Daily Israel Report

R. Amsalem: Shas Leader All Wrong on Haredi Colleges

A ruling by a top Shas rabbi against women learning in haredi colleges won't help anyone, said Rabbi Haim Amsalem
By Moshe Cohen
First Publish: 6/26/2014, 8:20 AM

Rabbi Amsalem
Rabbi Amsalem
Flash 90

A ruling by Rabbi Shalom Cohen against women learning in haredi colleges is a “slap in the face” to the memory of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef z”tl, Rabbi Haim Amsalem said in an interview. Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Amsalem said that Rabbi Yosef had been a strong advocate of college education for haredi women – to the extent that his daughter, Adina Bar-Shalom, established one herself.

Speaking earlier this week, Rabbi Cohen ruled that women had no business studying in college. In an open letter to a haredi web site Tuesday, he wrote that even with the title “haredi,” colleges were no place for any believing Jew, male or female.

"Our great rabbis were opposed to academic studies even in haredi institutions because many of the lecturers are university graduates who do not accept the views of the holy Torah in which we were educated. In addition, the subject matter in colleges is based on research and scientific methods which contradict the Torah. Therefore female [high-school] students should not even considering entering academic studies programs in any framework, because this is not the way of the Torah,” he wrote.

During the run-up to 2013 Knesset elections, Rabbi Cohen infamously declared the religious Zionist sector, calling its members “Amalek,”” the Biblical enemy of the Jews who attacked them when they left Egypt. Rabbi Cohen, who is also dean of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Old City. His supporters later backpedaled, saying that when he branded "knitted kippot " wearers as “Amalek,” he did not mean to disparage all religious Zionists, but only the leadership of the Jewish Home party.

With this ruling, said Rabbi Amsalem, “Rabbi Cohen is sentencing the haredi community to years of poverty and hunger. The haredi colleges were established specifically to prevent this, with the blessing of Rabbi Yosef and others. This kind of attitude is very damaging.” Rabbi Amsalem, a former Shas MK, said that it was comments like Rabbi Cohen's that prompted him to leave Shas and establish his own moderate haredi party. He ran for the current Knesset on his own list, but did not garner enough votes to get a seat.

Rabbi Amsalem blames much of the Shas attitude on party head Aryeh Deri, “who is continuing to push the Ashkenazi haredi agenda, which will cause the Sephardic community to starve it widely implemented. It is shocking that they are now denying the legacy of Rabbi Yosef,” he added.