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July 30, 2013

Israel’s New Haredi Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Makes Racist Remark, Sparks Outrage

Rabbi David Lau"Who cares if a bunch of paid 'Cushim'in Tel Aviv beat a bunch of paid 'Cushim' in Greece?" Chief Rabbi David Lau said, using a derogatory term for Black people that is in Modern Hebrew the rough equivalent of the English-language “N” word, “darkie” and “coon.”

Rabbi David Lau
Chief Rabbi David Lau

Israel’s New Haredi Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Makes Racist Remark, Sparks Outrage
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com

Israel’s new haredi Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, David Lau, was just elected last week.

Lau opened his 10-year term inauspiciously today when speaking to students of the haredi yeshiva Lau himself graduated from. The haredi news hotline Kav Hahasifot reported that Lau made a racist remark about basketball players – a remark that has outraged many Israelis, especially the many Israelis who are weary of haredi rabbis’ frequent offensive and abusive behavior, after the Israeli daily Ma'ariv posted an audio recording of Lau saying it.

Lau spoke about the practice many haredi yeshiva students have of watching basketball games at neighborhood convenience stores on Thursday nights. Most haredim do not have their own television sets because their rabbis prohibit watching television.

"Who cares if a bunch of paid 'Cushim'in Tel Aviv beat a bunch of paid 'Cushim' in Greece?" Chief Rabbi David Lau said, using a derogatory term for Black people that is in Modern Hebrew the rough equivalent of the English-language “N” word, “darkie” and “coon."

"Even my kashrut supervisors are ashamed to enter places where haredi men are prone to watching a colorful screen on Thursday nights in the winter," Lau continued, adding that if the public sees young haredi studying Torah instead of watching basketball, there would be no forced military draft of haredi yeshiva students. Lau also said that he could not defend haredi yeshiva students against the draft if they persist in watching basketball.

Israel HaYom intentionally mistranslates "cushim" as "a colloquial term for black people." Ynet mistranslates "cushim" as "black" and does not acknowledge Lau's racisim at all. The Jerusalem Post says that Lau's remark was called racist, but it inexplicably does not explain why.

Israel has been rocked by several wide reaching scandals involving alleged racism of the government or its agents, including an ongoing scandal involving allegedly forced long acting birth control for Ethiopian immigrants meant to reduce the size of their population. The Likud-led government has tried very hard behind the scenes to coerce media into downplaying the scope and force of these stories or into not covering them altogether.

Nonetheless, Lau's comment was condemned by several leading members of Knesset – but none from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party.

MK Amram Mitzna of the Hatnua Party said it was "very unfortunate that rabbis who are supposed to guide the way ethically fail time and time again by making racist statements." Mitzna is the chairman of the Knesset's Education and Sports Committee.

Labor MK Nachman Shai said Lau should apologize to Blacks who come to Israel to play basketball and the Black Jews who live in Israel.

"Rabbi Lau's father, who survived Auschwitz, should teach his son about tolerance and equality," Shai also said, adding that he was disappointed that Pope Francis was making unexpectedly liberal comments about gays while Israel's new haredi Ashkenazi chief rabbi was making racist remarks.

“[The head of the HaBayit HaYehudi Party Naftali] Bennett was right. The Chief Rabbinate must change. It is unfathomable that a rabbi of his stature would say something so racist. There is no doubt that if this is how the Chief Rabbinate will look in the coming years, woe to us. Next time an Ethiopian couple comes to him [to marry], the rabbi might say, 'Who cares if Jewish Cushim get married?' It is a sad situation when a man who sees himself as worthy of serving as Israel's chief rabbi expresses himself in such a racist way," Member of Knesset Pnina Tamano-Shata of the Yesh Atid Party, said in response. Tamano-Shata is the first Ethiopian woman to serve in the Knesset.

But Naftali Bennet, a right wing politician not known for his tolerance, defended Lau by attacking the media.

He told the Jerusalem Post that the media needed to stop "stalking public figures" and "hunting for statements" that could hurt them. Bennett added that he was sure Lau would do a wonderful job as chief rabbi.

Lau's office reportedly refused to comment on the response to his remarks or on the remarks themselves.

