Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, considered one of the deans of the haredi yeshiva world and head of the Eida Harechedit of Jerusalem, advised a well-known haredi businessman to sell all his holdings in the Big Shopping Centers Group.
The company, the Kikar Shabbat quoted Rabbi Sternbuch as saying, is a “serial public Sabbath violator,” and observant Jews should not – and cannot – be associated with such groups.
Publicly-traded Big Group's shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange have performed well in recent months. At the end of last year, the company was valued at over $450 million, with over $1.5 billion in sheet assets (value of their real estate and businesses).
Big owns 46 shopping centers in Israel, the United States, India and Serbia, with 11 under development.
In recent months, the company has been under pressure to close its Ashdod operation on Shabbat; the site began operating seven days a week in April, raising the ire of religious residents.
Among the rabbinical leaders who have asked the owners of the site to shutter the operation on Shabbat has been Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau, as well as a large number of local leaders and heads of haredi communities in Ashdod.
The chairman of the Big shopping center chain, Yehuda Naftali, said that he was considering closing the center on Shabbat, but that nothing had been decided yet.
He pointed out that numerous other businesses in and around Ashdod were open on Shabbat, and that if those businesses closed, he would certainly close his as well.
According to representatives of religious parties in the city, the government coalition that is keeping Mayor Yehiel Lassry in office requires him to act to prevent the opening of any more businesses on Shabbat.
In response, the parties said, Lassry has claimed that the shopping center is outside the borders of the city, so he has no authority to close it based on city bylaws.
Regardless, Rabbi Sternbuch told the businessman, he should sell his shares in the company.
At a meeting with the rabbi this week, the businessman was told that selling the shares would be “highly recommended.” Continuing to financially support the company would be bad for Sabbath observance, as other companies and businesses might learn from Big's example – and observant Jews could not have a hand in this.
“In order not to be a part of this, you should cut yourself off from anything having to do with this company,” the businessman was told. “This is what our great rabbis have ruled.”