Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi could face criminal charges over ‘monkey’ remarks
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi could face criminal charges over ‘monkey’ remarks

Justice ministry official says rabbi Yitzchak Yosef may be facing charges for his racist remark

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef

An Israel Justice Ministry official told Israeli media that the government is considering taking criminal action against Sephardic chief rabbi for likening a black child born to white parents to a “monkey” in explaining a point of ritual.

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef made the comparison earlier this month during a Saturday evening lecture, when he was speaking of the traditional blessing of the trees that takes place during the Jewish month of Nissan.

A Justice Ministry official said Thursday that the ministry has contacted the relevant authorities to look at Yosef’s speech and decide if the remarks are incitement, the Times of Israel reported.

The head of the National Anti-Racism Coordinator’s Office, Kobi Zana, called Yosef’s comments “extremely serious” and said they could constitute incitement to racial hatred, the Jerusalem Post reported.

After he made his remarks, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef received an unprecedented rebuke from the UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

The Chief Rabbi said “The terminology used is deeply offensive and totally unacceptable.

“My office has contacted the Chief Rabbinate in Israel directly to make that clear.”

A video of the remarks was first published by Ynet, the online version of Yediot Acharonot

Yosef was explaining the blessing required when one sees an unusual or “differentiated” living being.  He cited a tradition that the blessing should be said on seeing a black person, but only under unexpected circumstances — for example, if “a monkey son came forth from them.”

He also repeatedly referred to blacks as “Kushim,” a term commonplace in Israel’s early decades but which  at least since the 1980s has been seen as a mild pejorative.

Ynet obtained a response from Yosef’s office saying he drew his analogy from the Talmud, which includes black people, elephants and monkeys — as well as people with amputated limbs, little people and those with skin lesions — as examples of “differentiated” living beings.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments