Meir Kahane came of age amid the radical politics of the counterculture, becoming a militant voice of protest against Jewish liberalism. Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League in 1968, declaring that Jews must protect themselves by any means necessary. He immigrated to Israel in 1971, where he founded KACH, an ultranationalist and racist political party. He would die by assassination in 1990. Shaul Magid provides an in-depth look at this controversial figure, showing how the postwar American experience shaped his life and political thought.
Magid sheds new light on Kahane’s radical political views, his critique of liberalism, and his use of the “grammar of race” as a tool to promote Jewish pride. He discusses Kahane’s theory of violence as a mechanism to assure Jewish safety, and traces how his Zionism evolved from a fervent support of Israel to a belief that the Zionist project had failed. Magid examines how tradition and classical Jewish texts profoundly influenced Kahane’s thought later in life, and argues that Kahane’s enduring legacy lies not in his Israeli career but in the challenge he posed to the liberalism and assimilatory project of the postwar American Jewish establishment.
This incisive book shows how Kahane was a quintessentially American figure, one who adopted the radicalism of the militant Left as a tenet of Jewish survival.
Shaul Magid is Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, Kogod Senior Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University. His many books include American Post-Judaism, Hasidism Incarnate, and From Metaphysics to Midrash.
Reading Religion Newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter and receive updates on new books, new reviews, and more.
You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never share or sell your e-mail address.