American Orthodox community condemns Shas rabbi’s comments against national-religious

The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America issue a joint statement on Monday condemning Shas member Rabbi Shalom Cohen’s use of the term “Amalek.”

July 16, 2013 22:40
2 minute read.
Rabbi Shalom Cohen.

Rabbi Shalom Cohen 370. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)

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.

The two 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.

The 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.”

Cohen’s comments 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 rabbi.

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 report.

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