'Jews brought Holocaust on themselves' rabbi visits UK
Rabbi Mizrachi with Hasmonean pupils this week
A controversial preacher who believes that Down’s Syndrome and autism are the consequences of sins committed in a previous life made his first speaking tour of Britain this week, despite protests about his visit.
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, who also argues Ashkenazi Jews to some extent brought the Holocaust upon themselves, spoke to several Sephardi synagogues in London as well as pupils from two Jewish secondary schools.
The visit went ahead against the background of strong criticism from people who had seen clips of previous lectures online.
In an interview this week, the Israeli-born rabbi, who runs an Orthodox outreach organisation in the United States, explained that his views on sin and reincarnation came from the Torah and Kabbalah. “Suffering comes as a result of something we did in our past,” he said.
“The fact that we need to be reincarnated means we failed our mission in our last life. If we’d succeeded, we would go to heaven.”
A soul will be reborn in a new body to give it the chance to correct the mistakes of a previous life, he said. But for every deed, we are rewarded or punished “measure for measure”.
For example, he said, “Usually when a person comes mute and deaf, he is [affected] in two parts of the body, the mouth and the ear. What sins a person does with the mouth and the ear — speaking bad about others, destroying their life with their mouth, and listening to gossip.”
He added that if a person is reborn with free choice, they are still being tested to see if they do good or bad. But a brain-damaged person does not have free choice.
“When a person comes to the world without free choice, we know that they are already 99 per cent corrected,” he said. “He only has a little bit to correct and he’s done… So they are at a much higher level.”
No parent of an autistic child had ever complained to him about his views, he insisted. “The opposite. They told me ‘you gave me hope… now you explain these are holy souls, I actually feel honoured to have such a kid’.”
On the Holocaust, Rabbi Mizrachi suggested that Ashkenazi Jewry had suffered because they were more assimilated and less respectful of rabbis. The unassimiliated Sephardim were largely spared. “In Syria, Israel, Iran, Iraq — places where almost all the Jews were keeping the laws — they [the Nazis] did not kill them,” he said.
He suggested that religious Jews who died in the gas chambers were guilty of not preventing the assimilation of secular “brothers and sisters”.
Rabbi Mizrachi, who claims to have brought more than 50,000 Jews back to Torah observance, also links the spread of cancer and other diseases to immorality and lack of modesty.
When he addressed a group of senior boys from Hasmonean High School on Monday, he spoke about the dangers of social media and did not touch on reincarnation.
Rabbi Daniel Kleiman, who teaches Jewish studies at Hasmonean, found him “warm and level-headed. He is a big motivator, who talks from the heart. He is not fire and brimstone. He is very well accepted among the full spectrum of the Orthodox community.”
At one synagogue, Od Yosef Hai, which had previously cancelled his lecture, Rabbi Mizrachi was able to deliver a talk after the Sunday morning service.
But critics continued to express strong objections. Daniel Jonas, Sephardi shul-goer and founder of the band Los Desterrados, had campaigned against Rabbi Mizrachi. His views “insult the parents of children with special needs, or anyone stricken with cancer,” Mr Jonas said.
“His apparent ignorance of the historical facts of the Shoah is as breathtaking as the astounding arrogance of his claims to know the divine causes of disease and genocide.”
Jon Abrams, who works with people with disabilities, raised concerns with the United Synagogue over Rabbi Mizrachi’s appearance at Anshei Shalom, an independent minyan at St John’s Wood United Synagogue, describing his views as “offensive”.
In a Facebook post, Rabbi Mizrachi hit out at two of his opponents in particular, writing: “Soon we will all see how they get destroyed for eternity just like the Torah promised.”
A US spokesman said: “Should a speaker denigrate any section of the community or propagate a view starkly opposed to our values, we would object to an invitation for them to speak on our premises. However, before exercising such censorship, we would need to be sure that this was unambiguously the case.”
Rabbi Alan Kimche of Hendon’s Ner Israel Synagogue regarded Rabbi Mizrachi’s ideas about it as “very much a fringe movement within Orthodoxy.
“This is popularised Kabbalah which appeals to gullible people.”