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Brazilian rabbi slammed for supporting ex-president jailed for corruption

A Brazilian rabbi who supported an iconic ex-president convicted of corruption apologizes after being slammed for acting as if he represented the Jewish community.

Rabbi Alexandre Leone has been under fire since the release of videos and photos of him protesting on a sound truck in favor of ex-president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, whose refusal to turn himself in to begin his prison sentence became a media spectacle that mobilized Latin America’s largest nation over the weekend.

“Leone exposed the whole Jewish community for speaking in the name of the Jews without asking permission. Being a Jewish humanist cannot mean joining people who are against Israel and the Jews and that’s what he did by exposing himself and us next to a Palestinian flag, while Israel is forced to risk the lives of its soldiers to save the nation from terrorist attacks,” according a statement sent to JTA by the Brazil-Israel Zionist Association.

Wearing a kippah, Leone and other Jewish activists addressed thousands during a so-called ecumenical event held Friday evening by Lula’s Labor Party at his political nest in Sao Bernardo do Campo. Lula, 72, defied a 5 p.m. deadline to report to prison to begin serving a 12-year corruption sentence.

Leone, a Conservative rabbi ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, apologized in a video published in social media early Tuesday. “My decision to participate was misguided. I have exposed my community unnecessarily. I apologize to all those from the Jewish community that felt offended,” Leone said. “I identity myself with humanist ideals. That’s why I accepted to participate in an interfaith act with a message of peace and democracy. But I have learned that things can easily get out of control.”

— JTA

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