Cult leader Aharon Ramati was indicted on Thursday for holding victims in slave-like conditions, assaulting a minor through the person responsible and obstruction of justice.
According to the indictment, the defendant has been “collecting” young women around him since 2008, mainly Ba’alos Teshuvah or from Ba’alei Teshuvah families. He established a “seminar” for young women called Be’er Miriam to house the girls. From 2009 -2015 he operated the “seminar” on the top floor of his home in Jerusalem. The women lived in the seminar and listened to Ramati’s shiurim every day.
At first 12 women lived in Ramati’s home in two bedrooms and as time passed more women joined until there was a group of 30 women. In 2013, the defendant transferred the women to a “seminar” building and the defendant moved into the house next door.
The indictment says that from 2015 until his arrest in 2020, the defendant led the women to believe that he is the only “ish kodesh” who knows the “derech ha’emes.” The defendant taught the women that the very existence of personal will is a sin and one pays for every physical enjoyment in this world by being punished in the next world.
Most of his shiurim focused on demanding that the women completely nullify all their personal desires. He also claimed that the entire Chareidi society is incorrect in their ways and the entire world is destined by to be burned by the fire of Gehinnom and only his faithful followers will be zocheh to be saved.
Ramati led the women to believe that every action they did against his instructions, including leaving the seminar, will lead them to Gehinnom and bring various punishments upon them, such as car accidents, serious illnesses or terror attacks. Ramati also instructed the women to minimize contact with their families and cut off all contact with any men beside him. In certain instances, Ramati even encouraged the women to take out a restraining order against their parents.
Ramati was involved in all the details of the women’s lives and they were required to receive permission to leave the building, including for medical appointments. He scoffed at conservative medicine and instructed women suffering from various ailments to carry out a ceremony of pouring boiling lead in water in order to distance the ayin hara. If one of the women acted contrary to his expectations, he would humiliate her in public and instruct the other women to excommunicate her until she appeased him.
The indictment added that the defendant’s main goal in holding the women was exploiting them for work. He didn’t work at any outside jobs for a living and had no income. Instead, he lived off the money that the women in the seminar, most of whom had very little income, transferred to him. He also required them to perform various services for him without pay.
The indictment for assaulting a minor through the person responsible was due to a number of occasions when the defendant instructed the women to use physical punishment in the education of their children, mainly through putting schug (Yemenite hot sauce) in their mouths. This punishment was used in the gan that operated in the defendant’s home.
Many many years ago, both Hagaon Harav Elyashiv z’tl and Hagaon Harav Ovadia Yosef,z’tl signed statements condemning Ramati as dangerous and forbidding girls from studying under him. His name is notorious in the Chareidi community in Jerusalem and there have been numerous complaints to the police about him for years and even demonstrations against him. It is about time that justice had been served.
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