Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Case of David Kugman

Case of David Kugman
Jerusalem Israel

Convicted sex offender involved in the Rabbi Elior Chen cult.  David Kugman was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.Table of Contents:


  1. Suspect in Jerusalem child abuse arrested (04/09/2008)
  2. Rabbi, wanted in child abuses, hiding in Canada (04/28/2008)


  1. "Abusive Rabbi" Trial to Open February (12/01/2009)

  1. Four disciples of cult leader Chen convicted of child abuse (05/03/2010)
  2. 4 Elior Chen followers guilty of abuse (05/12/2010)
  3. Elior Chen disciples charged with up to 20 years in prison (11/23/2010)
  4. Follower of Israeli 'rabbi' accused of child abus sentenced for complicity (11/23/2010)

Related Cases 


Suspect in Jerusalem child abuse arrested 
By Etgar Lefkovitz
Jerusalem Post - April 9, 2008
A key suspect in a gruesome Jerusalem child abuse case was arrested Wednesday in a forest on the outskirts of the city, police said.
Shimon Gabai was in police custody after the father of the abused children turned him in to police.
Gabai, who was wanted by police, was hiding in a forest near the capital, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
He will be brought to a Jerusalem court late Wednesday for a remand hearing.
Meanwhile, police planned to issue an international arrest warrant this week against an extremist Israeli rabbi who fled to Canada and was one of the main suspects in one of the worst child abuse cases in Israeli history.
Rabbi Elior Chen and his followers were suspected of severely abusing two children, aged 3 and 4, who were savagely and systematically beaten with hammers, knives and other instruments for months until the youngest lapsed into a coma last month.
The three-year-old suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the systematic and brutal abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and her companions, according to an indictment filed against his mother this week in a Jerusalem court.
He was expected to remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.
Chen, who served as a spiritual mentor to the abusive mother and who provided explicit written instructions on how to abuse the children, fled to Canada in order to avoid arrest after the case came to light last month, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
He apparently did not have Canadian citizenship, Ben-Ruby added.
According to the charge sheet, the woman’s relationship with her husband broke down last year, and she expressed her desire to divorce him. The husband subsequently left their Jerusalem home, leaving his eight children in the care of his wife, as well as two other men who were charged with educating them.
The men, who allegedly carried out the abuse along with the mother, received instructions from Chen on how to “fix” the children’s behavior, and “cleanse” them of their satanic possession, the indictment states.
During a search of Chen’s Betar Illit home, police found evidence that appears to link the rabbi to the abuse, including notebooks that document the violence, police said.
“Put stones on a [Sabbath] hot plate…when they are boiling, put them on the bodies of the children and then they will be cleansed,” the instructions read.
Chen also instructs his followers on how to tie up the children, and to prepare alcoholic drinks made of salt water and turpentine. These, he writes, should be given to the children in order to “vomit out the devil from themselves.”
Among the items police discovered at Chen’s home were hammers, iron bars, turpentine, sticks, and handcuffs.
Meanwhile, a Jerusalem court on Monday extended the remand of another suspect arrested by police late Sunday night by five days.
The suspect, Avraham Maskalchi, a yeshiva student who twice tried to flee arrest and was nabbed after a police chase, allegedly took part in the abuse of the children, a police representative told the court.
One of the woman’s eight children also identified him as taking part in the abuse, the police representative testified in court.
The charge sheet recounts that the mother allegedly forced her children to eat feces, locked them in a suitcase for three days – letting them out only for brief periods of time – repeatedly beat, whipped and shook them, burnt their hands with a lighter and a heater, and gave them freezing showers.
The abusive mother and ‘educators’ were also suspected of pouring salt on the burn wounds of one of the children, stuffing his mouth with a skullcap and sealing his mouth with masking tape.
The woman remains in police custody.
Since her arrest last month, the mother has repeatedly been shown pictures of her children’s injuries, but for the most part has not inquired about the children nor asked who was taking care of them, the police said.

Rabbi, wanted in child abuses, hiding in Canada
By Mark Mackinnon
Globe and Mall - April 8, 2008

JERUSALEM — A radical rabbi once linked to a plot to fire a missile at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, is hiding in Canada, Israeli police said Monday, announcing that he is wanted for his alleged role in a series of ghastly abuses of his followers' children.

Israeli officials have issued an international warrant for the arrest of Rabbi Elior Chen, and were planning to ask Canada to extradite him.

