The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday condemned comments by one of Jerusalem’s chief rabbis asserting that gay people cannot be religious and that homosexuality “can be overcome” through belief in God.
Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the top Sephardic rabbi in Jerusalem and a former chief rabbi of Israel, made the remarks last week in Ashdod in a sermon, video of which was aired Monday by the Kan public broadcaster.
“Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Amar’s hateful comments about the #LGBTQ community are antithetical to Jewish values of tolerance & acceptance,” the ADL wrote on its Twitter account.
“Religious leaders should respect all people & positively engage with the entire community,” it added.
The ADL called on Amar to apologize.
Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Amar’s hateful comments about the #LGBTQ community are antithetical to Jewish values of tolerance & acceptance. Religious leaders should respect all people & positively engage with the entire community. We call on Amar to apologize. https://t.co/DjB228zTsY
— ADL (@ADL) July 23, 2019
The denunciation by the ADL came after gay rights groups called on Amar to take back his comments and an opposition lawmaker called for him to be removed from his post.
Amar, who has generated controversy in the past by saying that homosexuality is an “abomination,” called it a “wild lust” in his recent sermon.
“They aren’t religious. It would be better if they cast off their kippah and Shabbat [observance] and show their true faces,” Amar said, referring to homosexuals.
“God knows that it is a lust, a wild lust that needs to be overcome and it can be overcome,” he added.
Referring to so-called conversion therapy, Amar said, “Everyone can overcome. There’s no need for understanding or a psychologist or any nonsense. All they need is to be God-fearing — just belief in God to overcome.”
Among those to criticize Amar was Avi Buskila, a former head of Peace Now who recently joined the fledgling Israel Democratic Party, who warned that the outburst could lead to bloodshed.
“An unbelievable and painful display of incitement, especially when it comes from the chief rabbi of Jerusalem,” he tweeted. “This is calling open season. It creates abominable murderers like Yishai Schlissel, who murdered Shira Banki during the gay pride parade in the city.”
Schlissel stabbed Banki, 16, to death during the pride parade in the capital in 2015, just three weeks after being released from prison, where he had served eight years for a stabbing attack at the Jerusalem parade in 2005.
In 2016 Amar said he declined to attend a memorial service for Banki after her family refused to read aloud a condemnation of homosexuality he included in a condolence missive he sent to them. Amar told the Israel Hayom newspaper at the time that he had written to the parents, saying that “if you want to exalt her soul to the heavens, to repent from your evil ways.”
During an interview with the newspaper, Amar said that homosexuality was “a cult.”
Amar’s recent sermon came after Education Minister Rafi Peretz, also an ordained rabbi, caused uproar earlier this month by indicating his support for gay conversion therapy, a controversial process that purports to make gay people heterosexual. Peretz later retracted his comments.