Israel Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Rabbi Avraham
Israel Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Rabbi Avrahamcourtesy Mordy Mehlman, Flatbush Jewish Journal

It has taken 17 years, but the Brooklyn Syrian congregation of Shaare Zion finally apologized publicly on behalf of the entire community to their Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Avraham Hecht, over a scandal connected with Israel's former prime minister.

The apology was tendered by community leaders Stanley Chera and Joe Carrey in the presence of Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar at a celebration of the rabbi's 90th birthday, held at Brooklyn's Sephardi Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht, son of the rabbi, who himself leads a congregation and serves as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Norwalk, Connecticut, called it a “miracle," commenting that the Jewish calendar is currently in the Hebrew month of Nissan, a “time of miracles.” He added that his father was deeply involved in the “saving of so many of Egyptian Jewry... and the remnant of the Syrian Jewish community.”

The elder rabbi is the author of three books, has served as president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, and was key in helping establish Brooklyn's Sephardic Jewish community.

The congregation, however, had summarily dismissed Rabbi Hecht, their long-standing, famed spiritual leader, after a speech before a gathering of rabbis that set off alarm bells among leftist media.

Hecht had warned that “by handing over Israeli land and property, Israeli leaders are betraying Jews to non-Jews.” The rabbi noted at the time that it is permissible according to Jewish law to kill such a person.

When media picked up the comment, it was taken out of context and in at least one article, embroidered by a journalist who dubbed the rabbi as having “sentenced” then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin to death.

One month later, Rabin was assassinated by convicted murderer Yigal Amir, who shot him at point-blank range during a rally, for signing the Oslo Accords.

Amir remains incarcerated to this day – but the rabbi was blamed for Rabin's murder as well.

In a spiritual sense, Rabbi Hecht was forced to serve a similar sentence despite his innocence, barred from entering Israel for “security” reasons and dismissed from his position as senior spiritual leader at Shaare Zion by its executive board, where he had served for nearly half a century.