South Africa's Chief Rabbi Warns Against Harboring Fugitive Israeli Rabbi

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Rabbi Eliezer Berland. Suspected of committing sexual offenses, he’s currently in South Africa.Credit: Hadar Cohen

South Africa’s chief rabbi has called on the country's Jewish community not to shelter or support a fugitive rabbi who fled Israel after accusations of sexual assault.

In a letter to rabbis throughout South Africa dated April 11, Rabbi Warren Goldstein wrote that "our community must not be involved with sheltering or supporting" Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who arrived in South Africa last week after being deported from Zimbabwe for overstaying his visitor’s visa.

Berland, 77, fled Israel some 18 months ago after being accused of committing indecent acts against several female followers, some of whom were minors at the time of the alleged abuse. He spent time in the United States, Italy, Switzerland and Morocco before arriving in Zimbabwe two months ago.

He lived in Zimbabwe for five months with hundreds of his followers.

Shortly after he fled Israel, his son, grandson and several other followers were arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering involving the sect's finances.

“I have discussed this matter with the Beth Din and we wish to notify Rabbonim to be aware of the situation," Goldstein wrote. “Berland must return to Israel to face the criminal justice system.

"Please notify any members of your congregation who you feel may be drawn into supporting or sheltering Berland and his followers. Use your discretion in this regard as many of your congregants may not be affected by this situation.”

Berland is a leading member of the Breslov Hasidic movement. While in Morocco, he had planned to start an offshoot of his Shuvu Bonim yeshiva, which is located in Jerusalem and which he still heads.

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