The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America issued a joint statement on
Monday condemning Shas member Rabbi Shalom Cohen’s use of the term “Amalek” to
characterize the leaders of the national-religious community.
organizations, which represent the centrist stream of American Orthodoxy,
released the statement just prior to Tisha Be’av, pleading for Jews worldwide to
“reclaim the glory of our people by refraining from language that divides us and
promoting language and deeds that unite us.”
Tisha Be’av – the ninth day
of the Hebrew month of Av – is a rabbinically mandated day of mourning for the
destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem.
According to tradition, the
Second Temple was destroyed because of internecine hate among Jews.
OU and RCA decried the “frightening exacerbation of internal discord” and
“ominous intensification of inflammatory rhetoric” in Israel, as well as the
“vile insults, offensive name-calling – including the inciteful invocation of
the name ‘Amalek’ – and vicious personal attacks emanating from all sides on the
various troublesome issues that we now confront.”
comparing the national-religious community to Israel’s biblical archenemy came
at an event on Saturday evening announcing the candidacy of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
– Shas spiritual adviser Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s youngest son – for Sephardic chief
Cohen referred to the Modern Orthodox community as “kippa sruga,”
or knitted kippa.
“As long as there are knitted kippot, the throne [of
God] is not whole. That’s Amalek,” Israeli media quoted him as saying in a video
posted Sunday on the haredi website Kikar Hashabbat. “Are these people even
Jews?” he asked.
“We would be unfortunate to end up with a [chief] rabbi
who wears a knitted kippa.”
According to Jewish law, one is obligated to
kill all members of the Amalekite nation.
The organizations also alluded
to the current campaign by haredi extremists to vilify ultra-Orthodox IDF
servicemen, known disparagingly as “hardakim.”
“We have even witnessed
physical violence,” the statement read in an apparent reference to haredi
attacks on soldiers in their communities. “Indeed, in recent months we have seen
precincts of Jerusalem’s Old City, in the shadow of the destroyed Temple for
which we mourn today, become a venue for provocation and insult, rather than a
place of unity for the global Jewish community.”
JTA contributed to this