Breslov Rev Berland now SA citizen - says son

  • Rabbi Eliezer Berland HOME2
In what he touted as a “victory over the Israeli legal authorities”, Rabbi Berland’s son, Nachum, announced on Monday that the Shuvu Banim Breslov sect’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Eliezer Berland (pictured), had been issued South African citizenship and “no longer needs to run”. Nachum had been in SA on Sunday to share his father’s 79th birthday – and brought some of Rabbi Berland’s grandchildren with him.
by ANT KATZ | Jan 07, 2016

The rabbi and some of his followers were in SA in 2014 and returned four months ago after a Dutch appeal court upheld a lower court’s order that he be extradited to Israel. His son said on Monday that Sunday's events, believed to have taken place at the sect’s campus somewhere between Midrand and Pretoria, was a double celebration as Rabbi Berland had obtained his SA citizenship last week.

During an interview with Rabbi Berland’s Dutch lawyer, Louis de Leon, in December – the lawyer said that the rabbi enjoyed “a kind of diplomatic status, making him criminally immune" and that he could not be held if Israel appealed to South Africa. Clearly, this was what De Leon had been anticipating.

Berland 16 compoundNow, the ailing rabbi’s newfound diplomatic status is a game-changer in Israel’s attempts to extradite him, according to Nachum Berland and De Leon.

RIGHT: This picture of Rabbi Berland with 79 balloons is believed to have been taken at the sect’s campus on Sunday – the piles of bricks in the background would indicate that the rumours of it being expanded to accommodate more members may well be correct     - PICTURE: courtesy  RabbiEliezerBlog

Read that interview (linked above) to find out how Rabbi Berland escaped from Holland. Israel "wanted to taunt him", said De Leon, and explained Rabbi Berland’s side of those supposed sex crimes which turned him into the “rabbi-on-the-run”. He also confirmed Berland’s plan to plant roots in SA.

Apart from the 200-odd followers who are staying at the Shuvu Banim campus (Jewish Report is aware it exists, complete with shul, school, accommodation, et al, but does not know its exact location) many more are believed to have come in to share in the dual-celebration on Sunday.


Berland 16 4 Jan full

The picture, above, was posted on the weekend and is also believed to have been taken at the Shuvu Banim campus. The arrow has been inserted by JR Online and indicates Rabbi Berland   - PICTURE: courtesy  RabbiEliezerBlog

“After more than three years of persecution of the rabbi, tonight it can be said that the king is alive and well,” one of Berland’s supporters told ArutzSheva on arrival in Israel on Monday night after celebrating with Berland on Sunday.

“It’s just the way they persecuted King David and he continued to be joyous, sing and play to bring together the nation of Israel, so does the Tzadik of the generation, with simplicity and innocence, continue to lead more than 30 000 of his students who are spread around the world.

“From one day to the next our community is growing despite the exile it is enduring. We believe that very soon the Rabbi will return to lead the people of Israel and the entire world with the coming of our righteous messiah and with true peace,” ArutzSheva quoted the follower as saying.

The claims of indiscretions

Regarding the Israeli police’s charge that Berland had been a sex pest, his Dutch Lawyer, Louis de Leon, had the following to say in the December interview:

"I've studied the dossier. I have found no reference to sex there. His disciples came to him, not vice versa. Of the women who signed (affidavits) against him were a number involved in divorce. They wanted a ‘get’ (a Jewish order of divorce) which their husbands would not grant them. Rabbi Berland stuck his neck out for them. You do not see this much in Orthodox Jewish circles. In this respect he is very progressive.

"To get the husbands of these women to grant their wives their gets, Rabbi Berland promised them everything – even apartments. When he failed to keep his promises, the problems started. [At around this stage there was reportedly a massive misappropriation of funds from the Shuvu Banim yeshiva which may account for this… SAJR online editor].

"One of the husbands called Berland a charlatan. That infuriated his followers and they beat the man up severely. The police made it appear as if Berland had issued a fatwa. That is nonsense. He had no knowledge of it. Then, the women he had tried to help, were persuaded by their husbands to make false declarations against him."

More interesting information 

  • Rabbi Eliezer Berland, leader of the Shuvu Banim Breslov congregation in Jerusalem, was this week named Jewish Report Online’s 2015’s Top Newsmaker – read the version of this story that was updated on Wednesday which is full of new facts.
  • When Jewish Report published 79 balloons for runaway rav’s 79th birthday on Monday about the Rabbi’s birthday party on Sunday, we were not aware that the party had also been held for a secondary purpose – to celebrate his having been given South African citizenship . He is now able to stop running and hiding from authorities for the first time in almost three years, says his son and other followers.
  • This was confirmed in an interview with Rabbi Berland’s son Nahman, when he returned to Israel on Monday. Nahman Berland was in SA over the weekend to share in the celebrations – and brought some of Rabbi Berland’s grandchildren with him.
  • Rabbi Berland has been on the run since he fled Israel, having sought temporary shelter in the US, Italy, Switzerland, and Morocco, where he stayed in Marrakech. In November 2013 he went Cairo and then to Zimbabwe. From there he flew to Johannesburg. After two attempts by the Hawks to arrest him on an Israeli extradition warrant, he flew to Holland where Dutch police detained him in September 2014. He was released without bail or passport while Israel got its papers in order. A year later, he was back in SA.
  • Since last week Berland has opened up as he no longer has to run, say followers. They have even been posting pictures of him in South Africa on his ENGLISH BLOG almost daily for the past week.
  • 16-berland logoThe name of the sect was changed from Shuvu Bonim to Shuvu Banim when the yeshiva became international – hence different spellings in earlier and later stories. The Shuvu Banim INTERNATIONAL WEBSITE is an interesting place to visit. "It was opened when the rabbi left Israel and began focusing his efforts on teaching international Jewry,” explains a highly-placed insider in the organisation who is in daily communication with Rabbi Berland,

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