New Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau faced the first controversy of his week-long
tenure in the post on Tuesday when he was quoted making what many called racist
statements about African-American basketball players.
The statements were
first reported on Hakol Haharedi, a news service available by phone for those
who do not use the Internet. Ma’ariv put the comments on its front page and
posted audio of it on its website.
“Why do you care about whether these
kushim [a derogatory term for black people] who get paid in Tel Aviv beat the
kushim who get paid in Greece?” the rabbi asked yeshiva students who watch
“Even my kashrut certification inspectors are
ashamed to enter places where yeshiva students watch a screen every Thursday
night during the winter [season].”
Knesset Education and Sports Committee
chairman Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) said it was “very unfortunate that rabbis who are
supposed to lead the way ethically fail time and time again by making racist
Labor MK Nachman Shai said Lau should apologize to the
African-Americans who come to Israel to play basketball and the African Jews who
Shai said he was disappointed that while new Pope Francis was
making unexpectedly liberal comments about gays, Israel’s new chief rabbi was
using racist language.
“Rabbi Lau’s father, who survived [the Holocaust],
should teach his son about tolerance and equality,” Shai
Ethiopian-born MK Shimon Solomon (Yesh Atid) said he was personally
insulted by the rabbi’s statement, and that he would call for an emergency
meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee on the issue.
Ethiopian-born Yesh Atid MK Pnina Tamnu-Shata said Religious Services Minister
Naftali Bennett was right when he said the rabbinate needed to change its
“A rabbi of his stature cannot make such racist statements,”
Tamnu-Shata said. “Woe to us if this is the face of our rabbinate for years to
come. Maybe the next time an Ethiopian couple comes to him, he will say he does
not care if such kushim get married. It is grave that a man who sees himself as
fit to be chief rabbi expresses himself this way.”
But Bennett defended
Lau, telling The Jerusalem Post that the media needed to stop “stalking public
figures” and “hunting for statements” that could hurt them.
that although he supported Rabbi David Stav in the race for Ashkenazi chief
rabbi, he was sure Lau would do a wonderful job in the post.
spokesman of the Chief Rabbinate said Lau declined to comment.