Home News Israel POWER OF BOYCOTT: Israel’s largest bread chain suffers huge losses, begs forgiveness from rabbi’s family

POWER OF BOYCOTT: Israel’s largest bread chain suffers huge losses, begs forgiveness from rabbi’s family

POWER OF BOYCOTT: Israel’s largest bread chain suffers huge losses, begs forgiveness from rabbi’s family
Angel Bakeries bread on sale at a supermarket in Jerusalem, May 7, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

A source told World Israel News that Angel Bakery, the largest bread chain in the country, is shutting down branches in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, where it is no longer worthwhile to remain open. 

By World Israel News Staff

A boycott by the Haredi community against Angel Bakery, Israel’s largest bakery chain, is taking its toll.

Angel Bakery, which is headquartered in Jerusalem but provides baked goods to restaurants, supermarkets, and stores throughout the country, sells price-controlled and government-subsidized products that are a staple in millions of homes in Israel. But sales plummetted tremendously since the start of the boycott a month ago.

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers called for the boycott at the beginning of May after its chairman, former public security minister Omer Bar-Lev, protested outside the home of 100-year-old Ashkenazi scion Rabbi Gershon Edelstein in Bnei Brak.

Bar-Lev had posted a photo of himself with the “Brothers in Arms” protest group on Twitter, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin of bribing the Haredi parties to “vote in favor of the coup d’état,” referring to the government’s plans for judicial reform, in exchange for the the Draft Law, exempting young ultra-Orthodox men from the army.

Several lawmakers and religious community leaders slammed Bar-Lev. MK Limor Son Har-Melech (Religious Zionism), for example, told Kan News, “It cannot be that the chair of Angel’s Board of Directors goes to protest at the home of one of the greatest [rabbis] of this generation. Bar-Lev’s remarks are very problematic, hostile, deeply hateful, and ignorant of this world.”

“The boycott will end when Omer Bar-Lev faces judgment. The boycott needs to continue until he is fired,” she added.

The Haredi community demanded that Bar-Lev be fired for disrespecting the Torah and the revered spiritual leader.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Edelstein – head of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community in Israel and head of the renowned Ponovezh yeshiva – passed away last week after a sudden deterioration in health. Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life attended the funeral.

A source who requested anonymity told World Israel News that Angel is suffering tremendously due to the boycott, despite the fact that the company had tried disregarding it.

“Every day,” the source said, “they have tons of unsold goods. Their business is seriously impacted, to the point where they are shutting down branches in Haredi neighborhoods because it’s not profitable for them.”

Perhaps due to the company’s profound losses, Bar-Lev paid a condolence call to the family during the shiva mourning period and offered his “sincere apologies” for the insult. In a letter, he wrote:

“I view the existence of the Torah and its students as an important value in Jewish tradition, that is not what I protested against.

“If I had been made aware of the situation we found ourselves in, and the perceived offense, I surely would have refrained from this action. For this, I am sorry and apologize sincerely.”

He was accompanied by the company’s CEO Yaron Angel, who also wrote a letter of apology.

“We should have said this immediately after the protest and expressed our sorrow. In real time, we thought such a reaction would involve the firm in political matters in which, for decades, we have not wanted to get involved,” he said, although the demonstration in front of the rabbi’s home was purely political.

“But this silence was interpreted as a further insult. We are sorry for this and apologize wholeheartedly,” he concluded.

Before the rabbi’s passing, none other than Yoel Speigel, a grandson of the bakery’s late founder, defended Bar-Lev in a now-deleted Facebook post that added insult to injury.

“There is no limit to the chutzpah on the part of the ultra-Orthodox public in Israel,” he said. “They eat for free … evade army service, have dark opinions and, above all, are hypocrites!”

Spiegel’s comments triggered additional calls for yeshivas and grocery stores owned by community members to avoid stocking Angel Bakery products.

“Rabbi Edelstein is one of the spiritual giants of the people of Israel. One of the greatest righteous men of our generation. Hurting him is hurting me. It is an insult to all who love God. I’m not able to eat one bun from Angel after all of this,” said Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, one of Israel’s most prominent Religious Zionist rabbis.

“This is not revenge. This is a public campaign regarding the character of the State of Israel. Those who care about the State of Israel will not buy Angel products until they mend their ways,” he stated.

“There are enough other bakeries that know how to bake delicious challah for Shabbat. And if you don’t find it, it’s better to eat rye bread and not eat [Angel’s] challah.”

President Isaac Herzog reportedly helped coordinate Bar-Lev’s shiva visit.

Begging forgiveness, Bar-Lev concluded his letter with the words “mode ve’ozev yerucham,” a biblical verse generally translated as “mercy will be shown to those who admit a mistake and desist from it,” Times of Israel reported.

Ultra-Orthodox Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri responded that the apology demonstrates the purchasing power of the large Haredi population, also used the phrase, indicating that the boycott could be over.

Source: World Israel News


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