A number of leading rabbinical figures in the Orthodox world have issued a stern rebuke of one of the most prominent ‘kiruv’ (outreach) rabbis in the United States.
Sixteen rabbis penned a letter, publicized on Wednesday, rejecting the behavior and comments of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, calling his teaching methods “superficial”, “deceptive”, and “dangerous”.
“As rabbonim and mechanchim (teachers), we are greatly concerned about the popularity in some circles of a ‘kiruv’ approach that does not bring honor to the Torah…but on the contrary, creates considerable chilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name),” the statement reads.
In particular, the letter alluded to claims by Rabbi Mizrachi in 2015 that no more than 1 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, arguing that the remaining 5 million victims identified as Jewish were in fact gentiles and the result of intermarriage.
“Earlier this year, Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi apologized for one particularly offensive statement he made on several occasions. But he has voiced, both before and since that apology, many things that reduce complex issues to simplistic and misleading sound bites. He has also repeatedly arrogated to ‘know’ why unfortunate things happen to various people and has presented subtle statements of Chazal (the rabbis of the Talmud) in superficial and deceptive ways.
“This method may entertain and even stimulate some audiences, but it does no justice to the Jewish [tradition]. And, especially with the world wide audience enjoyed by any public speech these days, misleading assertions even when offered with the best of intentions, are particularly objectionable, and even dangerous.
“Jewish institutions must be discerning about the credentials and the histories of those who they offer the honor of acting as teachers of Torah. We urge all shuls (synagogues) and organizations to act responsibly and take seriously decisions about whom they invite to address their gatherings.”
Among others, the 16 signatories to the letter include Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, head of the Beis Din of American and the Chicago Rabbinical Council; the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Mayer Alter Horowitz; Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein, editor of Cross Currents; Rabbi Avi Shafran, a senior member of Agudath Israel of America; Rabbi Shalom Baum, President of the Rabbinical Council of America; Yeshiva University Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Daniel Feldman; Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Darche Noam in Jerusalem; and Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities in the UK.
Mizrachi, who moved to New York after his army service, now lives in Monsey and runs the Divine Information website, which disseminates recordings of his lectures.
The kiruv rabbi claims a significant following, built up through speaking tours and recordings of sermons broadcast over the internet.
But Rabbi Mizrachi has also been the center of a number of controversies sparked by comments regarding the Holocaust, autism, and cancer patients, as well as public feuds with other kiruv rabbis.