JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Sephardic leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his weekly Saturday night sermon said that non-Jews exist to serve Jews.
"Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel," he said during a public discussion of what kind of work non-Jews are allowed to perform on Shabbat.
"Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat," he said to some laughter.
Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas Party and the former chief Sephardi rabbi of Israel, also said that the lives of non-Jews are protected in order to prevent financial loss to Jews.
"With gentiles, it will be like any person: They need to die, but God will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one's donkey would die, they'd lose their money. This is his servant. That's why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew," said the rabbi, who recently turned 90.
An audio recording of some of the rabbi's remarks was broadcast on Israel's Channel 10.
The American Jewish Committee condemned the rabbi's remarks in a statement issued Monday.
"Rabbi Yosef's remarks — suggesting outrageously that Jewish scripture asserts non-Jews exist to serve Jews — are abhorrent and an offense to human dignity and human equality," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Judaism first taught the world that all individuals are created in the divine image, which helped form the basis of our moral code. A rabbi should be the first, not the last, to reflect that bedrock teaching of our tradition."