Israeli-American rabbi barred from entering UK

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, a controversial Israeli-born lecturer living in Monsey, barred from entering the UK for speaking tour.

David Rosenberg,

British court (illustrative)
British court (illustrative)

A controversial Israeli-American rabbi has been barred from entering Britain, effectively forcing him to cancel an upcoming speaking tour in England.

On Wednesday, The Jewish Chronicle reported that the speaking tour had been cancelled after the British Home Office had issued an order preventing Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi from entering the country.

The Chronicle cited Rabbi Aharon Bassous, who heads the Beth Medrash Knesset Yehezkel, where Rabbi Mizrachi was scheduled to speak. Rabbi Bassous said that the lecture had been cancelled, after he was informed that UK authorities were preparing to deny Rabbi Mizrachi entry into the country.

Rabbi Mizrachi had planned to fly from New York to England on Wednesday for a series of lectures in London and Manchester.

Earlier on Wednesday, British authorities warned that they were considering banning Mizrachi from the country.

“This Government upholds free speech but we will not let it be used to excuse detestable views that directly contravene our values,” a Home Office spokesman said, according to the Chronicle

“We take the threat from extremism seriously and we will challenge it wherever we see it.”

Rabbi Mizrachi, 50, was born and raised in Israel, but immigrated to the US in the 1990s, becoming Orthodox and studying at yeshivas in Monsey, New York.

A divisive figure within the Orthodox world, Mizrachi has developed a large following through speaking tours, as well as regular internet broadcasts of his lectures.

Some of his comments, however, have drawn fierce criticism, including a December 2015 statement in which he claimed that less than one million Jews were killed in the Holocaust – a claim critics have said bordered on Holocaust denial.

“The truth is that not even one million Jews were killed,” Mizrachi said. “Not that this is, God forbid, an insignificant number, it’s massive, but there is a difference between one million and 6 million.”

Mizrachi claimed that the vast majority of Jewish victims of the Holocaust were in fact gentiles – the descendants of Jews who had assimilated and intermarried. He later walked back the claim and issued an apology.

That was not the only controversial statement Rabbi Mizrachi made regarding Holocaust victims, however. In a 2014 lecture, Mizrachi accused secular Jewish women killed in the Holocaust of immodesty after they had been stripped naked before being forced into gas chambers.

Other controversial comments by Rabbi Mizrachi include claims that children suffering from autism and Down’s Syndrome are reincarnations of sinners now being punished for past sins, and blaming mixed seating at weddings and other events for cancer.

In 2016, 16 prominent Orthodox rabbis in the US and UK signed a letter condemning Rabbi Mizrachi’s lectures as “objectionable and even dangerous,” adding that he “reduces complex issues to simplistic and misleading sound bites.”

“That method may entertain and even stimulate some audiences, but it does no justice to the Jewish mesorah.”