Do Gentiles Possess Holiness?

The more religious you go in Jewish life, the more likely you are to encounter beliefs that Gentiles have little value.

There’s a good discussion on Failed Messiah:

RabbidW posts: "Jews do not plan on killing nonJews. Jews speak of do not rejoice over the downfall of your enemy. What you see is an attempt to explain categories and laws of religious impurity, something which does not apply at all in this day and age. Perhaps Yeshaya Leibowitz had a better approach when he said that mitzvot are Gods wishes and we do not and should not look for reasons. But we all do. And what is the difference. All religions have some reward reserved for the faithful. God does not hear the prayers of the Jews. Jews do not go to heaven. We must help save the Jews. So what. When I am dead, I’ll find out what God wants. Just leave me alone while I am alive. That is all that I can expect from other religions. I know you love to engage in Orthodox bashing, but hear you are totally off base. So some Orthodox say that nonJews do not have the purely halachic principle of holiness? Really, does anyone but you care?"

Here’s another post:

As a former member of the Chabad Community (30 years), a graduate of its yeshivas, a former Chabad House outreach worker, and former resident of Chabad communities in the U.S. and overeas (and, to my advantage & disadvantage, a BT), the Kuzari is mild compared to some other teachings prevalent in the Orthodox — and especially, ultra-orthodox communities.

Let’s start with the teaching in the Tanya that non-Jews do not possess a divine soul but an animating soul. And, the story about the interrogation of the Alte Rebbe at one of his trials on trumped up charges by his enemies: the non-Jewish judges asked him about this passage in the Tanya (which he himself wrote) and he was silent, responding with an enigmatic smile.

The Tanya also attributes pure altruism only to a Jew. When asked in Yeshiva by a new student about those gentiles that sacrificed their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, the Magid Shiur’s reply was, they expected a reward — either monetary in this world or spiritual in the World to Come, where the Chassidai Umot HaOlam will have a portion, too. This is the only context in which you will ever hear about "Chassidai Umot HaOlam". All of the popular illustrated childrens’ books geared for the ultra-orthodox market have story lines depicting the Gentiles as brutal and oafish — the clothes change with the time period — but the facial expressions and characterizations do not.

I was told a number of times in Frabrengens that Rabbi Yosef Yizhak, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, considered black Africans "the missing link", less than fully human — somewhat like an animal with speech. This may even be written somewhere in his letters and other published works.

And, oh, I’ll never forget the instructor at Hadar HaTorah from a leading Chabad family, who in all seriousness, believed and taught that the world was FLAT.

Here’s another one: very many families with "Yichus" will not make a shidduch with a baal tshuva, as he or she is a "ben niddah". This social rule is sometimes relaxed when the potential mate comes from a wealthy background — or (more frequently), there is a certain physical or other "defect" in their own child. A "defect" in this sense could be an attraction to the outside world, such as going to movies, listening to non-Jewish music, or other behavior deemed too modern and unacceptable.

Jews from the Mediterranean basin and Near and Mid East (generally all lumped together as "Sephardim", fall into the same second class citizen category when it comes to marriage with old Eastern European families with "Yichus". This is true even when the families in question were all Torah observant.

As far as the "Yichus" of at least some of the old White Russian Chabad families, a little historical research reveals ancestors that were horse thieves, pick-pockets, and other less than holy people — and, please, don’t forget the anarchists, Bundists, Zionists (Israeli President Shazar is one example), various flavors of socialists, and good old communist commissars who are in almost old Russian Chabadnik’s family tree if you give it a good shake.

Ethiopians and other Jews with non-Caucasian features are on the lowest rung on the social scale by far — all this is WITHIN the observant Jewish communities.

As for Gentiles, the word "Goy" is constantly used in a disparaging and derogating sense, as is "Shvartza" and other negatively charged ethnic labels.

You’ve already touched upon business ethics in your blog. I can’t speak for the Litvishe communities — maybe some of them follow Reb Moshe’s pesak forbidding bingos as institutional fund raising devices (Reb Moshe was concerned about the ethical issues of gambling and of the possibility of temptation and theft).

