A charismatic rabbi who served prison time for indecent acts and sexual assault was charged Sunday with swindling terminally ill people out of large sums by promising to heal them.
Eliezer Berland, the head of Jerusalem’s Shuvu Banim yeshiva and its affiliated community, was arrested last month on allegations that he earned millions of shekels from these deceptions. Prosecutors want him detained until the end of legal proceedings. Another hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday in the Jerusalem District Court.
The indictment states that starting in 2014, Berland and his associates defrauded desperate people who had come to him for help. It describes 16 cases in which Berland portrayed himself as a miracle worker who, in exchange for huge payments, could cure terminal illnesses and revive the dead. He also claimed he could help people to avoid prison and could find missing people.
“Berland did this knowing that he did not have the power to bring about the desired result, and that there was no truth in his claims,” the indictment says. He extracted money from desperate people by “exploit[ing] his position as a spiritual and religious authority.”
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According to the indictment, as part of these deceptions Berland would recommend preparations and pills as “miracle drugs,” even though they were no more than over the counter pain medications — and sometimes even Mentos candies.
“These deceptions were presented by the accused for years, in a planned, systematic and regular fashion, as a fraudulent initiative motivated by money,” the indictment says.
Berland is also accused of engineering a violent assault, by calling on members of his community to attack a couple on grounds that they violated religious law.
Berland recorded a message in which he called for his adherents to “break their bones,” and ordered it broadcast on one of the Shuvu Banim community’s media outlets.