Comments

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What is the polite (non-racist) term in Israeli Hebrew for a black person?

according to the two online dictionaries I consulted, "kushi" is the proper word for "person of African descent".


(בלשון הדיבור לרוב במלעיל) כינוי לאדם ממוצא אפריקני;

black, of African origin (person) ; ...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

כּוּשִׁי תואר
ראה כּוּשִׁי , שם עצם.

black, of African origin ; Cushite

Which would mean that the rabbi's use of the word "kushi" was not necessarily racist in and of itself.

Gevezener Chusid: Don't know that you CAN say "Who cares if a bunch of paid 'insert term for black person'in Tel Aviv beat a bunch of paid 'insert term for black person' in Greece?" in any way using any word that isn't racist.

When you use a person's race as the sole means to differentiate for not particulary rations reason (such as - to describe a group of soccer players) ..................you're pretty much being racist.

I wonder how he feels about the racial slurs used in Nazi Germany to describe his forefathers. Would he object to being called jew-boy, Ikey, sheeny, kike, Heeb, or Yid?

Does he take umbrage at being described as a bent nosed money-grubber and human vermin? Does he dislike being dubbed a skinny-jewboy in a smelly black suit?

But he feels entitled to refer to African-Israelis, with probably purer blood-lines than he can muster as Kushim.

Here's a title for him: Low-life momser!

Are all basketball players in Israel and Greece black?

Cushim literally means "Ethiopians", and is used solely to denote Ethiopians or blacks. It is also used by many in a derogatory fashion, but it is not harsh to the extent of the other taboo words mentioned in the article. However, were one to deem the expression "racist" in the context used, it would be hard to disagree.

Take care with the charge of racism, as its overuse makes impossible the pursuit of eliminating true racism.

He will have to learn that being a "chief" rabbi is mostly a political position, not a religious one and one must learn to be politically correct.

"Cushim literally means "Ethiopians", and is used solely to denote Ethiopians or blacks. It is also used by many in a derogatory fashion, but it is not harsh to the extent of the other taboo words mentioned in the article.…"

Please.

In current Modern Hebrew usage, cushim is a slur equivalent to the "N" word, darkie and coon.

Your defense sounds a lot like saying that "dosi" just means "Orthodox person" when it really is a slur.

@rebitzman-

I agree with you. Cushi can be used neutrally. However, in this context it means watching niggers play basketball both in Israel and Europe. He emphasized color, not the game. He could easily have said that watching basketball distracts bachurim from learning Torah.

@RWisler-
American basketball players get jobs with European teams. Many have played for more than 40 years in Israel.

R Nash is right. Cushim can be taken as derogatory but it is not nearly the same as the n word in English. I'm not saying it is not a racist comment, just not the same category.

"…Which would mean that the rabbi's use of the word "kushi" was not necessarily racist in and of itself.

Posted by: Gevezener Chusid | July 30, 2013 at 02:15 PM"

That might be true if the person making the judgement is extremely dishonest or semi-literate, but in the real world, "cushi" means the "N" word, "darkie" and "coon." That is how the word is used in current Modern Hebrew.

That, like it or not, is a fact.

Not being a Hebrew speaker I can't comment on the linguistics, but I'm not sure that the comment works any better as, "Who cares if a bunch of paid blacks beat a bunch of other paid blacks?" He still comes across as a dolt, and it suggests at least some latent racist views.

Off to a great start, Rav Dingus.

These rabbis are cultists; they do not act or behave like Jews.

Gimme a break. You are grasping now, leave him alone

I don't think "cushi" is equivalent to the "N" word from what I am reading. If it IS equivalent then I repeat my question: how would one refer to people of African descent in polite conversation when speaking Israeli Hebrew?

The "good" rabbi should not have said what he said; he could have said "goyim" and that would have made the same point, and his racism would have been traditional "us vs them" Jewish xenophobia rather than color/race-based.

