Synagogue cancels talk by 'Down's Syndrome is a punishment' rabbi

A Sephardi congregation has cancelled a talk by a rabbi who believes that Down’s Syndrome and autism are punishments for sins committed in a previous life.

Israeli-born Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, who runs an outreach organisation in the United States, was due to speak at Od Yosef Hai in Hendon, north London next month.

In videos of his previous talks, he can be heard describing Down’s Syndrome, autism and other conditions as “a punishment as a result of the previous life”.

He has also suggested that mixed parties cause cancer and that the Holocaust was brought by God to European Jews because they had abandoned Torah, whereas in most Arab countries, where Jews were largely religious, there had been “no Hitler, no Holocaust”.

Daniel Anderson, a member of Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue, who learned of Rabbi Mizrachi’s visit through Facebook, protested to Od Yosef Hai at “the deeply hurtful and incendiary” views. “I was shocked,” Mr Anderson said. “He is effectively blaming people for their illness and conditions.”

But Rabbi Mizrachi argued this week that his words had been taken out of context. He said: “I said in my lectures many times that, according to Judaism and Kabbalah, all of us are reincarnations, which means our soul was in this world before in a different body, and came back to correct what we sinned in our previous life.”

He insisted he “would never dare to disrespect” people with disabilities.

Rabbi Mizrachi said that Od Yosef Hai had apologised to him. The talk would now take place in a different venue.

Yosef David, a rabbi at Od Yosef Hai, gave no reason for the cancellation but said that the lecture had been organised by another group, Torah Platform, not by the congregation itself.

Last updated: 11:45am, January 24 2014