Introduction of Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro
to the Committee for the Republic
Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
12 February 2020, Washington, D.C.
I am Chas Freeman. I chair the Committee for the Republic. Once a year, the Committee takes on the ever-controversial subject of Israel – its evolution, its behavior toward its captive Arab population and its neighbors, its relationship with our country, and the passionate attachment of many Americans to it. Tonight, we offer a discussion of something very relevant but different: the relationship between Judaism – Jewish monotheism – and Zionism – Jewish ethno-nationalism.
I am honored to introduce Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro. Rabbi Shapiro espouses and practices strict Jewish Orthodoxy. His religious community is relatively small (about 11 percent of American Jews belong to it) but it is the fastest growing form of Judaism in America. Rabbi Shapiro is a brilliant student of the Torah with a gift of eloquence. He also has the guts to say what he thinks. Few have thought as deeply about Jewish identity. There is no one better qualified than he to lead this discussion.
Rabbi Shapiro believes that the fundamental values of Judaism and Zionism are incompatible. His most recent book is The Empty Wagon: Zionism’s journey from identity crisis to identity theft, copies of which are available at the back of the room. I take its core thesis to be that “secular Zionism made the holy into the profane, while religious Zionists made the profane into the holy.” For this insight, he is acclaimed by some American Jews and smeared by others. In the best Jewish tradition, nothing deters him from arguing truth, as he sees it, to power.
Rabbi Shapiro will speak on the relationship between Judaism and the Jews on the one hand and Zionism and Israel on the other. We are privileged to be able to hear him present his case to us, after which he will entertain questions and respond to comments.
Please join me in welcoming Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro to the podium.