Yaakov Litzman
Yaakov LitzmanFlash90

House Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who previously served as Health Minister, pushed back against accusations he provided favors to the IKEA franchise in Israel because of its owners’ support for a Hasidic movement.

In an interview Tuesday with Reshet Bet, Litzman called the author of an article which pushed the accusation “anti-Semitic”, dismissing the claims and arguing that he was targeted with the smear because of his status as a haredi minister.

Litzman, who transferred this week from the Health to the Housing and Construction Ministry, came under fire last month after the IKEA furniture chain was allowed to reopen on a limited basis.

A report by TheMarker linked the permit to IKEA to reopen with donations by Shulam Fisher and Matthew Bronfman, the owners of the IKEA franchise in Israel, to the Gur Hasidic movement. Rabbi Yaakov Litzman is a member of the Gur movement.

According to the report, Fisher and Bronfman donated some 3.9 million shekels ($1.1 million) to the Gur movement over the past six years.

On Tuesday, Litzman pushed back against the report, denying he even knew about the donations prior to the report’s publication.

“I’m guessing that you think that the moment I moved to the Housing Ministry the public criticism against me would stop. Well, it didn’t,” said Litzman.

“More than a few people were bothered by the fact that I wore a streimel at a press conference” continued Litzman, referring to the traditional Hasidic head covering, “and some were bothered by other things. But whatever I said, I said, and I’m not embarrassed by it.”

“I’m the first to accept criticism, that’s constructive and healthy and right.”

Turning to the charges that he permitted the opening of IKEA stores because of the owners’ donations to the Gur movement, Litzman said the link was based on a number of false points.

“One, I don’t know Fisher. I know who he is, but we’re not acquaintances. Two, he isn’t a Gur Hasid. Three, am I supposed to know who donates to what? Four, I didn’t even know about [the donations] until it was reported. Five, the Health Ministry didn’t request this [the reopening of IKEA stores], it was the Finance Ministry that requested it. That’s front-page news? What should I think about such a report?”

“It’s anti-Semitic,” continued Litzman. The author “didn’t even bother to correct it up to this point, or to apologize. If he made a mistake, he had enough time to correct it, but he didn’t.”