NEW YORK - A half-dozen Neturei Karta followers who attended a Holocaust denial conference in Iran have come under intense criticism over the visit, with one of the world's largest Hasidic groups denouncing them as "reckless outcasts."
The Jews who went to Iran "trampled on the memory of their ancestors and people. They embraced the disciplines and followers of their murderers," said a statement from the Satmar leaders of Congregation Yetev Lev in Brooklyn.
The Jews who attended the conference are often confused with the Satmars, who also are anti-Zionist but acknowledge that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. Aside from their shared anti-Zionism, Neturei Karta followers and the Satmars both wear long, dark coats and wide-brimmed hats, and have beards and sidelocks.
The Satmars say there is no connection between them and Neturei Karta, a group that sent six delegates to the conference under the banner "Jews United Against Zionism."
They were led by a rabbi from the New York area, Yisroel Dovid Weiss. He said that while his group does not entirely deny the killing of Jews in World War II, the figures for how many people who died in the Holocaust are exaggerated. He said that "Zionists are using the Holocaust to brazenly and offensively oppress a people."
The Satmars from Congregation Yetev Lev responded, in their statement, that "the unavenged blood of the millions of Jewish victims cries out in pain and abhorrence, to these reckless outcasts, 'How can you sink so low?'"
The position of the Jewish delegates, the Satmars said, "is contrary to the teachings of our venerated Grand Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the founder and leader of the Satmar movement."
The Satmars, who claim about 100,000 followers worldwide, were founded by the Hungarian-born Teitelbaum, who died in New York in 1979. He was succeeded by his nephew, Moses Teitelbaum, who died last April.
Teitelbaum laid out the anti-Zionist doctrine that forbids Jews from creating a Jewish state until the Messiah comes and leads them to the promised land.
Hamodia, an English-language Orthodox Jewish daily in New York that is not affiliated with either the Satmars or Neturei Karta, published an editorial this week that said: "While we are speaking of insanity, it is impossible to report about this so-called conference without making mention of the handful of deranged men in Jewish garb" who attended. "These few individuals - who represent no one except themselves - are playing into the hands of our nation's archenemies."
Estimates of Neturei Karta followers range from several hundred to thousands, with dozens living in Monsey, New York, a community about 25 miles north of New York where some attend a house of worship called Yeshiva Beis Yahud.
There was no telephone listing for the house of worship. Calls to Moshe Beck, another Neturei Karta leader, rang busy for hours on Friday afternoon.
Another community of Satmars, based in the village of Kiryas Joel, about 50 miles northwest of New York, has also condemned Neturei Karta members for attending the conference.