The visit of Iran's chief rabbi to the United States earlier this week has drawn ire of the local Jewish community due to the religious leader's past staunch anti-Israel remarks.
Chief Rabbi Yehuda Gerami's visit was part of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries - largest annual Chabad conference in the U.S. He apparently has been traveling for over a month across the country as part of the visit, during which he had met with many local rabbis who honored him "like a celebrity".
The visit, however, was slammed by some Jews in the U.S. over his past verbal attacks on Israel and Zionism. Gerami also apparently made a condolence visit to the family of Qasem Soleimani, a commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force who was associated by U.S. forces in January of 2020.
"The Iranian regime uses him for propaganda," said Albert Basal, one of the main activists in the central synagogue for Persian Jews in the U.S. "They shouldn't have brought him into our community, his place is at the mosque, why would he come to our synagogue?"
"The community is divided because of his invitation to the synagogue, and he has nothing to tell us that we don't already know," said Basal.
Rabbi Gerami already visited synagogues in Beverly Hills and around Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn, and in other areas where many Iranian Jews live. He also met with Satmar Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum who represents the Jewish community that opposes the State of Israel, in Kiryas Joel, New York.
In the past, Rabbi Gerami attacked the Israeli government in interviews that he gave to the Iranian media, saying, "you Zionists don't represent Judaism or the Jewish people, You only represent an idea of a political movement, whose ideas and values contrasted the ideas and values of our Torah and the Jewish religion."
In other interviews, the Iranian rabbi said the Israeli government doesn't care about Jewish affairs. "All they give to the religious people is a part of political deals rather than a religious sympathy. The regime in Israel is political and not religious, and every year there are pride parades in Israel, and not only does no one object them, but the state itself is also budgeting, respecting, and encouraging them."
Chairman of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States Rabbi Mendy Chitrik accompanied the Iranian rabbi during his visit to the U.S. and said that "rabbi Gerami doesn't talk about politics nor deals with it."
"Like most rabbis, his goal is to strengthen his community. The Jews of Iran have many family members and family ties in the United States, and rabbi Gerami brings together people and families, especially on religious issues. From my perception, I saw only honor and appreciation from the Persian Jews he met. I didn't see it as a propaganda campaign, but a campaign to strengthen the Jewish community."