Rabbi convicted of child kidnapping claims "persecution" and seeks protection in Canada

CultNews Summary/October 2004

Rabbi Erez Shlomo Elbarnes the founder of an anti-Zionist group called Hisachdus Hayereim, or "Union of the God-Fearing," has sought refugee status in Canada by claiming "persecution." The rabbi says he fears the possible consequences of being deported to Israel.

In 1994 Elbarnes was convicted of kidnapping a 13-year-old boy in New York.

The child was once his student for bar mitzvah lessons and apparently became estranged from his mother due to the rabbi's influence.

Rather than end his involvement with the child as requested by the boy's family Elbarnes instead kidnapped him.

Rabbi Elbarnes is a native Israeli who entered America illegally in 1990.

After serving two years in prison for his kidnapping conviction Elbarnes was paroled in 1996.

US authorities deported the rabbi and his wife Malka in 2000.

Using a temporary visa, Elbarnes later returned to North America and settled in Saint Agathe, Quebec near Montreal.

He has gathered together a devoted following of 30 Jewish families; many have dual citizenship in Canada and the United States.

Some of Elbarnes most ardent disciples are Satmar Hasidic Jews, who like the rabbi oppose the establishment of Israel on religious grounds.

Rabbi Elbarnes has burned the Israeli flag in public and once claimed that Israel's "racist actions have inflamed anti-Semitism in the entire world, causing great damage to authentic Jews."

Canadian Jewish leaders have distanced themselves from the controversial rabbi.

"No one here wants to be associated with him. He is only a cause of consternation and embarrassment among Jews here," said Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Montreal's Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron.

The Vaad Hoaskonim, a New York-based rabbinical council labeled Elbarnes and his group "a great threat, spiritual and physical, to the Torah-observant community."

Note: This news summary was based upon an article previously published by The Forward titled "Convicted of Kidnapping, Rabbi Faces Deportation," by Sheldon Gordon, September 3, 2004

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