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Who is Rabbi Eliezer Berland?

From his birth in 1937 to Rosh Yeshiva Shuvu Banim, he's guided tens of thousands of Jews from secular backgrounds to the Torah path.
by ANT KATZ | Jun 02, 2014

According to Wikipedia, Rabbi Eliezer Berland is Rosh Yeshiva Shuvu Banim. He was born in Haifa and is married to Tehilla. His alma mater is Knesses Chizkiyahu and Ponevezh Yeshiva.

Eliezer Berland was born in 1937 and is affiliated with the Breslov Chasidic movement in Israel. As Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Shuvu Banim (also known as Yeshivat Nechamat Zion) in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, he has counselled and guided tens of thousands of Jews from secular backgrounds to draw closer to the Torah path. He is a member of Vaad Olami D'Chasedai Breslov (World Committee of Breslov Chassidim), a supervisory council for many Breslov activities.

Early life

While still a youth, Rabbi Berland was recognised as a gifted student. He studied at the Knesses Chizkiyahu yeshiva in Kfar Hasidim under Rabbi Elyah Lopian and Rabbi Dov Yaffe. After his marriage to his wife, Tehilla, niece of Israeli Member of Knesset Shalom-Avraham Shaki, Rabbi Berland joined the Ponevezh Yeshiva kollel and, later, the Volozhin Kollel in Bnei Brak. He was a chavruta (study partner) with Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, known as the Steipler Gaon.

After coming into contact with Breslover Chasidim, he developed a close relationship with Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender, as well as elder Breslovers of the previous generation such as Rabbi Shmuel Shapira and Hirsh Leib Lippel.

Noted students

Among his students is Rabbi Shalom Arush, Rosh Yeshiva of Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva of Jerusalem and a popular speaker and author on Breslov topics.

Controversies

Allegations that Rabbi Berland has committed sexual offences against female followers have been published. Several women reported that the rabbi sexually harassed or raped them. The allegations came to light in 2012, when the newspaper Israel Hayom reported an incident in which one of Berland's students encountered him at home, standing beside a naked woman. His supporters expressed anger over the report, and the person who leaked the story to the media was later violently attacked.

After the police opened an investigation, Berland immediately fled Israel, and spent time in the United States, Italy, and Switzerland. He then left for Morocco, settling in Marrakesh. Berland lived in Marrakesh for seven months, and was welcomed by the small Moroccan Jewish community. He intended to establish a kehilla in Marrakesh based on the Shuvu Banim yeshiva, and planned on building a community centre, educational institutions, and apartments for his followers. Thousands of his followers began travelling to Marrakesh to celebrate holidays and commemorate events with him, and some took up residency there to stay with him.

In November 2013, Berland and his students were ordered to leave Morocco after King Mohammed VI personally ordered their expulsion from the country. According to news reports, a Moroccan newspaper had published an article profiling the rabbi and mentioning the circumstances in which he fled Israel, and the king ordered Berland's expulsion after reading the article.

Berland's followers claimed that the king was merely concerned for their safety, as they were Chasidic Jews living in a Muslim country. Berland is thought to have left Morocco for Cairo, Egypt. He reportedly bought tickets for various destinations to confuse pursuers, considered between taking a flight to Zimbabwe or Venezuela, and in the end chose Zimbabwe.

From there, he allegedly took a flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was taken in by a relative. From there, Berland flew to Zimbabwe, reportedly in a private jet owned by a wealthy follower. He lived in an upscale hotel room in Bulawayo, and led worship services for members of the small Zimbabwean Jewish community in a synagogue in the Bulawayo suburb of Khumalo.

He was joined by some of his followers, and also hired two attorneys in Israel due to the possibility of being forced to return to Israel if his options ran out. On April 7 2014, police raided the hotel room Berland was staying in and found him with some followers from Israel. After it was established that his visitor's visa had expired, he was arrested and charged with remaining in Zimbabwe without a permit.

He pleaded guilty before a magistrate, and was remanded in custody. He was also reportedly questioned over the sexual assault allegations. A magistrate gave him a choice between paying a $200 fine or three months in prison, and ordered him expelled.

Berland paid the fine and left for South Africa, returning to Johannesburg.

3 Comments

  1. 3 Chaim 02 Jun
    BS"D

    There is a saying, "If you can't speak well, speak LOUD!" This is exactly what Rabbi Berland's enemies are trying to do. Backed by an ex-convict (of attempted murder) they have harnessed the Israeli press - known from its outset for anti-hareidi bias - in a barrage of vicious claims against the Rabbi, which are all easily disproven. [see the article "Speaking for Breslov Rabbi Eliezer Berland" (April 28)] They have reportedly bribed the Zimbabweian authorities to dress him in prisoner's clothes and take off his yarlmukah "for just a matter of 10 minutes" in order to spread their malicous slanderous libel. They've also bribed the hawks locally in attempt to hunt him down (- a real disgrace on their part, as if there is no real crime ever going on in S.A. other than this...)

    Although the secular irreligious Israeli press would likely take pride in reading your "summary" of Rabbi Berland; those, whom by contrast, are impartial and indifferent to such bias would consider it to be quite disgraceful, to say the least.
  2. 2 Lisa 03 Jun
    By virtue of Rabbi Berland's fugitive conduct his guilt appears apparent. If he is indeed innocent then he must return to Israel to face the authorities and his accusers and prove his innocence. Shame on those harbouring a man accused of rape and sexual molestation! I hope your wife and daughters are living safely elsewhere while you harbour someone accused of the most heinous crimes. Why hasn't he been deported?
  3. 1 David 05 Jun

    Well said Lisa. A Rabbi , of all people would know that the truth will set you free. He should face his accusers and prove that he is innocent , if he truly believes in impartial  Israeli justice. If not he should carry on slinking and grovelling away from his accusers and hiding in 3rd world countries with the intention of never facing the proof, of his guilt or otherwise.

    Chaim , you have obviously made up your mind about the so called secular bribery against him. You must believe what you must.  

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