The Anti-Defamation League slammed the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel on Tuesday after he likened black people born from white parents to “monkeys” during his weekly sermon on Saturday evening.
“Racially charged comment made by Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, comparing people of color to “monkeys”, is utterly unacceptable,” the Jewish civil rights organization posted in a tweet.
Racially charged comment made by Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, comparing people of color to "monkeys", is utterly unacceptable. https://t.co/uQRPk7meyl
— ADL (@ADL_National) March 20, 2018
In a video, shared by Ynet news site, Yosef was addressing Jewish legal aspects of the blessing on seeing fruit trees blossoming, during the current Hebrew month of Nissan, and, specifically, whether one should bless one tree or at least two.
In that context, he discussed another blessing mentioned in the same section of the Talmud, which is recited upon seeing an “unusual creature.” The Talmud states that the blessing should be recited when seeing “a black person, a very red or very white person.”
Yosef explained that the Talmud is not referring to an African-American, but a black person born to two white parents. When referring to African-Americans he used the word “kushi” which is the word used by the Talmud but is a pejorative term in modern Hebrew. He then compared this black person to a monkey.
“You can’t make the blessing on every ‘kushi’ you see — in America you see one every five minutes, so you make it only on a person with a white father and mother,” the chief rabbi said.”How do would you know? Let’s say you know! So they had a monkey as a son, a son like this, so you say the blessing on him.”
In response, the rabbi’s office said that he was merely citing the Talmud, which states that the same blessing is recited upon seeing an elephant, a monkey or an ape.
Yosef has been known to court controversy in his sermons.
In a sermon delivered in May last year, he appeared to suggest during his weekly sermon that secular woman behave like animals because they dress immodestly.
In March 2016, Yosef was forced to retract a comment that non-Jews should not live in Israel, calling it “theoretical.”
He said non-Jews could live in Israel only if they observe the seven Noahide Laws, which are prohibitions against idolatry, blaspheming God, murder, forbidden sexual relations, stealing, and eating limbs off a live animal, and which prescribe the establishment of a legal system.
Non-Jews, Yosef said, are in Israel only to serve Jews.
Israel has two chief rabbis. Yosef represents those with origins in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East, and David Lau represents Ashkenazic Jews, with origins in European lands of the Roman Empire.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.