New North London investigating Masorti rabbi who called Israeli leaders ‘war criminals’

Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tom apologised for controversial Haggadah supplement


Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tov (Photo: YouTube)

The UK’s flagship Masorti synagogue is investigating a rabbi who called Israeli politicians “war criminals”.

Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tom, who uses “they/them” pronouns, has apologised for the comments they made in a “Justice-oriented" Haggadah supplement.

In the essay, “Let all who are hungry come and eat,” Rabbi Yom-Tom wrote, “the same war criminals who have forced Palestinian families to flee their homes will lift up their matzah and wax poetic about the Israelites’ rush to escape Egypt.”

Last week, the rabbi apologised to NNLS members for the comments: “I also apologise for using the term ‘war criminals.’ I recognise that through my words I’ve caused pain to many members of our community and damaged our relationship. I missed the mark and I’m sorry.”

Rabbi Yom-Tov said that the NNLS community had “shared heartfelt concerns” about the essay.

The rabbi wrote, “I deeply appreciate everyone who trusted me, and the rest of the NNLS team, enough to share your thoughts.”

“I regret that my piece didn’t reflect the deep love and concern that I feel for all Israelis, and particularly for the hostages and their families.” The “justice-oriented Haggadah reader” did not mention the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.

In their apology, Rabbi Yom-Tov explained their connection to Israel: “Israel embodies a precious safe haven for the Jewish people [...] the Jewish people, like all people on earth, have a right to safety and democratic self-determination.”

Originally from Washington DC, the rabbi moved to Israel in 2018 and said that they “quickly fell in love, not just with a nice Finchley boy that I met in yeshiva [Rabbi Yom-Tov is married to Gabriel Gendler Yom-Tov], but also with the sight of children playing in Gan Sacher on a Shabbat afternoon and the magic of living in a city that vibrates with spiritual intensity.”

While a student rabbi, they were listed as part of the Rabbinical Council for the controversial Jewish Voice for Pease group.

Rabbi Yom-Tom joined the NNLS two years ago. They are part of an outreach team working with young adults in one of the UK’s biggest synagogues, home to over 3,700 members.

When their essay drew controversy last month, the chair and co-CEOs of NNLS together with Rabbi Wittenberg and Rabbi Zahavit Shalev sent an email to synagogue members, stating: “This article does not reflect our views, those of the community or of Masorti Judaism, and our rabbis and leadership were not made aware of it in advance of publication, as they should have been.

They added: “Rabbi Lara is a new member of our newly enlarged rabbinic team and has made positive contributions which are widely appreciated. We will be taking appropriate steps to ensure this is a significant learning experience and will work with Rabbi Lara to help them appreciate the power of their office and their responsibility to NNLS and the wider community.”

NNLS has been approached for comment.

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