Jews and Israel hesitated to deal with it.
In an article about Rabbi Kahane and his ideology (see below), his daughter, Nitza Kahane, wrote that he "succeeded in bringing his cause to the global consciousness and, through public opinion, 'compelling' both superpowers to be more liberal towards Jews and to allow them to immigrate to Israel."
- מאיר כהנאhe.wikipedia.org