Prominent Haredi Figure Held After Two Women Say He Molested Them

Elchanan Deitsch is accused of sexually assaulting two women under his care, one of whom while she was hospitalized and the other while unconscious

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Elchanan Deitsch, a well-known figure in the ultra-Orthodox community accused of sexual assault.
Elchanan Deitsch, a well-known figure in the ultra-Orthodox community accused of sexual assault.Credit: Reuven Kastro/Walla!
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The detention of a prominent “fixer” in the ultra-Orthodox community who was arrested last week on suspicion of sexual assault was extended by four days Monday after a second woman submitted a similar complaint.

Elchanan Deitsch was arrested last week on suspicion of committing indecent acts on a woman he was ostensibly helping, while she was hospitalized.

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After the arrest a second woman came forward, telling police Deitsch had sex with her while she was unconscious. Both alleged incidents took place about four years ago. At Monday’s detention hearing, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Zion Saharay said the new complaint strengthened the suspicions against Deitsch.

A police representative told the court that detectives had information about more victims and that Deitsch had changed his story during questioning, after speaking with a lawyer. At first, he denied any connection to the complainants but later said his relations with them were consensual.

The affair was exposed in January, when social activist Miri Furst posted on Facebook that she had received testimony from women who claimed Deitsch has sexually assaulted them. The post prompted other women to tell their stories, one of whom filed a complaint with the police.

The police representative told the court that Deitsch was also suspected of obstruction of justice because he hid his cellphone before his arrest. He said there was a risk that Deitsch would take advantage of his status in the Haredi community to commit additional offenses: “This is a systematic pattern of action, which can be seen from the testimony in the case,” he said.

Elchanan Deitsch, a well-known figure in the ultra-Orthodox community, was arrested last week in Jerusalem, April 2022.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Deitsch is involved in philanthropic activities and is a very well-known figure in the Hasidic community. He is identified with the Shlomei Emunim group headed by Knesset member Meir Porush of United Torah Judaism. Deitsch is also close to Betar Ilit Mayor Meir Rubenstein.

In 2018 a relation of Deitch’s submitted a complaint to police, claiming he had sexually assaulted her when she was 14, but the case was closed due to the statute of limitations.

“I’ve waited 18 years for him to be punished for his abominable acts,” the woman told Haaretz last week after Deitsch’s arrest. “He used me, a helpless young girl, to serve his needs and later had the gall to deny everything. I still feel the pain deeply, it’s an open and bleeding wound. For 18 years, he managed to stay free, to harm and murder. When I confronted him at the police station, I believe that if I looked him in the eye he would confess. I cried out from the depths of my soul, but he lied and said he didn’t know me.”

Rivka Schwartz, the founder of Min Hameitzar (“From the Depths”), a charity that provides legal aid to victims of sexual assault in the Haredi community and the woman’s lawyer, told Haaretz that her client’s case can in fact be prosecuted, after the statute of limitations for sexual offenses committed by a family member was extended. Schwartz said the amendment should apply even though the alleged acts occurred before it was passed. Prosecutors said that because amendment went into effect after the complainant turned 18, the earlier statute of limitations applies.

Schwartz says her request to review the investigative material for the purpose of filing an appeal against closure of the case had not yet been answered.

Attorney Rivka Schwartz.Credit: Emil Salman

“With the opening of the current investigation, the complainant has been called to make statements again, which is reopening an old wound,” Schwartz said about her client. “We are calling on the prosecution to reopen her case and bring it to justice. We won’t rest until justice is done, if only to prevent others from being hurt.”

Her client has yet to make a statement to police in connection with the current investigation.

In response, the prosecution said that “the complainant was informed during 2020 that the case had been closed but that she had the right to appeal the decision. More than a year after the deadline for filing an appeal on the decision to close the case, the complainant’s attorney filed a request to study the case file, among other things for the purpose of examining grounds for an appeal. After it has gotten the file from the archives, the prosecution will consider the request.”

Deitsch’s attorney, Roy Brauner, called the complaints “baseless rumors that have been spreading about offenses committed by my client. Absurdly, the complaints were filed by women who were given considerable help by my client.

The motivation for making the complaints isn’t clear, except for the fact that behind them is a woman who doesn’t know my client and whom my client doesn’t know. She is the one leading this defamation campaign. Soon the truth will come out and my client can go back to his acts of loving kindness, as he has done all his life,” Brauner said.

Following the Facebook post about Deitsch, ultra-Orthodox figures who have been combatting sexual assault in the community demanded that Deitsch agree to abide by a set of rules that would prevent him from committing further assaults. Among them is barring him from visiting hospital patients alone or meeting directly with women seeking aid but only through other family members.

Deitsch agreed to the conditions as the police were conducting their investigation and until his arrest.

In recent months, especially after charges of sexual offenses were filed against the well-known Haredi author Chaim Walder, there are signs of a change underway in the community in regard to sexual assault. More and more victims have shown courage by going public and filing police complaints against their alleged attackers, even when the latter are powerful figures in society.

Miri Furst, who first made public the complaints against Deitsch, told Haaretz that “the difficulties of the victims in reliving the trauma and going public is enormous, so they tend to ‘put it behind them’ and try to continue with their normal lives even though the wound lies deep in their soul. But no more: In the Haredi community, women now understand that the one who’s guilty and should pay the price is the perpetrator and not the victim. Today, they are rising up and aren’t ready to remain quiet any longer. They have the courage to file a complaint, to share and to make public what has happened.”

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