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Chief Rabbi: Don’t shelter Berland

Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein has called on the SA Jewish community not to shelter or support Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who fled Israel after accusations of sexual assault. Rabbi Berland is the head of the Shuvu Banim Chassidic sect. More Pictures in story...
by ANT KATZ | Apr 14, 2014

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, in a letter dated 11 April, wrote to Rabbonim throughout South Africa about Rabbi Berland, who reportedly fled to South Africa after being ordered deported last week from Zimbabwe for overstaying his visitor’s visa.

Prior to this he was living in the African nation for five months after being deported with hundreds of his followers from Morocco, where he had been for seven months after leaving Israel.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland campaigning






Rabbi Berland in his prime,
LEFT, and as a man on the run, BELOW

 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland Man on the Run“I have discussed this matter with the Beth Din and we wish to notify Rabbonim to be aware of the situation so that our community not be involved with sheltering or supporting Berland and his followers,” Goldstein wrote.

“Berland must return to Israel to face the criminal justice system,” said Rabbi Goldstein.

“Please notify any members of your congregation who you feel may be drawn into supporting or sheltering Berland and his followers. Use your discretion in this regard as many of your congregants may not be affected by this situation.”

Berland, 77, of the Breslov Chasidic movement, left Israel after being accused of sexually abusing several women as well as a 15-year-old girl.

In Morocco, Berland had planned to start an offshoot of his Shuvu Bonim Yeshiva, which is located in Jerusalem and which he still heads.

In a report on ISRAELNATIONALNEWS.com last week, “Fugitive Rabbi Arrested in Zimbabwe” – the website reported that Rabbi Berland, a Chassidic leader wanted in Israel over alleged sex crimes, had been arrested last week Monday while on the run. “But no one knows why,” wrote the website.

As it turned out, Berland and his supporters had overstayed their welcome – by not renewing their out-dated visas. They were subsequently thrown out of Zimbabwe and found their  way to Johannesburg. STORY CONTINUES BELOW PICTURE...Rabbi Eliezer Berland - MOOZ courtesy Rab FULL

On Sunday, a group of SA Jewish protestors bearing anti-Berland signs gathered outside Mooz Bros. The attached picture was supplied courtesy of Rab Ramon Widmonte

Where Rabbi Berland came from

Last Wednesday, 9 April, NEWZIMBABWE.com in a story headlined “End of the road for fugitive Rabbi” reported that “Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 72, who is head of Shuvu Banim, one of the largest Jewish educational institutions in Jerusalem, has for a number of weeks been living in various upmarket lodges in Bulawayo.

“But luck ran out for him Monday evening when police raided his hideout - Room 301 Holiday Inn in Bulawayo – to arrest him. Berland was caught with a handful of faithfuls (sic) from Israel after cops got a tip off about his whereabouts. He is being charged with remaining in Zimbabwe without a permit following the expiry of his visitor’s visa.”

Newzimbabwe went on to say that Berland had pleaded guilty to the crime before magistrate Sibongile Msipa and was remanded in custody to last Wednesday.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland supporter harassing protesterLEFT: Rebbetzen Wendy Hendler, leader of the protest against the Rabbi, is confronted by a man opposed to their actions, who called the group Nazis. Photo: Timothy Bernard, The Star


His lawyer told the court his client was an internationally recognised religious leader of ill-health and taking medication and free from any criminal activity in Zimbabwe.

But Prosecutor Caroline Matanga told the court of how on the evening of 7 April, police from the Border Control Unit raided Berland’s hotel room and asked him to produce his passport and permit. It was discovered that his visa to stay in Zimbabwe had lapsed on 24 March and he was arrested.

It emerged that Rabbi Berland had been leading worship in a synagogue in Khumalo suburb since his arrival in the country December last year under a religious tourism visa.

Berland had fled justice in Israel where he was facing arrest after several women have alleged he had sexually harassed and raped them. “He was booted out of Zimbabwe,” wrote Newzimbabwe.com.

Allegations came to light in 2012

The allegations had come to light 2012 when an Israeli newspaper reported an incident in which one of his students caught the Berland at home, standing beside a naked woman, reported Newzimbabwe.com.

His followers were angered by the report and went on to attack the person who leaked the story to the media. Allegations are that Rabbi Berland fled as soon as police opened investigations.

He has gone on to settle in the US, Italy and Switzerland before moving to Marrakesh in Morocco. He and his students were ordered to leave Morocco by King Mohammed VI in November 2013.

Berland is thought to have left Morocco for Cairo, Egypt. He reportedly bought tickets for various destinations to confuse pursuers, as to whether he was staying in Zimbabwe, Venezuela or Johannesburg, where he has now been taken in by a relative.

Sexual abuse: Woman tells police all

YOURJEWISHNEWS.com last year interviewed and reported on a woman who had told Israeli police details how the Breslov Chasidic leader had sexually abused her. The woman, who was a follower of the Rabbi Eliezer Berland from birth, said that everything has changed the day she turned 18-years-old.

The complainant said that she and her husband used to come often to the Rabbi. "He told my husband to stay in the waiting room and he told me: 'Come in the room with me.’ He took me into his bedroom and locked me inside. Users interested in reading more about this, just one of the complainants, can read the original story and see a video interview.

Police are still investigating his entourage, including a rich businessman whose private jet is believed they were using.

In a report on ISRAELNATIONALNEWS.com last week, “Fugitive Rabbi Arrested in Zimbabwe” – the website reported that Rabbi Berland, a Chassidic leader wanted in Israel over alleged sex crimes, had been arrested last week Monday while on the run. “But no one knows why,” wrote the website.

Berland was accused of committing indecent acts against several young female followers; he was wanted in Israel for questioning. Berland fled Israel before he could be arrested, however, to the US, Italy, and Switzerland. He eventually settled for a time in Marrakech, Morocco before moving once again to Zimbabwe. Shortly after he fled the country, his son and several other followers were arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering involving the sect's finances.

Last week it was reported that one of his followers, a close associate of Berland's, has been transporting Kosher-for-Passover food to Zimbabwe in advance of the hundreds of Shavu Banim Chassidim expected to travel to meet the Rabbi over the holiday.

To this end, a wealthy Jew from Johannesburg has donated 600 pounds matza and 60 cases of wine for the expected visitors.

3 Comments

  1. 3 Israeli 14 Apr
    I agree that this bunch of "crazies" should not be given shelter, but why didn't the chief Rabbi protest the 'shelter' given to Richard Goldstone who, in the opinion of many,damaged the Jewish nation far more seriously than this sorry lot?
  2. 2 Mark D. Brown 24 Apr
    While I vehemently disagree with the Goldstone Report, comparing Justice Goldstone to a man accused of several accounts of sexual assault goes too far. Besides, It's not for any rabbi to intervene in political affairs. Rabbi Goldstein should be applauded for his firm stance on this man and those who would shelter him despite his violent perversity. With such strong leadership on sexual abuse in this regard (which I hope will be continued on local rabbis),  he is placing himself and the UOS on the right side of history.
  3. 1 Concerned Jew 06 Aug
    I believe that a whole group of Rabbi Berland's followers / family etc are being sheltered in my road. Every day I am seeing about 25 - 40 of these radicals swarming my road and refusing to care about the neighbours around the home/shul.

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