Adina Bar Shalom: Shas isn’t my father’s party anymore

Yosef became the rabbinic guide of the Shas movement in the mid 1980s shortly after ending his tenure as Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Rabbi Shalom Cohen. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Rabbi Shalom Cohen.
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Adina Bar-Shalom, the founder of Haredi College Jerusalem and daughter of the late spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has decried the state of her father’s movement and the religious establishment.
Yosef helped to found Shas and became its rabbinical guide in the mid-1980s shortly after ending his tenure as Israel’s chief rabbi.
With his ability to reach out and connect with the Sephardi masses that were Shas’s electorate, his desire to revive Sephardi cultural pride and his preference for moderation over conservatism in Jewish law, Yosef, with the charismatic Shas chairman Arye Deri at his side, made the party a powerful political force.
Yosef died in 2013 and was succeeded as the party’s spiritual leader by Rabbi Shalom Cohen, a dour, severe and extremely conservative yeshiva dean who has never held public office and is not a man of the people as his predecessor had been.
In an interview with Tablet magazine published last week, Bar-Shalom said Shas is “no longer my father’s party.”
Since becoming president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, Cohen has made several incendiary comments, including referred to Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva” as “that stupid song;” signing a letter warning haredi yeshiva students not to join the army; and issuing a letter banning women from academic studies.
The ban on women entering higher education struck particularly close to home for Bar-Shalom who founded Haredi College Jerusalem in 2001 to allow ultra-Orthodox students to obtain academic and professional qualifications in an environment amenable to their lifestyle.
In the article, Bar-Shalom also criticized the state of the country’s religious leadership, saying leading rabbis and rabbinical judges were not courageous enough in their approach to Jewish law; were unconcerned by the suffering of others; and were not learned enough. The current chief rabbis, she added, are “not up to standard.”
The current Sephardi chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, is Bar-Shalom’s younger brother.
Spokesmen for Yosef and Shas declined to respond to Bar-Shalom’s comments.