As for the idea behind what he said (taking out the racism), I actually agree with him. The whole concept of professional sports is kind of stupid if you look at it objectively. It's nice to watch talented people play the game, but really, since they are all mercenaries, who really cares who wins? (I have never been able to understand the concept of being a "Yankees fan". I can understand following the career of a talented player or players, but since the team changes from year to year and for a few more bucks your favorite heroes will forsake your city, what is it exactly that you're a fan of?)

In any case, a yeshiva bochur IS indeed supposed to be using his time more constructively. He could be throwing stones at shop windows or spitting on little girls on their way to school, for example.

Gevezener Chusid --Dont play mind games here his judgement was horrible no one especially a rabbi talks in such demeaning was,like rebizman said he didnt have to mention kushi he just could of said dont mingle in such and such a place watching devorim beteilim things like soccer no need to say kushim he the rabbi is a gigantic idiot fool.

The word "cushim" is mildly derogatory, and on a par with "schvartzer."

But the context in which it's used made it extremely derogatory in this sense. What the esteemed rabbi is saying is that it's black "mercenaries" (mostly from the US) playing for Israel beating black "mercenaries" (mostly from the US) playing for Greece.

What he's really saying here is that Israelis are incapable of playing basketball, and must rely on outsiders, which is (1) not true and (2) extremely offensive to Jews and (3) extremely offensive to all Americans regardless of race.

What is the polite (non-racist) term in Israeli Hebrew for a black person?

reb chusid and others, in this particular context, all this doen't matter.
suppose he said 'who cares if black beats black or negro beats negro etc...' it's all equally disgraceful and racist.

Labor MK Nachman Shai ... "Rabbi Lau's father, who survived Auschwitz, should teach his son about tolerance and equality,"
unfortunately, rabbi lau senior isn't better than his son. he raised him in his racist ways. surviving Auschwitz doesn't necessarily makes one a better person.

Shai also said, adding that he was disappointed that Pope Francis was making unexpectedly liberal comments about gays while Israel's new haredi Ashkenazi chief rabbi was making racist remarks.

It appears that the catholics are going forward in the ways of humility, and ours are regressing.

I had earlier defended junior. It appears that I was wrong.

lau's a racist fool. it took him all of a few days to prove it.
and regardless of whether its comparable to african-americans(israelis), darkies, or the n word, its RACIST. if there were no racist overtones he would have said,
"who cares if some paid foreigners playing from...."
he mentioned their skin color for a reason.

++ Gevezener Chusid | July 30, 2013 at 04:12 PM++

Reminds me of the Seinfeld comedy bit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIN_bGE52SU

1. If all he wanted to complain about sports, more power to him. Someone needs to explain how to speak in public. (Maybe his father can do it.)

2. How many people here are surprised that the first racist scandal of the new rabbinate was caused by Lau and not Yosef? I know he would have been my bet.


Here's the Tel Aviv Soccer team: http://www.maccabi-tlv.co.il/assets/_files/images/jun_12/MTA__1340714760_Alpaim.jpg

Why is mentioning the "cushie" relevant?

If you look up the Greek national team, there are fewer people of color represented on it than there are on the Tel Aviv team. So why is "cushie" a relevant term to describe them?

If any apologist here would be willing to directly......head on.....explain how mentioning the race of the soccer players is in any way relevant to the base issue he was discussing - how you can render "Who cares if a bunch of paid 'insert term for black person'in Tel Aviv beat a bunch of paid 'insert term for black person' in Greece?" in meaningful way that is relevant to the discussion and not just a way to inject race into the discussion........then I suppose we can talk about whether or not "cushie" is in and if itself a racist term.

Until then, just shut up - because the argument over meaning of the word is meaningless.

Many rabbis are racist. Israeli rabbis are racist too. In fact, my experience shows that the more right wing, the less acceptance of color. Lau knew exactly what he was saying. Was his message recorded on aa smart phone?

These two newly minted Chief Rabbis were chomping at the bit to show how fanatical and stupid they are.

I guess hockey would be ok

" how would one refer to people of African descent in polite conversation when speaking Israeli Hebrew?"

Why refer to their race?

Chusid,

When a person brought up in a Yiddish or Hebrew speaking home where Jewish source text are studied and learned they now will be saying the following when translated into English.

