Freezing followers forced to sleep in park

Around 100 of R. Berland’s followers evicted from their digs on weekend & as many as 100 men, women, children & babies slept in a park on Sunday & Monday night. Terence Ossin of Fairmount, who witnessed this event, asks some burning questions that are on everyone’s minds: “Where to now?” ALSO SEE Links to: Where is Berland? Who is the Breslov Rebbe? Who is R. Berland? All the latest updates & info from Israel & SA. Stay in touch with this most fascinating story…
by ANT KATZ | Jun 18, 2014

Numerous concerned callers phoned in to SA Jewish Report on Sunday to report that a large number of Breslov men, women, children and babies slept in a Fairmount park on Sunday and Monday night. Where are they now? SA Jewish Report’s previous sources in SA, Zimbabwe and Israel are not speaking.

One reader in particular, Terence Ossin of Fairmount, was concerned enough to send a letter to Jewish Report wherein he poses some thought-provoking questions that are on many members of the community’s lips.

Ossin's letter to SAJR reads:

Cold comfort as Rabbi Berland’s flock freeze

It has now been almost three months since Rabbi Eliezer Berland and his followers arrived in South Africa under questionable circumstances. There can be no doubt that he should return to Israel to face his accusers and allow justice to take its course.

Sadly there seems to be a sentiment in our community that by virtue of the identity and status of the accused, the accusations cannot be anything but false and that Rabbi Berland’s voluntary exile and continued fugitive conduct, is justified.

In fact, numerous members of our community have seemed to accept the notion that the Israeli justice system cannot be relied upon to give him a fair trial, a notion without any basis and demonstrably false.

What of Rabbi Berland’s followers? Initially certain voices sought to take the perceived moral high ground by asserting that the South African Jewish community, including its extremely stretched charitable organisations, had an obligation to feed and house Rabbi Berland’s followers.

Reportedly, some community members did indeed pump huge amounts of money into feeding and housing them. That response, while providing a short term and well-intentioned solution, appears now to have been misguided. Had those same members instead taken the Chief Rabbi’s position to heart, namely that Rav Berland’s followers should return to Israel as well, those of his followers who remain would not be in the desperate position they now find themselves in.

This week approximately 80 to 100 of Rav Berland’s followers, once again found themselves on the street and without shelter, more particularly in a park in Fairmount in the dead of winter. I personally witnessed this, and as at 22:00 that night the park was still full of people, including women and children, many of whom are still babies.

Berlov Geoff2This time around, however, those same voices have fallen silent, presumably as a result of a realisation that the initial short term response led to a no-win end game. It’s a pity that the financial resources pumped into keeping Rav Berland’s followers here, were not initially used to assist in their return to Israel.

But whose fault is that and where does the ultimate blame lie? The blame must be laid squarely and firmly at the feet of Rabbi Berland (himself). Having led his flock from the security and comfort of the Holy Land into the wilderness of Africa with no guarantee of food, water and shelter, the flock would only return if their shepherd returned with him, something which he knew very well.

As a result, whatever initial food, water and shelter the financially strained locals were able to cobble together, has run dry and the shepherd has abandoned his flock to the elements and the goodwill of the now impatient locals, this, while hiding out at an undisclosed but presumably warm and protected location.

If Rabbi Berland was a man of courage and had his followers’ interests at heart, he would do the honourable thing and lead them back to the Holy Land.

