Students celebrating Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s birthday, Tomer Appelbaum
Students celebrating Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s birthday at the synagogue near his house on Sept. 20, 2010. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Scores of young Shas supporters turned up yesterday at the house of the movement's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, to mark his 90th birthday. The boys sang "Our Rabbi Ovadia, we love you", accompanying themselves on a shofar (ram's horn ) and carrying a placard printed especially for the occasion.

All the teenagers recently returned to the fold of Orthodox Judaism and are currently studying at the Sagi and Yaakov Center, a seminary in Ashdod. Yosef's young followers brought two birthday cakes carrying the portrait of their revered rabbi. The rabbi rewarded them with a Torah lesson and his blessings.

Meanwhile, the journal of the Degel Hatorah party, Yated Ne'eman, yesterday launched an attack on the Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar for validating conversions to Judaism carried out within the IDF. The rabbi released his announcement last week, following a demand to do so by the State Control Committee. The committee sought to clarify the status of conversions carried out within the military, after these were called into question.

"The chief military rabbis worked in full cooperation with the chief rabbis of Israel in all matters of religion and state," Amar wrote. "Soldiers converted in said conversion tribunals have even married and were acknowledged as such by the marriage registrars for many years."

The Lithuanian-Hassidic newspaper called the chief rabbi's statement "a serious breach" which "clearly contradicts the instructions of all the great [sages] of Israel."