Column for JN September 9 2016 by Jenni Frazer
On the whole, and I hope you will agree, we are a pretty tolerant community in this country. We have more things in common than what divides us: we abhor antisemitism and we are getting better at denouncing it from whatever source. We’re also relatively sophisticated, these days, in disentangling criticism of Israel from full-blown Jew-hatred.
What we’re not very good at is dealing with Jews who mouth loathsome sentiments, from out-and-out antisemites — yes, he has described himself as such — like Gilad Atzmon, or some of the unhappy members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Let me make it clear here that I have absolutely no problem with justice for Palestinians, as long as there is parallel justice for the citizens of the state of Israel. The JfJfP mob don’t seem to think rights extend to Israelis.
At the other end of the political spectrum there are the… difficult supporters of extreme right-wing views. One such is Douglas Altabef, a member of the executive of the board of Im Tirtzu, an Israeli group which proclaims that it is ready to “reclaim” Zionism, although from whom, it is difficult to discern. It should hardly need stating, but apparently to Im Tirtzu supporters it does, that no-one has the exclusive rights to define Zionism.
Incidentally, I find it interesting, though not surprising,that Mr Altabef, who intends to perform speaking engagements in London in a week’s time, is an emigrant to Israel from the US. His strident views only confirm me in the belief that much of America was once invaded by a nutter virus, but nobody wants to own up to it. Hence Sarah Palin, Donald Trump — and Douglas Altabef.
But one man who has made the journey from Israel to America — yet still believes he has all the answers — is also intent on visiting our shores. And this time I think we need to say, as they say in Israel, Yesh Gvul — there is a limit. And yes, I am aware that there is a group calling itself that, but that’s not what I am referring to.
The man in question is called Yosef Mizrachi. His own biography on his winningly-titled website, “DivineInformation.com” — no shrinking violet, he — is fittingly non-specific. You will not learn, for example, where he acquired his rabbinical ordination, though he styles himself Rabbi Mizrachi.
Here’s what he says about himself: “Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi was born in 1968. He was raised in Israel where he studied until 1986. In 1986, he was drafted to the Israeli Military (IDF) and served in the Air Force. Immediately after his release from military, he immigrated to New York City where he was involved in the financial banking district”.
Personally I don’t know what “involved in the financial banking district” actually means. For all I know he could have been a messenger, wheeling barrowloads of documents from one office to another, but I imagine the impression we are supposed to get is that he was some big important banker.
However, his bio goes on: “In 1994, Rabbi Mizrachi decided to dedicate his life to the awareness of Judaism among secular Jews. It was in that year that he began co-ordinating lectures and seminars among Israelis in the New York – New Jersey area. In 1997 he left the financial district and enrolled [in] full time learning and teaching in a yeshiva in Monsey, New York”.
There’s almost no room here to detail the plethora of really repellent views this man has disseminated under the guise of bringing a Divine message to the secular community.
But try some of these for size: that Down’s Syndrome children and those with autism are being punished for their sins in a previous life; that children born blind are being punished for watching pornography in a previous life; that a variety of cancers suffered by both genders are a result of sexual licentiousness; that the number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust was much less than six million because they were not all halachically Jewish; that mixed dancing and women’s immodest clothing cause cancer.
To me, and I hope to the majority of JN readers, these are not the views which should be expressed by a rabbi of any denomination. Mr Mizrachi has a trip planned to speak in the UK on September 16. If we heard of such hateful opinions being presented by a Muslim extremist, we would, rightly, be up in arms.
I hope our community — tolerant as it is — knows offensive bigotry when it sees it. Mr Mizrachi, in my opinion, should not be tolerated here.