Follow the story on Jewish Report Online

18 JUNE: Followers forced to sleep in park

18 JUNE: Cold comfort as Rabbi Berland’s flock freeze - Reader

2 JUNE: All the latest on the Breslovs in South Africa

2 JUNE: Who is Reb Nachman Breslover from Uman

2 JUNE: Who is Rabbi Eliezer Berland?

21 MAY: Berland may be off in three weeks’ time

14 MAY: The Rabbi who keeps being mis-identified as R. Berlov

14 MAY: Berlands to settle& build new Yeshiva in Zim?

13 MAY: Berland’s Zimbabwean funder, SAJR EXCLUSIVE: Who is Yaron Yamin?

11 MAY: What it took to accuse Rabbi of harassment - Reader Comment

08 MAY: Chareidi world divided over Berland – Reader Comment

06 MAY: Rebbetzen Tahila Berland flies into Joburg


04 MAY: First video of Yaron & Berland leaving Zim

30 April: First video of Rabbi Berland in Joburg -Reader

30 April: Minutes before the Hawks came calling

30 April: The Big Breslev Brouhaha Continues

29 April: “The day I was called a Nazi” -Reader


27 April: 8-Page feature article in MISHSHPACHA – PDF

25 April: Uproar in Joburg Jewry: by Ant Katz & Robyn Sassen

24 April: Religious leaders must be consistent -Reader

24 April: Breslov ‘shopper’ says thanks to SA Jewry

24 April: Sackstein roasts Sevitz over Breslovs & Pesach

23 April: Fugitive Rabbi, followers, cause uproar

23 April: Did you hear the one about…?

23 April: Vid of R. Berland & Co’s Purim bash

23 April: Secrecy & silence leave community confused

23 April: Ant’s speculative Op-ed and what to expect

23 April: “Chasidic kids need stable environment” -Reader

23 April: “Kids need stable environment” -Reader

19 April: “Some One” posts dissenting view

14 April: Chief Rabbi: Don’t shelter Berland

14 April: Goldstein calls for protest


  1. 3 Samuel Shalom 22 Jun
    When the Jews came from Europe to South Africa in the olden days, were they treated this way as well? Were they all "above the law" and saints. No! Plenty of them came with "peklach" and many unresolved issues of their own, as anyone who has studied the history of how the old immigrants who came to South Africa got there.

    No one has the right to tell anyone whether to stay or leave any country, least of all Jews who have been shunted and bounced from country to country.

    South Africa has many clever rabbis, surely they can see the cruelty of leaving a hundred men, women and children out in the freezing cold? Surely they could start a dialogue with these people and stop trying to lecture them?

    Fine, the Chief Rabbi has spoken and all have heard him. That is one side of the coin. But Berland and his disciples have also "spoken" (as mutes and in silence) and they are saying they want to stay in South Africa. So now they must be punished for that?

    Really now, the South African Jewish community has run out of resources to house and feed a hundred Chasidic Jews in their midst??? All the ingenuity of Chabad, the various communal organizations, cannot come up with a strategy to help their fellow Jews?

    Let's say these hundred souls were all in jail, should they be starved to death and allowed to freeze until they get pneumonia?

    This is ghastly. Aside from the inhumanity and cruelty that reeks of "midat Sedom" this is one of the greatest failures of the South African Jewish community that is still very wealthy and has millionaires and billionaires and people who live in the most luxurious fancy houses, and all of a sardine they don't have any way to help a flock of hopeless Jews.

    How about offering a way to pay their way. Talk to the Department of the Interior to get them temporary work permits.

    Just treat them like human beings and stop demonizing them.

    There is room in South Africa for this lot, especially since half of former South African Jewry has left it in the last 30 odd years.
  2. 2 Martin 11 Jul
    With this cold weather, even my dogs sleep inside my home at night. I wonder how many Jewish family's pets sleep inside - warm and fed and cared for - while these fellow Jews, whose only "fault" was to stand by their Rav, have to sleep outside in sub-zero temperatures.
    Surely, if they want to stay the community can help them find work; and if they decide to go home, surely a fund can be set up and an agreement can be made with ELAL to reduce their prices to get them home.
  3. 1 Samuel Shalom 21 Jul
    Latest reports indicate that at least two well-known  communities in Johannesburg have come to the assistance of the homeless freezing Breslovers:

    The Ohr Samayach community together with the Maharsha community have opened their hearts and doors and shull facilities to many of the Breslov families.

    There was obviously a conscious decision by the leadership of both Ohr Samayach and Maharsha to come up with a plan to "integrate" the Breslovers into homes and places where they can feel welcome, warm and safe during the cold South African winter.

    It seems that the rabbis and laypeople in charge of Ohr Samayach and Maharsha understand that the first pillar of Judaism is chesed, Avraham Avinu (our forefather Abraham) is called the "amud hachesed" the "pillar of loving kindness" who unquestioningly welcomed all strangers and travelers into his tent offering them a place to rest and food and drink. Even if guests were idolaters and total unknowns they were WARMLY welcomed and in turn they were influenced to become monotheists in admiration of their host Avraham.

    In fact Avraham Avinu was tested by God on the third day after he had circumcised himself by a visit from three surprise "guests" who were in fact God's angels in disguise. The angels brought with them good tidings about the birth of Yischak Avinu, healing for Avraham's pain, and to extract Avraham's nephew Lot from the dangers of being in the evil cities of Sodom and Gemora (not coincidentally much like Gaza and the West Bank) which were going to be destroyed because they were wicked in God's eyes -- they were cruel to visitors and had them killed by all sorts of inhumane tortures.

    There is a direct link between Avraham circumcising himself, being in pain by the third day of recovering, and the arrival of God's angels and the blessings they brought him.

    Maybe the Breslovers should not have been rejected and pushed into the cold and it would have saved the misfortune of a botched bris that so humiliates the Jewish community in South Africa now. At least the rabbis and members of Ohr Samayach and Maharsha have run to close the breach in the wall of Chesed and welcoming fellow Jews and Israelis that South African Jewry was so famous for -- that is, until the Breslovers showed up and then instead of welcoming the followers who had done no wrong they were thrown to the wolves in the freezing cold.

    South African Jewry owes a debt of gratitude to the people at Ohr Samayach and Maharsha who have gone to extraordinary lengths with great inconvenience to themselves and their own budgets and needs and opening the doors of their shulls and communities to the Jewish strangers in their midst, regardless of what will be with Rav Eliezer Berland in the end.


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