Saperstein: “How sad that a religious leader would rather spew out senseless rhetoric by attempting to concoct a connection between a soldier’s level of religious observance and his or her fate on the battlefield.”
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In a sermon delivered earlier this week, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Israeli Political Party Shas, barbarically attacked the valor of those Israeli soldiers who died fighting in the Second Lebanon War by claiming that “it is no wonder that irreligious soldiers die in war.”
Rabbi Yosef’s statement is profoundly hurtful to the families who lost loved ones in last summer’s war with Lebanon and is a disgrace to the memories of all those soldiers who died fighting to ensure Israel’s continued safety and security. How could Rabbi Yosef diminish the bravery and tarnish the memory of all those young men and women who serve their country? How sad that a religious leader would rather spew out senseless rhetoric by attempting to concoct a connection between a soldier’s level of religious observance and his or her fate on the battlefield. We call on Rabbi Yosef to apologize immediately and emphatically, asking for forgiveness from those families who lost their loved ones in defense of Israel. As we in the Jewish world enter the High Holiday season and the month of Elul, we reflect on our transgressions of the past year. We hope that Rabbi Yosef will take this opportunity, as is our custom, to seek forgiveness for the hurt which he has caused to so many with these words.
Furthermore, these hate-filled remarks can not be allowed to pass unchallenged. It is of the utmost importance that the comments made by Rabbi Yosef be denounced in the most emphatic terms by the Israeli Government, by religious leaders in all of the streams, and by others in the public arena. We commend Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s statement denouncing Yosef’s cruel remarks and call on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to immediately follow suit.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more
than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis