Leaked recording of late Shas party leader latest in party civil war

The recording deals the latest blow in what has become something of a civil war within the haredi Sephardi community.

By
November 8, 2017 20:06
4 minute read.
Shas

Haredis at Shas event. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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In the latest installment of what is becoming a battle of the tapes, an audio recording of the late Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has been leaked to the media, in which he is heard criticizing current Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who flipped from a Shas ally to virulent opponent.

The recording deals the latest blow in what has become something of a civil war within the haredi Sephardi community pitting Shas and its rabbis against former Shas party chairman Eli Yishai and the rabbis who are supportive of him.

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This recording comes in response to a more recent one of Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri and the son of the current Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, arguing over how to deal with the split in the Sephardi haredi community, in which Deri spoke critically and disrespectfully of Amar.

Ahead of the 2013 election for chief rabbi of Israel, Amar – was then already serving as the Sephardi chief rabbi – wanted Shas to pass a law to allow him to run for a second term.

Amar secured an agreement with Rabbi David Stav of the National Religious Tzohar rabbinical association for mutual support, but Deri scuppered the legislation, forcing Amar to step down as chief rabbi of Israel.

In revenge, Amar ran his own candidate for chief rabbi, Rabbi Tzion Boaron, against Shas’s candidate and Yosef’s own son Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and refused to withdraw his support despite entreaties from Yosef senior.

Boaron lost but Amar’s refusal to listen to Yosef was seen as a rebellion against Ovadia Yosef’s primacy and authority, and permanently alienated Amar from Shas, especially after Yosef died shortly thereafter.

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In the audio recording broadcast by Channel 2 News on Tuesday night, Yosef is heard describing how he served as Amar’s patron, elevating him from a rabbinical judge in Petah Tikva to chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and finally national chief rabbi.

“When I he would come to pray in our synagogue with us, I would hint to the congregation that they should stand in his honor, and that a ‘Misheberach’ [blessing] prayer be said for him,” continued Yosef.

“I don’t do a Misheberach’ prayer for anyone, only him in a special way. He knows how much honor I gave him, I always honored him.”

Yosef then reflected on how Amar had treated him, describing first how Amar had told him in writing and in person he would adhere to anything he would be instructed regarding the election for chief rabbi.

“But behold, he’s gone and taken Rabbi Boaron, and begun bothering everyone, wasted hour after hour, he strives for hours to convince the electors to elect Boaron instead of my son.”

Another recording, this time a video, was broadcasted by Channel 2 News where Yosef is seen strongly criticizing Stav. The leak of this video seems designed to remind the Sephardi haredi public of Amar’s willingness to have elected as chief rabbi a National Religious rabbi whose leniencies are seen as illegitimate in the haredi world.

The proximate cause of the release of these recordings is the battle currently being waged within Shas regarding the party’s declining poll numbers and the efforts to staunch this loss of political support.

One recent poll put Shas under the 3.25% electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset, while another put the party only just over, while Yishai’s Yahad party continues to attract support, some of which comes at the expense of Shas, although Yahad too would not make it into the Knesset.

Shas spiritual leader Cohen’s son Yaakov Cohen has been behind efforts to bring a semblance of unity, and arranged a meeting between his father and Yishai’s spiritual patron Rabbi Meir Mazuz and Amar at the end of September.

One proposal Cohen apparently put forward was simply to restore Yishai to the party, with Deri remaining chairman, which was rejected by Mazuz.

A counter-proposal was for Shas and Yahad to run on a joint list with an equal number of Knesset candidates for each party, but this was reportedly rejected out of hand by Deri.

It appears that there was also efforts to give Amar some type of role in Shas, although this could not be formal while he serves as chief rabbi of Jerusalem.

It was against these efforts which Deri spoke so fiercely in the recording of his phone conversation with Yaakov Cohen broadcast on Monday night.

What several commentators noted regarding this conversation was that Deri seemed to be attempting to convince Cohen that bringing Amar back into the fold was a mistake, pointing out that until now Deri has ruled Shas with unchallenged authority.

He has not in the past needed to cajole or argue with anyone else within the party in order to get his way, a situation which now appears to have changed somewhat given Cohen’s efforts to bring in Yishai and his rabbinical patrons.

It was against these efforts which Deri spoke so fiercely in the recording of his phone conversation with Yaakov Cohen broadcast on Monday night.

What several commentators noted regarding this conversation was that Deri seemed to be attempting to convince Cohen that bringing Amar back into the fold was a mistake, pointing out that until now Deri has ruled Shas with unchallenged authority.

He has not in the past needed to cajole or argue with anyone else within the party in order to get his way, a situation which now appears to have changed somewhat given Cohen’s efforts to bring in Yishai and his rabbinical patrons.


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