Orthodox Jewish women at the Western Wall.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
A rabbi at the Bnei David pre-military academy in Eli has been recorded making incendiary comments about the spiritual and intellectual abilities of women during a lesson he gave to students several months ago.
During his lesson, recorded on video and broadcast by Channel 2 News, Rabbi Yosef Kalner commented that women have been confused by modern thinking on the role of women and that “today they are nothing.” He also stated that women have weak minds and can only achieve mediocre levels of spirituality.
This is not the first time Bnei David pre-military academy has hit the headlines over such issues. Its founder and dean, Rabbi Yigal Levenstein, disparaged religious women soldiers in 2017 and in 2016 described LGBTs as “perverts.”
“The spiritual ability of women is limited,” Kalner said during his class. “They have spirituality, they have middling spirituality.”
Asked if the debate about female spirituality was a mistake, Kalner said “Only women speak like this, and their minds are weak. Spiritual women – it’s nonsense. It’s just incorrect.”
Asked what characterizes a woman and if they are intuitive, Kalner said “Certainly. Look, in our days they are nothing. They are destroying women until there aren’t any women. They don’t have intuition [anymore] everything is confused.”
Kalner also noted that when he taught in a girl’s seminary he insisted that the students crochet yarmulkes because women are skilled at crafts and “sometimes art” instead of spiritual and intellectual endeavors.
“Until they totally confused them, they would sit in the class and crochet. I said, whoever doesn’t crochet can’t attend my lesson. Otherwise, she is just wasting time.”
He also claimed that women are more to blame for road accidents than men because they cannot process what is happening around them properly.
Speaking about the intellectual capabilities of women, Kalner said that “trends of the world, culture, world-encompassing concepts, these are not the abilities of women. These are not the points where we expect that women will have achievements in.”
He also claimed that there are few female Nobel Prize winners and company directors.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett condemned Kalner’s comments, describing them as “outrageous” and that “they should never have been said.”
Kalner said he regretted having made the comments, saying that “sometimes a person fails.”
“Today I wouldn’t say these things,” he said, adding that he was responsible for the content of his lesson and that the Bnei David pre-military academy was opposed to the style and the content of what he said.
Deputy Defense Minister and Bayit Yehudi MK Eli Ben-Dahan said he was very surprised by Kalner’s comments and described them as “without foundation” and “a very serious mistake.”
“They are not logical, completely incomprehensible and extremist,” Ben-Dahan told The Jerusalem Post.
He said, however, that he was certain Kalner’s students did not accept the rabbi’s views and said there was no need to revoke the state recognition and funding of the Bnei David academy or to insist on some form of oversight of the institution.
“We don’t need to exaggerate here. We don’t revoke the budgets of universities when there are professors who come out in support for the BDS movement,” he said, adding that academy students are not young children who should not be easily influenced and expressing certainty that other rabbis in Bnei David do not share such views.