Leading Haredi Rabbi Refuses to Endorse Letter Forbidding the Rental of Homes to Arabs

"What if there was a similar call in Berlin against renting properties to Jews?" asks Rabbi Steinman.

Although the authors of the rabbinical edict forbidding the sale or rental of homes to non-Jews managed to collect the signatures of 39 leading rabbis around the country, they failed to enlist a leading Haredi rabbi, chair of the Degel Hatorah Council of Sages, Aaron Leib Steinman.

Steinman refused an audience with Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu this week, when the latter arrived to pray at the former's courtyard in an attempt to convince the Bnei Brak spiritual leader to sign the letter instructing Jews not to rent or sell property to Arabs or any other non-Jews.

Rabbi Aaron Leib Steinman Moti Milrod 27/6/10
Rabbi Aaron Leib SteinmanMoti Milrod

A source that was present at the scene said, "As soon as Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu introduced himself, Rabbi Steinman, who knew why he was being approached, said 'I won't sign,' and immediately left the room." Steinman, who is  96 years old, then discussed the right-wing initiative with members of his inner circle.

One of Steinman's confidants related the rabbi's words to Haaretz: "They are making a fierce nationalistic statement. We will not irritate others, that is not the Haredi way. There are things that should not be done; what if there would be a similar call in Berlin against renting properties to Jews? Where is the public conscience? What will this do to Jews around the world? We must act responsibly."

Some Zionist rabbis also refused to sign the edict. Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi and revered Zionist Torah adjudicator Yaakov Ariel said, "The former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, already adjudicated that, despite the Biblical prohibition 'Thou shalt not give them respite,' in a democratic state you cannot discriminate between citizens. What's more, it will cause discrimination against Jews in other countries."

Maale Gilboa Yeshiva head Rabbi Yehuda Gilad said in response to the rabbis' letter on Tuesday, "This ruling is a serious distortion of the Torah, and contradicts basic human morality."

Gilad continued, "We can only imagine what would be [Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu's] reaction if he would hear of a case outside of Israel where the authorities forbade the rental of homes to Jews."