An Israel chief rabbi has been criticized for calling black people “monkeys” during his weekly sermon.

During his weekly sermon, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef used a derogatory Hebrew term for a black person, before going on to call a black person a “monkey”.

His comments were denounced as “racially charged” and “utterly unacceptable” by the Anti-Defamation League, a New York City-based organisation devoted to battling anti-Semitism and racism.

In reply, his office said he was citing a passage from the Talmud – the book of Jewish law. Mr Yosef previously caused controversy after he said secular women behave like animals because they dress immodestly.

The Rabbi represents Israel’s Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent.

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