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Monday, July 08, 2013 

Son of Ovadia Yosef to be investigated for making racist statements

I blogged about this earlier, and the Jerusalem Post now has an op-ed about a pending investigation into a man who doesn't deserve to be a chief rabbi:
Now in the latest chapter of this shameful saga – which is more about the struggle for control over the lucrative aspects of the rabbinate (such as the monopoly over kosher supervision) than it is about providing Israeli Jews with spiritual guidance – two candidates for the Sephardi Chief Rabbinate position are expected to be scrutinized by Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein for making public comments considered to be racist, bigoted and misogynistic.

Holon’s Rabbi Avraham Yosef, who has apparently received the blessing of his father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has reportedly made a number of controversial comments and rulings during the years he has served as a rabbi. In one ruling, Holon’s rabbi disqualified any man who serves as a judge in the civil court system from being numbered as one of 10 men who make up a prayer quorum (minyan). According to Yosef, it is forbidden for a Jew to seek justice in Israel’s civil court system and he must instead avail himself of religious courts that rule in accordance with Halacha.

Yosef also ruled that it is forbidden to appoint women to public positions such as mayors of cities. Female kindergarten teachers are prohibited, according to Yosef, from speaking before groups of men in parent-teacher meetings or end-of-year parties.
*Groan* So many years of working to help women achieve proper equality, and they have the absolute shame to imply that they're "filthy" and men listening to them at a meeting will be "poisoned"? Bleah.

They're not so accurate, however, when they bring up the following:
Yosef and another candidate – Safed’s Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu – have both ruled that it is forbidden for Jews to rent or sell houses or land to non-Jews in Israel.
This is ambiguous, because what Eliyahu said that for had to do with Muslims moving into Jewish neighborhoods and making it dangerous. Yes, he may have slipped by saying "Arabs", rather than Islam, but the Post apparently has no interest in arguing about how they think he could improve his view. Indeed, I've often thought it odd some rabbis worried about Muslim stealth tactics would not mention the Religion of Peace, suggesting they're cowards themselves. As for Yosef, I'm not sure he ever made the exact same statements Eliyahu did - he's part of Shas, and they've hardly been one to oppose cessation of Jewish land.

There's another part here that's not entirely clear:
Eliyahu has also made disparaging remarks about “secular culture” and about homosexuality. Eliyahu claimed, for instance, that “several serial killers turned out to be homosexuals” and that “many diseases were transmitted via those [homosexual] relations.”
This is also ambiguous, since they don't tell exactly what kind of "secularity" he has a problem with, or how he spoke about homosexuality. If it's drug addiction he was talking about, then it's a legit argument. If he were speaking negatively about gays and lesbians in a tunnelvisioned manner as though they're purely evil in character beyond redemption, then no, that wasn't a proper thing to do, although the paper would do well to bear in mind that homosexuals are not saints, and being that doesn't make them so either.

As for diseases like AIDS, if he were arguing based on medical research that homosexual activity can lead to illnesses like those, well gee whiz, what's their problem anyway? Is truth the new hate speech for the Jerusalem Post's editors? Some way to comment on the case by drawing some kind of moral equivalency between certain items. A real shame that they too just have to add their voice to the list of nutcases seeking to legitimize and normalize homosexuality.

The statements made by Yosef about women are definitely reprehensible, and any rabbi whose sole concern is going to be how a woman conducts her life and dialogue is not interested in helping Israeli society find inspiration in Judaism at all. So he wouldn't be one bit suited to the role of chief rabbi for Sephardic Jews.

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