Don’t shelter accused rabbi, South Africa’s chief rabbi warns

(JTA) — South Africa’s chief rabbi called on the Jewish community not to shelter or support Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who fled Israel after accusations of sexual assault.

Rabbi Warren Goldstein in a letter dated April 11 wrote to rabbis throughout South Africa about Berland, who reportedly fled to South Africa after being ordered deported last week from Zimbabwe for overstaying his visitor’s visa. He was living in the African nation for five months after being deported with hundreds of his followers from Morocco, where he had been for seven months after leaving Israel.

“I have discussed this matter with the Beth Din and we wish to notify Rabbonim to be aware of the situation so that our community not be involved with sheltering or supporting Berland and his followers,” Goldstein wrote. “Berland must return to Israel to face the criminal justice system. Please notify any members of your congregation who you feel may be drawn into supporting or sheltering Berland and his followers. Use your discretion in this regard as many of your congregants may not be affected by this situation.”

Berland, 77, of the Breslov Hasidic movement, left Israel after being accused of sexually abusing several women as well as a 15-year-old girl.

In Morocco, Berland had planned to start an offshoot of his Shuvu Bonim yeshiva, which is located in Jerusalem and he still heads.

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