Chabad doesn’t, and there are Chabad Houses funded by charity bingos in which the bingo workers are paid salaries (contrary to state rules, which insist on volunteers only) and the Chabad shaliach is skimming money off of the top for his own personal use (all cash, not reported as income, and a felony, if caught and prosecuted).

A West Coast Shaliach was charged some years ago with drug money laundering. He got off because (1), he had a good lawyer, (2) he claimed he thought the money was to be used to smuggle Iranian Jews out of Iran to join their relatives in the US, & (3) he happened to live in a state with a relatively small Jewish population without a Glatt Kosher prison section and benefited from the respect and credibility most Americans accord clergy.

The head of one of the Chabad Yeshivas I attended ran a "Work-Study" program scam to obtain Federal funds. In my naivety at the time I signed some forms that I only realized later put me at risk, as well.

How about all of the families in Brooklyn on Section 8 assistance and food stamps, who are helped by local Jewish macherim in the frum Brooklyn communities to get on programs they do not qualify for, according to the income guidelines? Of course, on the application forms, their income qualifies them, because the bulk of their salary is given to them in cash, off the books (this "black" economy flourishes in the frum sections of Brooklyn, the same as in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem).

I have great sympathy for most of these families that are "working" the system in this way, since with the cost of tuition to the private Jewish schools their children attend and the cost of glatt kosher food, their personal situation can be seen as one of actual "duress".

But what about the community leaders that support this system?

Or what about the "block voting" of whole Jewish communities, such as Satmar, Bobov, etc. and the nepotism and cronyism present at all levels of frum Jewish organizations?

How many unqualified Cheder "Rebbe’s" are out there only because they are someone’s son-in-law? And the damage to the young children that suffer under their charge?

How about the K-12 schools (illegal according to NY state law) in the Chassidic neighborhoods of Brooklyn where whole generations of boys are deprived of basic English language reading and writing skills? (the girls are for the most part literate in English — sex discrimination, anyone?)

The only reason these schools are allowed to exist is the block voting previously mentioned. Thank you, Noah Dear ….

And, before I forget, there is the matter of the "honorees" at Yeshiva fund-raising banquets.

I loved it when Rabbi Herson of Morrison managed to get Henry Kissinger in the ’70s or 80’s as the headliner of one such banquet. Here was a man, according to Matti Golan in "The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger", who deliberately delayed the delivery of planes, munitions, and supplies to Israel during the middle of the Yom Kippur War — going over the head of Caspar Weinberger, and deceiving Nixon, who had personally authorized the shipments. All this, in the name of "real-politique" and his personal agenda to prevent a total defeat of the Egyptian and Syrian armies, so that HE could step in and do his "shuttle" diplomacy to negotiate a truce.

How many Israeli soldiers died until Golda sent Rabin (ambassador at the time) to Nixon to inquire about the delay in the arrival of the military supplies and Nixon found out what Henry was doing behind his back and immediately reversed Kissinger’s orders (as well as cursing Kissinger out)?

And how about Kissinger’s non-Jewish trophy wife, who wanted to visit the Kotel when they were in Jerusalem, but old Henry refused to go?

All this from a German Jew, who as a teen-ager used to chant the Torah in his father’s Washington Heights shul and whose father died as Shabbos observant Jew.

I bet Rabbi Herson made a lot of money off of that dinner, though.

And how does that jive with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s widely known demands that American government to do all it can to diplomatically and militarily support Israel?

Seems like the Rebbe’s views were overlooked when Henry could help Rabbi Herson raise some funds.

In Yeshiva fundraising, money — not ethics — rules, and many is the time that some macher is honored — frum, not so frum, or unobservant — whose personal and business ethics range from highly questionable to being beyond the pale with time serviced in jail to prove it.

Did I mention the well-known Chabad family that ran a shoe store on Kingston Avenue and scammed the government out of thousands of dollars with false invoices for orthopedic insoles and shoes for people on qualified government programs.
They left for Israel hours before the FBI knocked on their door and now live in a big house on Kfar Chabad and enjoy prestige and local leadership status?

Or how Rabbi Ashkenazi of Kfar Chabad ignored the activities of a child molester — the son of a well known family on the Kfar — and discouraged reporting these incidents to the police?

