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Hassidic Rabbi Suspected of Officiating Marriages of Underage Couples

Police began investigating the case 2 and a half years ago, following complaints from the secular residents of the community.

Police on Monday detained for questioning a Hassidic rabbi suspected of officiating the marriages of minors.

Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Schick, the spiritual leader of the Bratslav Hassidic movement in Yavne'el, near Lake Kinneret, is suspected of officiating the marriages of some 20 underage couples, mostly ages 12 to 16. Tiberias police began investigating the case some two and a half years ago, following complaints from the secular residents of the community.

Police detained Schick for questioning at the Ben Gurion International Airport upon his arrival from New York.

Schick denied all allegations against him and was released after the investigation, though he is currently forbidden from visiting Yavne'el.

The Bratslav community in Yavne'el has also dismissed the allegations made by police, calling them rumors concocted by the secular farmers in the community who they say have embarked on a hate campaign against them.

Followers of rabbi Schick settled in Yavne'el, a farming community, in 1986. The Hassidic residents, who are mostly newly religious, comprise just a few hundred of Yavne'el's 3,000 residents.

The Hassidic residents of the community are known as "Schickim," or devotees of rabbi Schick, who lives in New York and visits the community every few months.

Since the establishment of the Hassidic community in Yavne'el, there have been countless tense incidents between them and the veteran residents of the community.

The veteran residents have accused the Hassidim of assault, threats, arson, sabotage, vandalism, obscense language, spitting and making insulting remarks to the secular residents. The veteran residents also raised their suspicions of widespread underage marriage in an interview with Haaretz two and a half years ago.