The Anti-Defamation League has slammed one of Israel's chief rabbis for comparing black people to monkeys.
The New York City-based organization devoted to battling anti-Semitism and racism called Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef's comments "racially charged" and "utterly unacceptable."
Yosef, who represents Israel's Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent, made the comment during his weekly sermon. His office said he was citing a passage from the Talmud when he used a derogatory term for a black person and then interchanged it with monkey.
Yosef has gotten into trouble before for suggesting secular women behave like animals because they dress immodestly.
His late father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, also had a knack for citing obscure ancient texts that offended Israelis.
'You see a negro, bless him as an exceptional creature'"We don't say a blessing for every negro … He needs to be a negro whose father and mother are white … if you know, they had a monkey for a son, they had a son like that," Rabbi Yosef said.
During the lesson, which was given on Saturday night on the weekly Torah portion of Vayakhel-Pekudei, the rabbi spoke about the blessings of trees which is a customary ritual during the month of Nissan, which began last Saturday.
The halachic question revolves around whether to bless one tree or at least two and in this context, Rabbi Yosef offered examples of other blessings, for example the blessing of "strange creatures" that evoke attention or repulsion, rather than aesthetic pleasure.
"Someone who sees strange creatures blesses them," he said. "You see a negro, bless him as an exceptional creature. Which negro? When his father and mother are white and he comes out black." The rabbi emphasized that "not every negro needs to be blessed" and that it only applied to a black person who was born to white parents.
Elaborating on the halachic matter, Rabbi Yosef continued, "You go around in the streets of America, every five minutes you will see a negro. Do you bless him as an 'exceptional creature?' However, he should be a negro whose father and mother are white.
"We don't say a blessing for every negro… He needs to be a negro whose father and mother are white… if you know, they had a monkey for a son, they had a son like that," Rabbi Yosef continued. "So what will you say, that there needs to be two negroes? No, but this an example that the Gemorah (commentary on the Mishnah, the Oral Torah) gave. So the same applies to trees."