A pro-Israel event that I attended last month in Florida gave rise to unwarranted controversy from an unlikely source: Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and Rabbi Yaron Reuven, both of whom have thousands of YouTube followers.
The event, which was held at the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), featured former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, conservative commentator and media personality Ben Shapiro, former Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the State Department Ellie Cohanim and Latino Coalition for Israel president Pastor Mario Bramnick. Each of the speakers, including Bramnick, inspired the 1,000-strong audience with their words of support for Israel and efforts to fight anti-Semitism.
Nevertheless, Rabbis Mizrahi and Reuven castigated BRS ahead of the event, for having included Bramnick. This led to threats—such as one left on the cellphone of a daughter of BRS Rabbi Efrem Goldberg—that spurred BRS to install metal detectors at the entrance to the happening.
In one of his videos, Reuven asked: “What does Rabbi Hershel Schachter [an adviser on Jewish Law for the Orthodox Union] think about Efrem Goldberg’s missionary events?”
The fact is, however, that Schachter not only had given his approval for the event, but two of his sons attended it, as it was not missionary in any shape or form. This exposed that a letter in Schachter’s name opposing the event had been a fake.
Another video by Reuven rips into Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with which BRS worked for the event.
As for Mizrachi, he became infamous for outrageously claiming that only 1 million of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis were halachically Jewish. He based this on the false assertion that an overwhelming number of German Jews were intermarried.
This in itself is ridiculous; it’s well known that half of the 6 million who perished were from Poland, and most of the others were from countries like Russia and Hungary. More than half of Germany’s Jews escaped before WWII, because they were exposed early to Hitler’s hatred. And German-Jewish deaths totaled about 250,000.
After his notorious Holocaust remarks were harshly criticized, and he saw his speaking career being threatened, Mizrachi apologized. But his many other outrageous statements continue to circulate, including his attacks on Goldberg and many others.
This is unfortunate, as he is talented and has been successful in outreach. Yet he hurts his image by spreading wild theories—such as using a hair dryer on your throat five times a day for two days after contracting COVID will help cure you—and attacking other rabbis. He once disgustingly called the Chief Rabbi of England Ephraim Mirvis the “number one most wicked person in the world.”
Reuven went even further, sickeningly referring to Goldberg’s having invited Bramnick to the Boca event as “100% worse than Hitler.”
Such comments are so beyond the pale of normalcy and decency that it is shocking for someone making them to have any following in the religious Jewish world. In trying to make his case, Reuven uploaded to his video comments on Christianity by Bramnick and another clergyman that were made during Christian gatherings, not at BRS. Ironically, it was Reuven who provided a forum for Christian remarks in a video viewed mainly by Jews.
While Israel is under assault and anti-Semitism is on the rise, both Mizrachi and Reuven should focus their energies on fighting on behalf of the Jewish people, rather than causing an internal rift. Nor should others be afraid to call them out for their bullying. Silence in the face of attacks only serves to encourage additional ones.
They should immediately atone, change their ways and join the true mission of Jewish leadership—or at least cease their terribly destructive, divisive and sinful actions. As rabbis, they have an especially great responsibility to do so.
Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.