Following Haredi boycott, Angel Bakeries apologizes for chairman’s Bnei Brak protest

Ex-minister Omer Barlev, now executive of company, pays condolence call to family of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein and delivers personal apology letter over incident

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Then-public security minister Omer Barlev attends a Labor faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Then-public security minister Omer Barlev attends a Labor faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Following a month-long consumer boycott of Angel Bakeries by many ultra-Orthodox Jews, the chairman of the firm’s board apologized on Sunday for attending a rally last month in Bnei Brak in favor of national service by Haredim.

The apology Sunday by former public security minister Omer Barlev, who took up the top executive post at Angel Bakeries after leaving office, came in a letter that he left with his hosts following a shiva visit to the relatives of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the late leader of the Lithuanian stream of Ashkenazi Jews. Edelstein, a top adviser to the United Torah Judaism party, died last week at the age of 100.

Yaron Angel, one of the bakery’s owners, also joined the shiva visit alongside Barlev and left his own separate written apology.

The boycott against Angel began in early May, after Barlev attended a protest rally calling for “equal service” in front of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, which Edelstein had headed since 2000.

In his apology, Barlev wrote that reports that he had protested outside the rabbi’s home were false, and that he had attended the rally to express a “personal standpoint” and had never meant to disrespect Edelstein or the Torah.

“I view the existence of the Torah and its students as an important value in Jewish tradition, that is not what I protested against,” added Barlev. Organizers of the protest said that it was aimed at demanding Haredi yeshiva students, who are largely exempt from military service, “share the burden” with the general population.

 

Barlev wrote, “If I had been made aware of the situation we found ourselves in, and the perceived offense, I surely would have refrained from this action. For this, I am sorry and apologize sincerely.”

In his own separate apology, Yaron Angel wrote that he regretted his company’s decision not to address the grassroots boycott earlier. Barlev attended the protest as a private individual and not in his capacity as chairman of the board at Angel Bakeries, the owner wrote.

“We should have said this immediately after the protest and expressed our sorrow,” Angel wrote. “In real-time, we thought such a reaction would involve the firm in political matters in which, for decades, we have not wanted to get involved. But this silence was interpreted as a further insult. We are sorry for this and apologize wholeheartedly.”

He signed his letter with the words: “modeh ve’ozev yerucham,” a biblical verse that is generally translated as “mercy will be shown to those who admit a mistake and desist from it.”

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, head of the Ponevez Yeshiva, at his home in Bnei Brak, December 19, 2017. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

MK Aryeh Deri, chairman of the Shas party, wrote on Twitter that the apology was a testament to the demographic’s purchasing power, and that those who want to tap into the market must show respect for its “generational leaders.” Deri also concluded his statement with “modeh ve’ozev yerucham,” indicating the matter was now behind them.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, President Isaac Herzog helped mediate between Haredi leaders and the management of Angel Bakeries to achieve the apology to end the boycott.

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