A civil rights group dedicated to fighting anti-semitism has hit out at the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel after he reportedly labeled black people “monkeys.” Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef made the comments during a religious sermon.
Yosef allegedly used derogatory phrases when talking about African-Americans during a lesson to followers last Saturday, reported Ynet News. During the speech, the rabbi appeared to specifically suggest that prayers should only be offered to black people whose parents happen to be white.
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“You go around in the streets of America, every five minutes you will see a negro. Do you bless him as an ‘exceptional creature’?” Yosef is quoted as saying. “We don’t say a blessing for every negro… He needs to be a negro whose father and mother are white… if you know, they had a monkey for a son, they had a son like that.”
The Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based civil rights organization, slammed the “racially charged” comments from the rabbi as “utterly unacceptable.”
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A statement issued on behalf of Rabbi Yosef said that the religious leader was referencing religious scripture when he made the remarks. “The words of the rabbi are quoted from the Babylonian Talmud in Berakhot,” the statement read.
One of Israel’s most senior religious figures, rabbi Yosef has stoked controversy in the past by stating in 2016 that non-Jewish people “are in Israel only to serve Jews.” He later retracted the statement, calling it a “theoretical” musing.