When three Jabotinsky Revisionists were arrested for the murder of a Jewish Socialist, the already fractious community in then-Palestine imploded.
During the arrest and trial, Rav Kook “took no public stance” for an entire year, said Rabbi Elazar Muskin of the Young Israel of Century City in Los Angeles, the featured speaker for Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt’s yahrzeit. Rav Kook later advocated for the defendants.
Rabbi Grunblatt was the mara d’asra of the Queens Jewish Center in Forest Hills from 1967 until his passing in 2013. On Wednesday, November 24, Rabbi Muskin spoke of Rav Avraham Kook’s love and respect for all Jews and Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt’s wisdom and ethical character.
Socialist Haim Arlosoroff returned from negotiating with the Nazis to let Germany’s Jews immigrate to Israel. He was shot while walking with his wife in Tel Aviv on June 16, 1933.
Haim Arlosoroff was acting on behalf of the Jewish Agency, the forerunner to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Revisionist Jews wanted a total boycott of Nazi Germany.
Arlosoroff’s murder “was almost immediately interpreted by the Labor Zionists as a political assassination, planned and implemented by the Zionist Revisionists,” said Rabbi Muskin.
Tensions were already high between Labor Zionists and the Revisionists before the murder. “Now, they were exacerbated, perhaps beyond repair.”
“Rav Kook was neither a Labor Zionist nor a Zionist Revisionist; he befriended both camps… He appreciated their respective contributions to reclaiming the Land of Israel.”
On Erev Rosh HaShanah 1932, Rav Kook told Haim Arlosoroff how he, Rav Kook, knew Haim Arlosoroff’s grandfather, Rabbi Eliezer Arlosoroff, the Chief Rabbi in Romny, Ukraine, and had one of his books.
Haim Arlosoroff met his high school sweetheart, Magda, while in Berlin in 1933. He had given her a Magen David necklace when they were younger. Now, she was married to Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister.
Arlosoroff met Magda in 1933 as a conduit for allowing Jews to immigrate to Palestine. They planned to meet again, but Magda warned Arlosoroff to get out of the country. The Nazis wanted Arlosoroff dead because of potential embarrassment to Joseph Goebbels, according to a biography of Magda Goebbels by Anna Anja.
A British court found Ze’ev Rosenblatt guilty of pulling the trigger while Avraham Stavsky shined a light into Arlosoroff’s eyes. Abba Ahimeir was convicted of organizing the murder.
Abba Ahimeir “wrote a nasty letter” to Rav Kook in February 1934, published in every Jewish newspaper in Palestine, saying, “If not for the fact that you, Rav Kook, are the Gadol HaDor (the rabbinical giant of the generation), I would not bother to write you. It is now eight months that three Jews are victims of a false accusation of murder. We are the Dreyfus and the Beilis of our generation. We are not in Paris. We are not in Kiev. We are in Tel Aviv. Why are you, Rav Kook, silent?”
“Rav Kook didn’t say a word.” He only asked that T’hilim be said on behalf of those arrested and “that the justices do what was most important that justice should prevail,” said Rabbi Muskin.
On June 8, 1934, when Avraham Stavsky was convicted and sentenced to hang, “Rav Kook’s silence came to an end.” That Erev Shabbos, Rav Kook wrote in newspapers and on broadsides pasted all over Palestine, “I can attest, based on my inner conscience, that Avraham Stavsky is innocent of the murder charges… Whoever has a divine spark within him, Jew or non-Jew, must protest and do his utmost to rescue Stavsky and must see to it that justice prevails.”
The Labor Zionists denounced Rav Kook as a traitor and a charlatan. Articles against Rav Kook appeared every day in newspapers. Rav Kook wrote a letter to the editor, “the ultimate in ahavas Yisrael,” said Rabbi Muskin.
“I induce Heaven and Earth as witness to my unqualified love with all my heart and with all my soul of every Jew regardless of his political affiliation. For I believe with perfect faith that every Jew is a unique limb, a part of that sacred body known as knesset Yisrael, the community of Israel in its fullest sense.”
“Every act, every deed, whether mundane or spiritual, whether directly or indirectly, prepares the way for the ingathering of the exiles and the return of the Jewish youth to our land. Every act that is done for this purpose is dear to me as my own soul.”
In July 1934, three British Appellate judges unanimously overturned the convictions of all three Jews.
A British Jewish police officer stationed in Palestine, Bechor Sheetrit, told Rav Kook and a British judge, “The British created a plot to frame a Jew in the Arlosoroff murder.” Bechor Sheetrit later became Israel’s Minister of Police.
Yehuda Arazi, a police inspector during that time, revealed in his personal papers after his death, “Two Arab bandits confessed to the crime at the police station that night,” said Rabbi Muskin.
Quoting what Rabbi Muskin said of Rabbi Grunblatt, “The time that a righteous person is in a city: he is their magnificence, he is its splendor, he is their grandeur… Rabbi Grunblatt was the praise of his community.”
While earning s’michah at Yeshiva University in 1977, Rabbi Muskin was told, “If I want to meet a master rav, I should get to know Rabbi Grunblatt. I did just that.” “He was a rabbi’s rabbi.”
Rabbi Judah Kerbel never met Rabbi Grunblatt but is “overwhelmed by his stature.” While inside the Queens Jewish Center office, “I wonder to myself what Rabbi Grunblatt would say in a particular situation. I am always aware, when I’m sitting in this office, of whom I am following and that I am a dwarf on the shoulders of a giant.”
By David Schneier