Too bad that Chabad in general does an excellent job in training prospective Shlichim in how to dissemble to the general Jewish and non-Jewish public.

I am NOT taking away or refusing to acknowledge all of the good work done by Chabad around the world — only stating that it comes at a price and with a hidden agenda and set of beliefs and commonly accepted social practices that most of their less than observant supporters would find distasteful, if not abhorrent. And this is true whether the Shaliach is a "moshichist" or "anti-moshichist" (which you quite correctly point out is a major case of dissembling, AS BOTH CAMPS BELIEVE THAT THE LATE REBBE IS REALLY THE MOSHIACH — the difference lies in the practical matter of what to say to potential recruits and DONARS).

Please, I do not want to hear some technical kvetch or pilpul justifying or excusing the abuses detailed above. The rabbinical establishment is as involved in perpetuating the existing system in all observant and ultra-observant communities as the macherim and the stam Jew in the street is. Lone voices of protest from within these communities are usually on internet blogs and are anonymous, due to legitimate fear of reprisals. And the few rabbis who are not in agreement with the way things are usually keep their opinions to themselves — again, for fear of reprisals and problems with making acceptable shidduchim for their children.

Enough for now …..

G-d Bless the Jews and non-Jews alike, America and ALL the nations of the world

Anon posts: "I don’t have any need to excuse or defend the quoted statement, but just to be clear he didn’t make negative comments about any other race or particular religion, all he said that is that anyone not following his religion is spiritually deficient. You may not like his message, but every religion in the world has the same message."

Maven posts: "That’s not what he said. he said their bodies are a step above animal carcasses. This is typical Ultra Zionist rhetoric. My teacher pointed out a famous newspaper piece R. Nebenzahl wrote a few years back about how black people were cursed since Ham and history proves it, for example (see, from a very dati guy). I don’t have any issue with claims for religious superiority, see my other posts on other topics, but once you start devaluing the lives and deaths of physical people, you are in dangerous territory."

PureSphardic posts: " Shmarya, I’ll take the challenge, the difference between Nazi Ideology and this is that there is no intention in any way to cause any harm to any non-jew. The sole intent is to say the Jew is on a higher spiritual level then a non-Jew. Like anon said above, every religion has the same belief, and I don’t feel threatened by a Christian thinking I’ll be damned. There is no spiritual difference between bodily refuse and non-jews if they do not believe in G-d, there are a million other differences, but not spiritually. Judaism forbids the slightest pain to any living creature, human or not, but that’s not the issue. Tumah (contamination) is a spiritual thing. Not in the sense you make it, that does not lower the value of their life. Nazi’s ideology on the other hand, calls for elimination of the lower humans, and allows for killing etc. to achieve their goal, that’s racism."

Maven posts: "I don’t really care what the Nazis think, or racist groups, or Odin worshippers or anyone. What I don’t want is hateful teachings in OUR faith, even if Moshiach was here and the whole world were Jewish. I didn’t like it when my rebbeim made racist statements ("that chink U Thant", for example), or called for the killing of prime ministers (a la R. Schechter, who I used to admire as a talmid, or many of my Ramim in yeshiva), or other such discourse which emerges DIRECTLY from this kind of thinking. When you get used to thinking of goyim as not human, and then, Jews who disagree with one’s position become shekotzim (the term is relevant to this exact KBY teaching, as it literally means insects who are tamey) as equivalent to carcasses and feces, well, its just that easy to justify violence, and its not justified because "thats what they did to us". The whole point was that the Jews in history very rarely descended to that level, we put our faith in Gd and weren’t interested in hate speech, even when "they" did it to "us". This kind of discourse is a rarity in Jewish history. It is found primarily in two sources, the Kuzari and in a milder form in the Zohar, both of Spanish origin and probably influenced by their emphasis on limpieza, pure blood. And certainly not in a generation like ours with more converts and baalei teshuva than ever in history (except perhaps for the time around the Churban). KBY more than any other of the hesder yeshivot had to purge many rabbis at the time for hate speech, it looks like purging time again."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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