Israel Chief Rabbi slammed for calling Russian immigrants ‘non-Jews,’ ‘enemies of religion’

January 8, 2020 by Arye Green -TPS
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Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef came under harsh criticism after he recently blamed immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who are not Jewish, for the weakening electoral power of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Shas Party Convention
Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel at Shas party convention at Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem, Apr 14, 2017. Photo by Kobi Richter/TPS

At a rabbinical conference in Jerusalem last week, Yosef said that “they brought them here to the country to counterbalance the ultra-Orthodox community so that if there were elections, the ultra-Orthodox wouldn’t get many [seats in the Knesset].”

“There are many, many non-Jews here, some of them are Communist, enemies of religion, haters of religion. They are complete non-Jews, absolute non-Jews,” he added.

Yosef attacked various rabbis and organizations that have worked facilitated the conversion of non-Jewish immigrants. He criticized both conversions done by the chief rabbinate and by private rabbinical organizations.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a massive influx of immigrants came to Israel. Over one million immigrants came to Israel from former Soviet Union countries under Israel’s Law of Return, which stipulates that Jews and persons with one Jewish grandparent and a person who is married to a Jew, whether or not he or she is considered Jewish under Halakha, can become an Israeli citizen.

Approximately a third of the immigrants were not Jewish according to Jewish law and were granted citizenship as the spouse, child or grandchild of a Jew.

Numerous public figures strongly criticized the chief rabbi’s remarks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by commending immigrants for their contribution to Israel.

“An outrageous statement that was out of place. Immigration from the former Soviet Union is a huge blessing to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. My government will continue to work to bring our brothers and sisters from the former Soviet Union and incorporate them in the country,” he said.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Member of Knesset (MK) Avigdor Liberman, who is himself an immigrant and whose electorate base is largely made up of former Soviet Union immigrants, called for Yosef to be suspended and said his comments were “anti-Semitic” and “racist.”

“We are demanding his immediate suspension and will work in the future so that a chief rabbi from the religious-Zionist community will be elected and who will know to include and embrace and not to divide,” he said.

He added that he expects other leaders to speak up and condemn the comments “to prevent severe harm to the fabric of Israeli society.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who is also an immigrant from the former Soviet Union and was active in the battle to release Soviet Jewry, said that the immigrants have become part of Israeli society and are inseparable from the country’s social fabric.

“The immigrants from the Soviet Union are an integral part of Israeli society. We have fulfilled with our bodies the dream of returning to Zion, and we cannot imagine the State of Israel without the huge contribution of immigration from the USSR. Even during an election period, there is no room for an unacceptable discourse of hatred and separation,” he said.

Rabbi David Stav, Rabbi of Shoham and chairman of the Tzohar organization, who was also criticized by Yosef for his conversion of immigrants, said that “it is inconceivable that the head of the Chief Rabbinate propagates lies and doubts the credibility of rabbis, only because their opinions are different than his own,” he said.

He added that if Yosef does not apologize for the things he said, he will be sued for libel.

Comments

One Response to “Israel Chief Rabbi slammed for calling Russian immigrants ‘non-Jews,’ ‘enemies of religion’”
  1. A Jackson says:

    Diversity is good for any country.

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