Hardline Rabbi Named Head of Israel's Shas Party

Shalom Cohen Denounces Rivals as 'Amalek'

Hardline: Shas leader Shalom Cohen, right, confers with late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in 2000 photo.
getty images
Hardline: Shas leader Shalom Cohen, right, confers with late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in 2000 photo.

By JTA

Published April 18, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Shalom Cohen, a hardline rabbi known for his overt hostility toward modern-Orthodox and secular Israeli Jews, was appointed spiritual leader of the Orthodox, Sephardi Shas Party.

Cohen, leader of the Porat Yossef religiouse seminary, was named president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages on Thursday at a ceremony in Bnei Brak neat Tel Aviv, Army Radio reported. He replaced Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who died last year.

Shortly after being announced as Yosef’s successor, Cohen reiterated his criticism of non-Haredi Israeli Jews.

“They hate us, all the ignoramuses of the Jewish home and Yesh Atid,” Cohen said, referencing the Zionist Orthodox party headed by Naftali Bennett and the secularist party headed by Yair Lapid, respectively. “There is no difference between the two. The Ha-Kadosh barukh Hu [God] wants us to stay away from them. They are there, we are here. They will pursue their nonsense, we will pursue our holy Torah.”

Cohen, who is considered a close ally of Shas political boss Aryeh Deri, last year called Zionist Orthodox Jews “Amalek” — an extinct people that the Torah singles out for total annihilation for what is described as their cruelty to Jews. According to Army Radio analyst Yair Sharki, Cohen’s first speech as spiritual leader marked a more separatist hardline world view than that of Yosef.

Shas’ political party, the “World Union of Sefardi Observers of the Torah,” currently has 11 seats out of 120 in the Knesset, and is not part of the coalition. Its pragmatic approach to issues connected to security and peace and other subjects that are not connected to religion and welfare have allowed it to join rightist as well as leftist coalitions, where it has used its clout to promote the movement’s massive welfare and religious education systems.

This strategy and several corruption scandals by Shas politicians have antagonized many secular and moderate religious Israelis, who form the voter bases of Yesh Atid and the Jewish Home, respectively.

Yesh Atid, which is a coalition party, has vowed not to stay in government if Shas joins.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.