Senior rabbis rule Berland committed sexual violations

Ruling by highly respected rabbinical judges constitutes severe blow to Berland’s standing in ultra-Orthodox world

The Jerusalem Post/May 22, 2020

By Jeremy Sharon

Three highly respected rabbinical judges from the ultra-Orthodox community have through a special court they convened determined that the public should distance themselves from the fraudulent rabbi Eliezer Berland and concluded that he did indeed commit the acts of sexual assault he was convicted of by Israel’s criminal courts.

In a statement issued on Thursday night by the court, the rabbis said that the “severe” sexual crimes and violations of religious law Berland committed “were done,” and accused Berland’s followers of heresy for claiming in public and in writing that the sexual crimes and sins he committed were permitted.

“This is total heresy against the principles of faith and this heresy must be uprooted from our midst,” the rabbis of the special court wrote.

The three rabbis are Rabbi Sriel Rozenberg, the president of the Bnei Brak Rabbinical Court of the late Rabbi Nissim Karelitz; Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Shtern, a highly respected rabbinical judge and arbiter of Jewish law; and Rabbi Yehudah Fisher, a rabbinical judge on the rabbinical court of the radical ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit communal organization.

The president and vice president of the Eda Haredit court, Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss and Rabbi Moshe Shternboch, both appended their signatures to the ruling as well.

Clear condemnation for Berland has been lacking from the senior echelons of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic leadership, and the fraudulent rabbi has continued to receive honors such as being driven up to the Western Wall and lighting a bonfire at Meron on Lag Ba’omer.

Senior ultra-Orthodox politicians such as Housing and Construction Minister Ya'acov Litzman and Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush have met convivially with Berland since he was convicted in 2016 of indecent assault against two women, ostensibly to convince him to instruct his followers to vote for their party and political candidates.

Despite the criminal conviction against Berland, and additional evidence of his sexual misdemeanors and impropriety, his hardcore followers from the Shuvu Banim sect of the Breslov hassidic community originally denied the allegations and said the conviction in Israel’s state courts was not religiously significant.

Even when evidence emerged of Berland’s misdemeanors his followers claimed that what he did was not for sexual gratification and that he was permitted to them, and engaged in slander against witnesses who testified against him.

Because of the ongoing justification of Berland’s crimes by these segments of the ultra-Orthodox community three senior rabbis convened the special rabbinical court to issue a ruling whose authority would be all but unquestioned in the ultra-Orthodox world.

The court began proceedings some 18 months ago and brought in witnesses and complainants against Berland to hear their testimony, including Rabbi Tzvi Tzucker, a son-in-law of Beland, and Rabbi Yom Tov Hashin, a rabbi in the Breslov community who was extremely close to Berland before the allegations against him and his eventual conviction.

The rabbis said in their letter on the matter that “following the request of many people, a special rabbinical court was established to examine the allegations against the leader of the Shuvu Banim community,” wrote the three rabbinical judges in reference to Berland.

“During the courts proceedings, explicit testimony and proofs of deeds of the most severe nature that should not be done were received,” the rabbis continued.

“It is clear that accordance with our holy Torah, a person who seeks to protect himself will distance himself from someone who does not observe the strictures around the three most serious sins.”

The “three most serious sins” are murder, idolatry, and illicit sexual relations, and it was to the latter the rabbis were referring.

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