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June 26, 1992 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-06-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Rabbi Schach Initiates
Political Controversy

Jerusalem (JTA) — Rabbi
Eliezer Schach, spiritual
mentor of the strictly Or-
thodox Degel HaTorah par-
ty, has touched off another
storm of controversy in
Israel's political community,
this time with a statement
that appears to belittle
Sephardim
Charges of racism and
elitism were leveled at the
96-year- old sage after he
was quoted as saying that
the "Sephardi religious
leadership is not mature
enough to lead the state or
lead religion."
In the superheated public
atmosphere just 10 days
before the election, Rabbi
Schach's statement has
become a national point of
reference, with represent-
atives of almost every party
mentioning it in their public
remarks.
The Mitnagged rabbi, who
is dean of the large Ponevezh
Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, is no
stranger to controversy here.
He has locked horns often
with the Lubavitcher rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem Schneer-
son of Brooklyn. And his
opinion was considered a
fulcrum in 1990 for Labor
leader Shimon Peres' efforts
to form a Labor- led coalition
government.
At that time, Rabbi Schach
delivered a highly publicized
speech to some 10,000 dele-
gates of Degel HaTorah, in
which he refused to talk pol-
itics but nevertheless was
credited with swaying votes
to Likud by his stinging
polemic against secular
Jews and the kibbutz move-
ment in particular, a domain
of Labor. That summer,
Rabbi Schach again made
headlines by claiming that
some 20 percent of the most
recent immigrants were not
Jews. And he again lam-
basted the kibbutzim.
Last month, he gave his
blessing to plans for his par-
ty to reunite with its
Chasidic rival, Agudat
Yisrael, from which he had
turned two years ago when
Agudah aligned with
Lubavitch.
In the latest turn of events,
Rabbi Schach's remarks,
made June 10 at a meeting
of rabbis, were being inter-
preted by his own aides as an
attack on the Sephardic
Shas party and, in par-
ticular, its leader, Interior
Minister Arye Deri, one of
the youngest Israelis ever to
hold Cabinet rank.
Rabbi Schach's aides said

the aging rabbi had gone on 4 .4
to lament that "certain
young persons are trying to ..,
take over the yeshiva
world."
But they said his osten-
sibly anti-Sephardic
remarks had been taken out ,r.1
of context and published
with an aim to discredit him.
Among Shas members
there was no official reac-
tion. The party's mentor,
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was
given a demonstratively
warm welcome when he 41.1
arrived Saturday night for
his weekly talk at the •
Bukharan Quarter syn-
agogue in Jerusalem. There
he cited the Mishnaic
aphorism, "Silence suits the
0111
wise."
Privately, Shas activists
claimed the Schach state-
ment would boomerang

The Mitnagged
rabbi, who is dean 00
of the large
Ponevezh Yeshiva
in Bnel Brak, is no -1
stranger to
controversy here.
He has locked
horns often with
gio
the Lubavitcher
11
rebbe.

favorably for their party.
"It's worth two or three
more seats to us," they told
reporters. Rabbi Schach had rro
plainly intended his
remarks to persuade strictly 0
Orthodox Sephardim to vote
for the United Torah Front, 4
the joint list comprising
Agudat Yisrael, Rabbi
Schach's own Degel
HaTorah, and the Sephardic
minister of absorption, Yit- 0
zhak Peretz.
Among Rabbi Schach's
many Sephardic disciples,
some insisted there had been
no general aspersion against
their community, while
others freely admitted that
they found themselves "torn
now by conflicting
loyalties."
The general media gave
saturation coverage to the
sage's remarks right
through the weekend.
The paper's main news
headline claimed Rabbi
Schach had sought a firm
commitment from Shas that
it would not align with
Labor after the election and,
failing to obtain that, had
launched his attack on the
Sephardic party.

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