RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — A Brazilian rabbi who supported an iconic ex-president convicted of corruption apologized after being slammed for acting as if he represented the Jewish community.
Rabbi Alexandre Leone has been under fire since the release of videos and photos of him protesting on a sound truck in favor of ex-president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, whose refusal to turn himself in to begin his prison sentence became a media spectacle that mobilized Latin America’s largest nation over the weekend.
“Leone exposed the whole Jewish community for speaking in the name of the Jews without asking permission. Being a Jewish humanist cannot mean joining people who are against Israel and the Jews and that’s what he did by exposing himself and us next to a Palestinian flag, while Israel is forced to risk the lives of its soldiers to save the nation from terrorist attacks,” according a statement sent to JTA by the Brazil-Israel Zionist Association.
Wearing a kippah, Leone and other Jewish activists addressed thousands during a so-called ecumenical event held Friday evening by Lula’s Labor Party at his political nest in Sao Bernardo do Campo. Lula, 72, defied a 5 p.m. deadline to report to prison to begin serving a 12-year corruption sentence.
“Freedom and justice are essential values for us Jews. We suffered with Nazism in Gemany and we now feel the smell of fascism in Brazil,” said another Jewish activist standing next to Leone. “If Lula is being wronged, we Jews are being wronged. Lula is our Moses, he forged the Brazilian people. He made us cross a Red Sea to achieve our freedom.”