Prominent Israeli Rabbi, Sex Offender Suspected of Fraud, Released to House Arrest

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Israeli Rabbi Eliezer Berland.
Israeli Rabbi Eliezer Berland. Credit: SANDER KONING / AFP/ סאנדר
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The Jerusalem District Court on Monday ordered the release of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, head of the Shuvu Banim yeshiva, to house arrest, after he was detained for a year on suspicion of defrauding his adherents.

Berland, who had previously done prison time for sexual offenses, was released with restrictions that include electronic supervision and guarding by a private security firm at his expense. He is also not permitted to make personal contact with members of his community or to use any communication devices. He had to post bond of more than 1 million shekels ($308,000) to guarantee the conditions of his release. If he flees, the home in which he will stay will be impounded.

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Berland declared at Monday’s hearing that he understands that any violation of these conditions could put him back in jail. The release will take place after the arrangements for house arrest are made.

Berland is charged with 16 counts of fraud and exploitation, and with money laundering totaling 140 million shekels ($43 million). According to the indictment, he misrepresented himself to people seeking cures for their relatives who suffered from incurable diseases, and demanded payments of thousands of shekels for his “assistance.”

The evidentiary part of his trial is expected to resume shortly. The court rejected Berland’s request to cancel the indictment because of his health and because he claims not to have been given a pretrial hearing as required. Last month Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit invalidated a plea agreement that Berland had signed with the Jerusalem district attorney.

Berland’s attorneys issued a statement saying, “We are pleased that the court recognized the need to release Rabbi Berland to an alternative to detention that will allow preservation of his health until the legal proceedings are completed.”

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