Harav Shalom Cohen, spiritual leader of the Shas party, has defended Shepardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef against attacks over his remarks about anti-Semitism among Russian immigrants.
In a letter published Thursday, Rav Cohen wrote, “I heard with great sorrow what they did to his honor for sharing his pain over the immigration of non-Jews to the Land of Israel.
“I know that there are G-d-fearing Jews among the [post-Soviet] aliyah and his remarks weren’t targeted at them, but at those many non-Jews who immigrate to the Holy Land,” the letter said.
He urged him to remain strong despite the criticism, which has included a demand from Avigdor Liberman for Rav Yosef to resign. Rav Yosef’s remarks came amid a prolonged campaign of anti-religious incitement headed by Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu supporters.
Rav Yosef posted a video on Tuesday evening to clarify his views.
“As you know, there are two types of Aliyah that emigrated from the Soviet Union,” Rav Yosef began, “there is the blessed emigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews who gave their souls in the Soviet Union, they and their fathers and all those prisoners of Zion, who sanctified G-d’s Name and came here to Eretz Yisrael and we receive them with love and great affection.
“But there is another Aliyah, we will not deny it, an Aliyah of those of non-Jews, not only non-Jews (whoever isn’t Jewish must be loved and respected, as all were created in G-d’s Image), but there are those who are not Jewish and even develop hatred for Judaism, for everything sacred, of which we spoke that many such instances have unfortunately arisen and caused all sorts of terrible incitement against Judaism.”
Meanwhile, the head of the government Anti-Racism Coordinating Government Unit, Attorney Aweke Zena, responding to demands that he be investigated for incitement, asked Rav Yosef to explain himself.
“This is to examine things in depth, before deciding to contact the relevant parties to act on this matter,” the unit said.
Over the past day, more than a hundred inquiries were received in the unit regarding the statement of the Rav Yosef on the Jewish status of Russian immigrants in Israel.
“In the appeals, it was argued, among other things, that the rabbi’s statements included racism and incitement to racism. It should be noted that this is an unusual amount of inquiries received in the unit in such a short time (for comparison, during the entirety of 2019, approximately 480 inquiries were received on various subjects),” the unit said.