Tel Aviv Synagogue Reconsiders Invitation to Rabbi Elon

The Heichal Meir synagogue in Tel Aviv is considering backtracking on its plan to host classes given by Rabbi Mordechai Elon, who has been accused of sexually exploiting his students, the synagogue's rabbi said yesterday.

Mordechai Elon
Tomer Appelbaum

Heichal Meir could face a confrontation with Takana, a watchdog group that aims to prevent sexual exploitation by authority figures in the religious world, if it doesn't withdraw its invitation to Elon.

"If it leads to malicious gossip, disruptions and outbursts, it could be that we don't need" to have Elon teach, Heichal Meir's Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky said yesterday. But he said the synagogue board was ultimately responsible for the decision and would do whatever was in the best interest of the synagogue.

After Haaretz reported yesterday that Heichal Meir was planning to offer classes taught by Elon, Takana head Yehudit Shilat called Dichovsky, a leading ultra-Orthodox figure widely viewed as a bridge between the Haredim and the religious Zionists, to ask him to retract the offer. He said he would examine the issue.

Dichovsky's wife was also asked to help get the invitation withdrawn.

The support from Dichovsky implied by the synagogue's invitation was seen as the highest level of support Elon has received since Takana went public with the accusations in February.

But Dichovsky, who used to serve as a rabbinical judge and had previously won the support of former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak as a candidate for the Supreme Court, said yesterday he was not responsible for issuing the invitation.

He also expressed opposition to the way Takana has dealt with the Elon case.

Takana has sought to impose restrictions on Elon's activities, including teaching large groups on a regular basis.

Sources close to Elon said asking to teach at Heichal Meir was a step toward breaking free of the restrictions. They said he remains committed to teaching at the synagogue.

Takana representatives said the group has received many complaints about Elon.

"This is a very important group and it issued a very respectable opinion against Rabbi Elon, but it is not the decision of a [rabbinical] court," Dichovsky said. He said such a decision is necessary for a ruling on "serious matters against an individual."