Fugitive rabbi’s followers issue death threat against South Africa’s chief rabbi
Menu JTA Search

Fugitive rabbi’s followers issue death threat against South Africa’s chief rabbi

(JTA) — The followers of an Israeli rabbi who has been on the run to avoid extradition back to Israel on sex abuse charges reportedly made a death threat against the chief rabbi of South Africa.

Followers of Rabbi Eliezer Berland believe the chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, tipped off police to his Johannesburg location and have called for Goldstein’s death under the “din rodef” provision in Jewish law that allows the killing of a person who is out to kill them, including by informing, the Johannesburg Sunday Times reported.

Ten days ago, the South African police raided the hotel outside Johannesburg where Berland has been living. The rabbi reportedly escaped the hotel immediately before the raid.

Berland, 78, has been hiding out in South Africa for the past five months with several of his followers. Since the accusations in 2012, he has been hiding in Morocco, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe.

Berland is the founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel and a member of the Breslov Hasidic sect.

The South African Jewish community in a statement following the death threat against Goldstein called on Berland “to return to Israel immediately to face the serious criminal charges laid against him and for which there is an international warrant of arrest against him.”

“We further condemn the baseless malicious lies and incitement to violence aimed at our Chief Rabbi, including the libelous accusation that the Chief Rabbi was responsible for the police raid on Berland’s compound.”

Berland, who has been accused of sexually assaulting several of his female followers, has denied the allegations against him. He fought his extradition from the Netherlands last summer on the grounds that the alleged assaults happened in the West Bank and Israel does not have jurisdiction there. He later fled the Netherlands to avoid extradition.