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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Aish and Clarion Fund History

إضرب الطينة في الحيط ﺇن ما لزقت اثرت

Throw mud at the wall. If It does not stick, it leaves a stain.
by Joachim Martillo (
A coherent description of the history is easiest by starting at the present and working backwards.
The Clarion Fund is originally a project of Aish haTorah just like Israel Activism/Hasbarah Fellowships.
Honest Reporting is also originally a project of Aish haTorah but is now technically a distinct legal entity even if many of the personnel are shared among the organizations.
I have the impression that Raphael Shore was developing educational videos and branched out. He worked first with Waye Kopping on Relentless and then tried again with Obsession.
Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East
Directed by Wayne Kopping

Brian K. Spector

Produced by Raphael Shore

Pael Siedman

Written by Wayne Kopping

Raphael Shore

Editing by Wayne Kopping

Brian Spector

Country Israel
Language Versions available in


I listened to an interview of Kopping by Rush Limbaugh (Obsession director Wayne Kopping talks to Rush Limbaug #2 ). Kopping sounds a lot like someone that I occasionally ran into at the Yale Kosher Kitchen. The name seems like an alias.
Aish haTorah is a big baal tshuva (returnee) Yishivah. It tries to bring non-religious Jews back to Judaism (keruv in Hebrew). It was founded by Noah Weinberg.
It was Weinberg's second effort. Earlier he founded Ohr Somayach and was joined by Nota Schiller. There was some sort of a split between Schiller and Weinberg in 1974. 
A few years later I was doing some computer work in the Monsey, NY area, which was a sort of command center for non-Hassidic keruv efforts. From what I remember, the disagreement as reported four or more years later related to politicizing keruv in a comprehensive marketing effort that used social programs with only tangential relationship to Torah study and observance.
In general, Ohr Somayach is less overtly Zionist than Aish.
In contrast Aish accepts money from very Zionist sources and conducts all sorts of Zionist campaigns. 
Both Aish haTorah and Ohr Somayach specialized in recruitment of Jewish students at prestige universities.
Ohr Somayach was founded in 1970 in an attempt to bring quality to keruv in contrast to the quantity orientation keruv of the Diaspora Yeshiva founded in 1967 after the June War. The Diaspora Yeshiva has been funded by the Israeli government thanks to the efforts of the Agudat Yisrael Party and other religious parties/factions.
The Diaspora Yeshiva was founded
  • as a response to rising messianic expectations that accompanied the conquest of the remainder of Palestine in 1967 and
  • as a response to Lubavitcher keruv that started in 1950s.
The Lubvitcher system is quite effective (see The Rebbe's Army, Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch, by Sue Fishkoff), but the Ohr Somayach/Aish haTorah focus on high quality college students has made those two groups an economic force in terms of the money they can raise while Aish haTorah's politicization has brought it into alliances with Neoconservatives/Jabotinskians, Neoliberals/Friedmanities, and Occult Nationalists like Abramoff, who is himself a baal tshuva (actually more correctly hozer bitshuva) of South African background. 
Aish haTorah has had a big presence on Wall Street and has proven an excellent vehicle for passing around insider info.
In the Yeshiva World, the Mafdal (National Religious), the followers of Rav Kook (Occult Nationalists -- the American Occult Nationalists include the movie critic Michael Medved), and the anti-Zionist anti-Gentile groups like the Lubavitchers all more or less manage to work together on certain projects that have benefits for all three groups.
The Jabotinskians/Neocons have always been willing to work with religious Jews and Christians since the early twentieth century as the backgrounder blog entry has already discussed.
The content of Obsession is just warmed over propaganda from Joseph Schechtman. (See 'From Propaganda to Scholarship: Dr Joseph Schechtman and the Origins of the Israeli Polemics on the Palestinian Refugees', Holy Land Studies: A Multidisciplinary Journal, Vol.2, No.2 [March 2002], pp.188-197. ) The material has been around for a long time, but the growing economic and political power of Aish and its friends is giving Schechtman's work a second life. Jabotinskian groups like The David Project in Boston, StandWithUs in California, and The Middle East Forum in Philadelphia also seem to have helped with production or distribution.
None of these organizations are interested in actually analyzing to the connection of Islamism to the question of Palestine in a way that makes sense because such an effort would actually require studying the primary Arabic sources of the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood and the recently published Arabic memoirs of Amin al-Husseini and would lead to conclusions far different from the ideas contained in Schectman's writings.
The David Project has shown Obsession in Boston and through its latest front organization named Christians and Jews United for Israel (CJUFI), it has been passing the Obsession DVD out in Boston. I obtained my DVD from CJUFI, which -- one should not be surprised -- works with Hagee's group CUFI, which has also been involved in distribution. (The David Project also produced its own movie Unbecoming Columbia while Pierre Rehov has been producing similar propaganda films in France.) None of this material has managed to get much traction from mainstream distributors or the public, and giving the DVD away for free is a desperation ploy made possible by finding one or more rich guys -- probably Sheldon Adelson but there are other candidates like Dershowitz, Klarman, Goldwasser, Wexner, the Krafts and a few others -- to pay for mass copying 28 million of the DVDs.
Aish like the Lubavitchers has lots of people that volunteer time for handing out DVDs and flyers.
For more information, here are Richard Silverstein's blog entries on the Obsession give-away:
Richard covers another effort to harness Christians for Zionist purposes in Yechiel Eckstein's Mission to the Evangelicals.
I discuss the goals of demonization of Muslims in The AJC Attacks. Toward the end, this blog entry provides a link to a videoclip from Aish's Rabbi Salomon, who advocates starving Gazans.
Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

I never thought of the Lubivitcher as anti-Zionist -- or at least not at all in the same sense as the Satmar-Naturi karta folks.

Joachim Martillo said...

Lubavitchers are anti-Zionist but not in the sense of Neturei-Karta or Satmar.

The fifth and the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbes were strongly anti-Zionist.

Take a look at

* Lubavitcher Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Sholem Dov Ber Schneersohn ZT"L (Rashab) and

* Chabad's Anti-Zionism: The Rebbe Rashab's Letter (Sholem Dov Ber and Yosef Yitzhak Shneerson [Rayatz]).

The seventh rebbe Menahem-Mendl Shneerson formulated a form of anti-goyism (anti-gentilism) that looked a lot like Zionism (so that he could extend keruv to the State of Israel), but he never contradicted his predecessor rebbes on Zionism. Menahem-Mendl also never set foot in the State of Israel.

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