Radio Host Apologizes For Attack on Hareidi Leader

Senior Attorney Sheftel says didn't wish for Rabbi Shteinman's death by saying 'may his name and memory be erased.'

Chaim Lev, Ari Yashar ,

Yoram Sheftel
Yoram Sheftel
Israel news photo: Flash 90

After sharply criticizing Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the 99-year-old leader of the hareidi Lithuanian-stream, during a radio broadcast last week, senior attorney and radio personality Yoram Sheftel apologized on Thursday for his comments.

The controversy was sparked when Rabbi Shteinman attacked MKs for passing the Enlistment Law, requiring hareidi IDF service, last Wednesday. The rabbi employed colorful and insulting language, saying the MKs should "go to hell," and adding "may their names and memories be erased" - a Hebrew phrase usually employed against arch-enemies of the Jewish people.

In response, Sheftel last week shot back "may your name and memory be erased Rabbi Aharon Shteinman," calling him a "scoundrel" and a "low, contemptible person" who "didn't learn anything from the history of the people of Israel." The statements led some MKs of the hareidi United Torah Judaism party, associated with the rabbi, to call for Sheftel's resignation.

At the start of Sheftel's weekly Thursday broadcast, he asked forgiveness from listeners offended by his on-air tongue-lashing of the rabbi, saying in his criticism he in no way meant to insinuate that he wished for the rabbi's death, but rather intended to refer only to the rabbi's "name and memory."

"Last week, following my sharp words against Rabbi Aharon Shteinman, a certain storm arose and I was asked to clarify," broadcasted Sheftel. "I'll do that from my own desire, and I didn't intend in any way whatsoever to wish for his death; I referred only to his name and memory."

After blessing Rabbi Shteinman with a long life on the radio, Sheftel stated "I hope that those who were needlessly shocked at my words will be satisfied."

Aside from the interchange regarding Rabbi Shteinman, Sheftel has also been under pressure for a separate incident. On Thursday, a local Tel Aviv Court repealed the attorney's petition of slander charges, filed by a man he called on-air a year and a half ago "a deceiver" and "despicable."

The court ordered Sheftel to pay the man 75,000 shekels (roughly $21,500) in compensation to the man, as well as lawyer's fees to the tune of 30,000 shekels (roughly $8,600) to the man, reports Israel Radio.

Rabbi Shteinman was attacked last October by a member of a rival Lithuanian hareidi stream, which lost in local municipal elections to the rabbi's faction. The 20-year-old hareidi attacker entered the rabbi's home at night, shaking him while verbally insulting him, leaving him feeling unwell.

The attacker was transferred to a psychiatric hospital later in the month, after being appraised as being in a "psychotic state."