JERUSALEM (JTA) — A member of the Sephardi haredi Orthodox Shas party’s rabbinical council called the Modern Orthodox community Amalek, referring to the archenemy of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Shalom Cohen of the Shas Council of Torah Sages made the statement on Saturday night in Jerusalem with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party’s spiritual leader, sitting alongside him.
They were at an event announcing the candidacy of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Ovadia Yosef’s youngest son, for Sephardic chief rabbi.
Cohen referred to the Modern Orthodox community as kipa sruga, or knitted kipa.
“As long as there are knit kippot, the throne [of God] is not whole. That’s Amalek,” he said in comments captured on a video posted Sunday on the haredi Orthodox website Kikar Shabbat, Israeli media reported Sunday. “When will the throne be whole? When there is no knit kipa.
“Are these people even Jews?” he asked. “We would be unfortunate to end up with a [chief] rabbi who wears a knitted kipa.”
Government minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Modern Orthodox Jewish Home party, slammed the comments in a statement on Facebook and called on haredi Orthodox leaders to condemn them.
“For those who don’t know, Amalek is an expression referring to someone who must be wiped off the face of the earth. No less. At this very moment, thousands of knit-kipa wearers are standing guard from the Syrian border to the Egyptian, from brigade commanders down to the lowliest soldiers, and are spitting blood to defend even the honorable rabbi,” Bennett wrote.
“On the eve of Tisha B’Av, I call on all the leaders and representatives of the ultra-Orthodox public: Even if you are not in the government, even if we have political disputes, you must condemn and decry this type of discourse.”