Chief criticises rabbi who says sick children are being punished

Chief criticises rabbi who says sick children are being punished

Ephraim Mirvis said controversial rabbi Yosef Mizrachi's proposed UK visit would cause 'widespread offence and upset'

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi

The Chief Rabbi blasted a controversial rabbi who claims sick children are being punished for sins in a former life in the week that hundreds signed a petition calling for him to be banned from the UK.

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, who lectured schoolchildren in the UK two years ago and was understood to be planning another visit next week, was roundly condemned as a “hate preacher” by community members and representatives.

Mizrachi, who has also provoked outrage by claiming that less than one million halachic Jews were killed in the Holocaust, claims that Down’s syndrome and autism are punishments for previous sins, and that blind children are serving penance for watching pornography in a past life.

In response to questions about a suspected visit 16-19 September, a spokesman for Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “The Chief Rabbi has often spoken about the importance of our communities being places of warmth and inclusion.”

He added: “We do not expect that any of our Rabbis or communities would wish to host a speaker who threatens to disrupt that precious atmosphere, with views which cause widespread offence and upset.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

An online petition, which describes Mizrachi’s views as “cultish, divisive and contemptible,” has been signed by 600 people, including leading figures in British Jewry.

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement and former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “This hate preacher should stay out of the UK.” Similarly, former Three Faiths Forum (3FF) director Stephen Shashoua wrote: “Hate should be given no oxygen.”

London-based sociologist and author Keith Kahn-Harris added: “Jews have hate preachers too, sadly. While this guy doesn’t recruit directly for violent groups, there is a violence to his views.”

Videos are available online showing Mizrachi telling Jewish children that “God only want him [the disabled child] here 40 years to suffer… Why? Measure for measure. You spoke bad about people for the previous life, now you going to feel what it is to live 40 years without be able to say a word.”

Mizrachi, who said this week that his visit would be a private affair held in someone’s house, has also suggested that Ashkenazi Jews were killed in the Holocaust because they went to college.

He has previously hit back at critics, calling them the names of evil biblical characters and describing them as “worse than Hitler”.

He founded Orthodox outreach group the Kiruv Organisation in New York in 1995, but has since fallen from favour, and was criticised by the Novominsker Rebbe, the president of the ultra-orthodox Agudath Israel of America, who said Mizrachi’s claims were demonstrably false, profoundly offensive and extremely hurtful”.

It is not clear whether Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP will ban Mizrachi from entering the UK, which she has the power to do if his visit is seen as “not conducive to the public good”.

Asked about Mizrachi’s visit, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.” They added, however, that “coming to the UK is a privilege, and we expect those who come here to respect our shared values”.

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