Yankel: Shmulik I just bought a new Peugot 607.
Shmulik: What color?
Yankel: The color is metallic african american............

@ rebitzman I remember that you posted a citation from a Israel Supreme Court case dealing with this issue. There are actualy two different court rulings that I researched. One dealt with a IDF officer who referred to his driver as HaKushi sheli. HaKushi sheli is also a children's song that was sung in a endearing fashion when Yair Lapid our macho spread the burden man fought an apparently sfardic dark looking man in a kick boxing match. It was all darkish looking Jews singing it in support of Lapids opponent. Probably happened 20-25 years ago.

Kush refers to a geographical area whoose native occupants have black skin as defined in traditional Jewish source texts.

Kushi
Morrocai
Sfardi
Turki
Litaeie
Iraqi
Kurdi. ( Kurdistan)
Yekkie
Tripolitani (tripolie)
Germani
Tamani
Parsie. ( Persian )
Levnonie
Aravi
Yisraeli
Americaie
Briti
Anglie
Tzarfatie
Tzfon Americaie. ( North American )

Every one of these descriptive terms, that describe origin either by physical country of birth or background ethnicity can be used in a neutral way to identify ,complement or deride someone else. All depends on context,content and pronunciation.

Remember Megilat Esther. מהודו עד כוש.

It is very likely that the Usraeli High court Judge was relatively clueless about the useage of the word in traditional text.

In any event it does not justify useing the word in a derogatory fashion.

Below is the link to the Ynet English article. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4411508,00.html

Context is important here and nothing wrong in referencing black players.
Israel and Greece as well as the rest of Europe are not known for their tall basket ball stars.

The Israeli pro league permits x number of non Israeli citzens to play on Israeli pro teams. Generally they are American blacks who don't make the cut for American pro ball. Same with Greece. The stars of the Israeli teams are generally blacks from America. Same with Greece.

There was nothing rascist in the Rabbis comments. And almost everyone in Israel uses country of origin or ethnicity to identify others.

The real story her is not te use of Kushi, but, the Chief Rabbis not so veiled threat that if Yeshiva guys mess around and are not sitting and learning he will not be justified in supporting deferments. That's the real story here.

And it isn't really an issue of spreading the burden. There are approximately 2,000 draft age Christians in Israel who are not targeted even though many of them do not consider themselves Arab.

I have written this over 7 hours with taking a very large break. I see others have made comments which I do not address.

But the issue is not the national team. National teams are generally made up of nationals of the country that plays other national teams ie Olympics.

However the national team may also be the beam that is the leading professional team that also non Israeli citzens laying for it.

At least one African American converted to Judaism outside of in order to make Aliyah so he would be a Israeli and not considered a foreign player.

The Israeli Maccabiah team is not representative of Israeli pro basketball so a picture of the team in this discussion, is a joke.

Israelis understand the issue here as do Greeks.

Most of their stars are not Israeli or Greek.the peopke who make the ae exciting for the viewers are generally Afro Americans aka blacks or f your from South Africa most are colored.

If you look on the HEBREW wiki page it explains why Kushi became for some a rascist term.

When the Ethiopian Jews came on Aliyah they were correctly referred to as Kushim.

The Ethiopians for the most part totally clueless about Jewish source text.
When they discovered that the word Kushi specifically referred to a person from and natives of Kush had black skin their bigotry and racism kicked in.

Ethiopian jews considered themselves superior to their non Jewish neighbors. To be referred to in the same way other natives of Africa were referred to was offensive to them. Viola the genesis of the problem.

Shmarya
There is no need to get nasty and offensive.

You have already informed me that absolutely nobody reads the drivel I write and that I never contribute anything intelligent. That I am ignorant and the consummate ass.

So sit back and chill I have nothing to contribute.
I will tate my perfected ass and waddle off now.

Rebitzman
The Cheif rabbi was referring specifically to basketball not soccer.
Don't ave to be tall to play soccer. Neither with basketball but it helps.

Your link to Maccabiah was to the soccer team. You can if you look pick out Arabs. This causes some problems when they play Beitar Jerusalem because many of their supporters are North African Jews or Jews from Arab countries and frequently many of them don't like Arabs.

