Shlomo Amar, at the time Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, attends a memorial ceremony at the Hyper Casher kosher supemarket in Paris together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in January 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As senior politicians failed to condemn the vitriolic comments made by Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar about progressive Jews, other municipal leaders said on Thursday that they regretted supporting his candidacy for the top religious post.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett have so far remained silent on Amar’s incendiary comments, despite several requests by The Jerusalem Post for comment.
Likud MK Yehudah Glick was the first member of Knesset to criticize the rabbi, however, while members of the Jerusalem Municipal Council also denounced Amar’s attack.
Speaking last week after a High Court of Justice hearing on the Western Wall resolution, Amar described the progressive Jewish organizations that brought the petition as “accursed evil people”
who want to desecrate the holy site and who reject traditional sources of Jewish law.
“It’s like Holocaust deniers, it’s the same thing. They shout, ‘Why are there Holocaust deniers in Iran?’ They deny more than Holocaust deniers. In all of the Mishna and Gemara [of the Talmud] there was a women’s section and a section for men in the Temple,” said the Jerusalem chief rabbi.
Glick scolded Amar for his attack, noting that the current month of Elul leading up to the High Holy Days is supposed to be a time of mercy and repentance, and that spiritual leaders should work to unite the Jewish people and not sharpen differences and deepen conflict.
“Comparing part of the Jewish people to Holocaust deniers, who are the ugliest antisemites of our generation, crosses a dangerous redline which should be very carefully avoided,” Glick continued.
“I call on Rabbi Amar, who is a Torah scholar with many merits and whom I respect greatly, to retract his comments. And the quicker the better and we should merit that God rests His presence amongst us.”
Dr. Laura Wharton, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council for Meretz, said she was “embarrassed” that Amar speaks in such a manner while representing the city as its chief rabbi.
She also said she regrets having met with the rabbi when he was courting Meretz’s vote in the elections for the position of Jerusalem chief rabbi in 2014 and regrets having voted for him.
“I met with him, along with former president of Conservative movement, and I told him I am a member of the Conservative movement, and the fact that he represented himself as a tolerant person to get elected and then rejected us is in this way is despicable,” said Wharton.
“Rabbi Amar’s attitude to other groups of people is not only an outrage, but I think it is a gross distortion of the values that he should represent,” she continued.
“As a Jew I was taught that all people were created in God’s image, and taught tolerance and respect for other people and other beliefs. I think his comments make him unqualified for his role as a religious leader. It’s wrong of him to pass judgment in this way.”
She also called on Barkat to condemn the rabbi for his comments, saying the mayor “lacked moral backbone” and fails to speak out when it is politically inconvenient for him to do so.
Itai Gutler, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council for the Yerushalmim Party, said he was “saddened that Rabbi Amar is Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and said that he had sent a formal complaint to the Religious Services Ministry, which has authority over municipal chief rabbis, to take disciplinary action against him.”
Noting also Amar’s fierce attacks on the LGBT community last year, Gutler said, “He was elected to represent the entire Jewish community in Jerusalem, so we asked the minister to take disciplinary measures against him because it’s a disgrace.”
Gutler also called on Barkat to condemn Amar’s comments and to personally speak with the rabbi and instruct him to cease speaking in such a manner.
“Condemnation is not enough anymore, we need action,” he said.