Accused Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox 'Cult Leader' Barred From Teaching Girls

Yair Ettinger
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Outside the Be’er Miriam women’s seminary in Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman
Yair Ettinger

The head of the Be’er Miriam women’s seminary in Jerusalem, Aharon Ramati, has been forbidden to manage any educational institution and can teach only men for a period of 70 days or until he is indicted, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled this week.

Over the past several weeks, Ramati has been the subject of a police investigation following complaints filed by some of the students and their families, who claimed that some of the students who dormed there had been held against their will in an institution they claimed was being run like a cult.

Ramati, his wife, and a few students were arrested and released, but Judge Miriam Kaslassy agreed to some of the state’s demands and imposed restrictions on the controversial rabbi, whose work has been criticized by several leading Haredi rabbis. The complaints led the Jerusalem municipality to close down the seminary.

Ramati, through his attorney, Itamar Ben Gvir, objected to the state’s demand that he be forbidden to engage in any type of education during the investigation, and declared that he had never drawn a salary from Be’er Miriam, had not managed it, and does not have rabbinical ordination or a teacher’s license. He thus argued that he cannot be blocked from doing anything. “Education is his guiding principle,” said Ben Gvir. “He [engaged in it] out of love for the Jewish people, not as a livelihood.”

The judge rejected this approach and decided to ban Ramati from “managing, directly or indirectly, this seminary or any other educational institution including as a teacher, acting as a supervisory rabbi or spiritual counselor for 70 days or until an indictment is filed, the earlier of the two.”

With regard to Ramati’s request to “educate the Jewish people in accordance with his worldview,” she wrote, “The respondent is permitted to pursue these passions with the sons of Israel (men and not women), and this only because the plaintiff [the state] has agreed to limit the ban, and not due to any determination regarding the investigation material that has accumulated that distinguishes between men and women.”

Former students who left the school say that under Ramati’s influence, the girls cut off contact with their families. For example, they must give up their cell phones, as well as any other means of communication with the outside world, when they start at the school.

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