Rabbis Troubled as Zivotofsky Case Goes to Supreme Court

Mar 30, 2011, 16:25 ET from Jewish Response

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Zivotofsky family, Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY9) and the law firm of Lewin & Lewin, LLP, are currently petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case of Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State. Rabbis representing the organization Jewish Response fear that publicity surrounding this case may misrepresent the views of large communities of American Jews.

In October 2002, Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem to parents who are U.S. citizens, making him a citizen as well. In December 2002, Menachem's mother applied for a U.S. passport for her son at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, requesting that her son's place of birth be recorded as "Jerusalem, Israel." But U.S. diplomatic officials told Mrs. Zivotofsky that State Department policy forbade them from recording "Israel" as her son's birthplace, only simply "Jerusalem." This is because the U.S. has never formally recognized Jerusalem as part of Israel, since under the UN partition plan of 1947, the city was supposed to become an international zone.

In September 2003, Menachem's parents filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia against the Secretary of State, ordering him to comply with the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2002, which requires the State Department to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to issue passports to U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem reading "Jerusalem, Israel." Former President George W. Bush had signed this bill, but declared in a signing statement that this part of the bill was not binding as it infringed on his executive powers to make foreign policy. The federal district court ruled that deciding this issue would be an infringement on the executive powers of the President. The case was similarly rejected by a federal court of appeals. Now, in March 2011, the Zivotofskys' lawyers, Lewin & Lewin, are petitioning the Supreme Court to hear this case. The central issue before the court is whether the law passed by Congress in 2002 is constitutional.

Rabbi Yoel Klein, a spokesman for Jewish Response, explained why his organization is troubled by this lawsuit. "For centuries, Jerusalem has been home to a community of pious Jews who lived in poverty and devoted their lives to studying and practicing the Torah," said Rabbi Klein. "These Jews lived peacefully alongside their Arab neighbors and had no nationalistic aspirations.

"As the twentieth century dawned, the newly founded Zionist movement established agricultural settlements in Palestine and increased Jewish immigration. The new immigrants were very different from the old Jewish community. They came with a shovel in one hand and a gun in the other. Their goal was to establish a Jewish state, by force of arms if necessary.

"The Jews of Jerusalem realized that this new movement would jeopardize the peace they had enjoyed for so many centuries. Furthermore, as religious Jews, they believed that only the messiah could reestablish the Jewish state, and they saw any attempt to establish a Jewish state before the messiah as blasphemous. Therefore, they asked of the British Mandate government that they be treated as an independent community with no connection to Zionism. On this issue, the Jews of Jerusalem were strongly backed by the vast majority of Orthodox rabbis throughout Europe, the center of the Jewish world at that time, who shared their opposition to Zionism and a Jewish state.

"In the summer of 1947, when the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine was in Jerusalem compiling its report, Rabbi Joseph Zvi Dushinsky, chief rabbi of the old religious community of Jerusalem, appeared before the committee to plead with them not to recommend a Jewish state, and if they did, at least not to include Jerusalem in that state. And indeed, the UN plan called for Jerusalem to be an international zone, not part of the State of Israel. Although Israel captured the city and claimed it as its capital, the U.S., along with most countries in the world, has never recognized that move as legitimate.

"We are troubled by the Zivotofsky case because it focuses on an essentially pro-Zionist bill passed in 2002 by the vast majority of the House and Senate. The public might be left with the impression that the Jewish voters who helped elect these members of the legislative branch support this bill. As Orthodox Jews, we identify with the centuries-old Jewish community of Jerusalem who never had any interest in Zionism or Israeli sovereignty over the Holy City. We stand completely behind the longstanding U.S. policy not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Why then do our representatives in the House and Senate insist on pleading the cause of hard-line Zionists while ignoring our communities?

"And let us stress that we are not only talking about Orthodox Jews. A recent study found that half of American Jews under the age of 35 are not comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state. These voters certainly did not support the above bill.

"We hope that the Supreme Court decides not to hear this case, and that our representatives in Congress make a better effort in the future to represent our interests," concluded Rabbi Klein.

The Supreme Court has stated that it will decide by April 18 as to whether it will hear the case.

Jewish Response is an organization of Orthodox Jews in America founded with the purpose of defusing anti-Semitism by refuting common stereotypes about Jews.

For more information, go to http://www.jewishresponse.com/client/page.cfm/An-Outcry-from-American-Orthodox-Jewry.

SOURCE Jewish Response