Country,context ,culture.

"Here's the Tel Aviv Soccer team: http://www.maccabi-tlv.co.il/assets/_files/images/jun_12/"

Rabitzman. You are an idiot (adapting Shmarya's style), it is about basketball players not soccer players.

I wonder why no one is outrageous that the rabbi is not a patriot and does not care for the local team.

The rabbi is mistaken, there was no recent match in the EuroLeague between the "paid kushim" of Tel Aviv (Maccabi Tel Aviv) and the "paid kushim" of Greece ( Olympiacos Piraeus and Panathinaikos Athens).

Actually the "paid kushim" of Greece beat up in the finals the "paid kushim" of my favorite non-American team (FC Barcelona)

While the esteemed rabbi is obviously racist/insensitive and the word kushi is offensive, it is not on the level of the N word. You can ask any person who lived in both countries in the last five or ten years.


Two points:

1. "when speaking to students of the haredi yeshiva Lau himself graduated from"

If Lau had been speaking to the wider public there's no way he would've said it. But he was speaking to "his own", and in his circles this kind of language/attitude is the norm.

Point being, this says as much about the yeshiva world as it does about R. Lau.

2. Yes, a lot of the outstanding basketball players who get recruited are black. But to make a statement like R. Lau made is undignified for any rabbi, let alone the Chief Rabbi! It shows him to lack refinement, couth and tact.

Can you imagine R. Sacks possibly saying something like this, even to "his own" crowd?

What is so surprising? Dog makes “bow wow”. Cat makes “miaow miaow”. Rabbi makes racist comments

@James Dean and Jake

Read the article in Yeshiva world.

Says soccer.

Rebitzman
I only checked Ynet.
I generally don't bother with Yeshiva world news.
It is a rewrite up a old guy who is shacking up with a woman he is not really married to. A shonda..
Also what Shmarya put together mentions basketball.

And I didn't make a mistake unless something has changed the Ye shiva world Israel correspondent is aiding a woman to commit the crime of bigamy..they are shacking up in the guise of marriage. Frum Fraud it is.

Jake-
Cushi can be used either way. As I wrote earlier, Lau used it derogatorily. He was in no way using it to refer to Ethiopians. I had a relative who liked to watch blacks (he used another word) play football. The question is: would yeshiva bochurim watch basketball even if "cushim" didn't play? Of course they would. Therefore, the Lau's statement is racist.

As to the threat not to support them in the fight against conscription, he did that just to scare them. Exemption for yeshiva students is a personal basic belief he won't compromise.

Also, as I wrote earlier, rabbis and other religious Jews are predominately racist.

i was sent to a federation camp not too many years ago and I remember this nursery rhyme:

פעם הייתי בתימן
שם ראיתי כושי קטן
והוא יהיה לרותי חתן

I was once in Yemen
There I saw a little kushi
and he will be Ruthie's groom

Informational: In the current parlance of spoken Hebrew, if someone wanted to use a word that is clearly and unambiguously offensive they would use the word "kushon". Why not ask someone familiar with Hebrew? Considering that classical Hebrew and the Torah is still in current usage, and very much part of the Hebrew language, it does count as one example of how the word Kush and Kushi is used. I've heard these words to mean a wide range of sentiments, as well as denotative and connotative meanings. I think Kushi is being mixed up with the word Kushon, which is the actual term used when one wants everyone to know they have ill-will and intend to be nasty. In general, I have found than anyone who uses these terms, it is clear enough what they mean: kushon has a negative denotative meaning and is just plain nasty, and kushi is determined from context, but should usually be avoided as it can have a negative connotative meaning even though its denotative meaning is sometimes used in a plainly neutral way.

Yoel Mechanic-
You may be correct, but how did the Rabbi use cushi? Also, secular and charedi Israelis have different word usage.

When I lived in EY, cushi, the way it the Rav used it, is definitely a racial slur.

The problem with many Jews especially New Yorkers is that they use racial and ethnic slurs as part of their daily language. They don't care.

All you defenders don't know what you are talking about. You or somebody you know was probably never call cushi or worse cushi bamba.

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