Shalom Cohen, a hardline rabbi known for his overt hostility toward modern Orthodox and secular Israeli Jews, was appointed spiritual leader of the Orthodox, Sephardi Shas Party.
Cohen, leader of the Porat Yosef religious seminary, was named president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages on Thursday at a ceremony in Bnei Brak neat Tel Aviv, Army Radio reported. He replaced Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who died last year.
Public Advocate and Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio released a statement Monday morning praising the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Ovadia Yosef, who died after a long illness at 93.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to Jerusalem streets to mourn the passing of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Monday evening, with crowd estimates as high as 800,000 and possibly close to 1 million.
President Shimon Peres called him “a great man with an unbelievable memory and the wisdom to share his knowledge with others.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the former Sephardic chief rabbi was “a giant in Torah and Jewish law and a teacher for tens of thousands.
“”He worked greatly to enhance Jewish heritage and at the same time, his rulings took into consideration the times and the realities of renewed life in the State of Israel. He was imbued with love of the Torah and the people.”
Many of the main streets in Jerusalem were closed for the service, which local media called the largest in Israeli history.
The mourners — equal to about 10 percent of the country’s population — crowded a portion of the city’s northern district as loudspeakers broadcast the proceedings to others far from the ceremony.
The funeral for Yosef, the 93-year-old former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, began several hours after his death at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital after a long illness.
A van carrying his body could barely inch forward due to the swarms of mourners while bringing him to the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in the Geula neighborhood and then to the Sanhedria cemetery, where he was buried next to his wife, who died two decades ago.
Some 300 people required medical attention during the funeral and procession, which lasted several hours.
After a series of penitential prayers, Rabbi Yosef was eulogized by a string of leading haredi Orthodox rabbis, including his son, the current Sephardi chief rabbi, Yitzchak Yosef, as well as former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.
Aryeh Deri, head of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party founded by Yosef in 1984, also delivered a eulogy.
“Who will unite us all?” Deri said, crying. “Who will lead us, rabbi? You left us in our hardest hour.”
Yosef, a native of Baghdad, Iraq, served as Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi from 1973 to 1983, subsequently founding Shas and serving as its spiritual leader. He was revered among Sephardi and haredi Orthodox Israelis as a sage of Jewish law, and was known more broadly for his sometimes controversial political stances.
On Tuesday morning, hundreds of people visited an open mourning tent erected outside Yosef’s home in the Har Nof neighbordood of Jerusalem. Thousands are expected to visit each day throughout the seven-day shiva period.
Some 200 people were treated by Magen David Adom, Israel's emergency medical service, as the procession wound through the streets from Yeshiva Porat Yosef in the Geula section, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Rabbi Yosef founded the Sephardi Orthodox Shas political party and exercised major influence on Jewish law but was also prone to making inflammatory statements about non-Jews, gays and victims of tragedies.
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- In the aftermath of the deadliest fire in Israel’s history, Israelis this week set to the task of burying the dead, cleaning up and figuring out what exactly went wrong -- and who is to blame.
Update: Now we've heard from the Conservative movement. In a statement, the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Jewish Theological Assembly and eight other movement groups said this: "As leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement, we deplore these recent comments of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that, like many of his comments over the years, constitute irresponsible incitement to violence.
Update: in this blog, I asked what Jewish leader would be the first to condemn Rabbi Ovadia Yosef''s death wish for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people. Answer: Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). This just in from Foxman:
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- On the eve of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the spiritual leader of the Shas Party wished for the demise of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this world," Rabbi Ovadia Yosef reportedly said during his weekly Saturday night sermon at a Jerusalem synagogue. "God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians."
Yosef also called the Palestinians "evil, bitter enemies of Israel."
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