“He left [Tel Aviv's] Ben Gurion Airport. He flew to Canada. We know that he's in Canada at the moment,” said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.

Mr. Chen, who is in his late 20s, hasn't yet been charged but he has been described as the “spiritual mentor” of a group involved in the systematic abuse of children, allegedly using his status as a rabbi to convince a mother of eight that her children's shortcomings could be beaten and burned out of them.

“He visited the families themselves, and the children visited him. He was actively involved in causing mental and bodily harm to the children,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “It's very disturbing in terms of what happened to the children and the fact that these people, who consider themselves respectable, were involved in it.”

For days, Israel's media have been filled with the gruesome details of the case. Two of the eight children, aged 4 and 5, were hospitalized in serious condition two weeks ago after Mr. Chen allegedly ordered two of his followers to, among other acts, hit the children with hammers and light their fingers on fire, as a way of “correcting” their behaviour.

The four-year-old is still in a coma. Despite multiple operations, he has not regained consciousness, and doctors believe he may remain indefinitely in a vegetative state.

Police photographs of some of the instruments used – including hammers, spikes, knives, wrenches and alcohol – were on the front page of nearly every Israeli newspaper Monday.

The 38-year-old mother, whose name has been withheld by police, was indicted on child abuse charges on Sunday. The mother is alleged to have locked her two youngest children in a suitcase for three days, letting them out for only brief periods during that time. She also allegedly shook and beat them, burned their hands with a lighter and a heater, made them take freezing showers and forced them to eat their own feces. The goal, according to police, was to beat “devils” out of the children.

According to the indictment filed in Israeli court, the woman's marriage broke down last year and her husband left her. At that point, Mr. Chen, who was close to the couple, and two other men are reported to have taken over the education of the children.

The mother and the other two “educators” are also suspected of pouring salt on the burn wounds, gagging the children with a skullcap, and forcing them to drink alcohol until they vomited.

Police have arrested one of the other men, 22-year-old David Kugman of Jerusalem, while the other man, identified by police as Shimon Gabai, is still at large.

It's believed that Mr. Chen, 29, fled to Canada with at least one of his followers, identified by Israel's Haaretz newspaper as Joseph Fisher. Mr. Fisher is not considered a suspect by Israeli police. 

Mr. Rosenfeld said Mr. Chen flew to Canada on a flight from Ben Gurion Airport shortly after the mother's arrest.

A friend quoted in Haaretz Monday said Mr. Chen and Mr. Fisher believed that “only in very exceptional cases does Canada extradite.”

Chris Girouard, a spokesman for the Canadian Justice Department, confirmed Monday that Canada has a bilateral extradition treaty with Israel.

According to Israeli media reports citing friends of Mr. Chen, he began studying Kabbalah Judaism at the age of 11. He left his yeshiva in Jerusalem because he considered it too “open” and began studying the writings of extremely conservative rabbis. Eventually, he became the spiritual leader of a group of ultraconservative students, who called themselves “Pitzuei HaNachal,” or “the wounded of the river.”

In 2005, members of Pitzuei HaNachal were arrested in relation to a plot by Jewish extremists to attack Jerusalem's Temple Mount, site of Islam's holy Dome of the Rock, to protest against Israel's decision to withdraw its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip. Police alleged that Mr. Chen urged the plotters to take a loan from the bank to buy explosives, and promised to introduce them to army veterans who would train them to use the devices.

Police searched Mr. Chen's apartment on Thursday, and discovered journals documenting the violence.

Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper said the raid uncovered 30 notebooks of correspondence between Mr. Chen and his followers, in which he explicitly spelled out how the children should be tortured.

The notebooks explain how to bind the children in either “six ties” or “eight ties.” The notebooks describe how to prepare special drinks for the children, made of alcohol, salt, pepper and turpentine. The children were forced to drink the liquids until they vomited. “You see, they vomit the Satan inside them,” a letter tells the mother.

The notebooks also detail how to beat the children with batons and then pour alcohol on their wounds, describing in exact detail how much time to leave the burning liquid on the body of the sufferer. All these acts, the notebooks say, were necessary “in order to remove the ghosts from the children.” The notebooks also direct followers to put hot stones on the children.

In the correspondence Mr. Chen's followers never refer to him by name, calling him instead “His Honor the King of the Messiah.” The writings are conversational, as if Mr. Chen's followers did not speak to him and were only allowed to communicate in writing.

It's unclear whether there are other cases of child abuse linked to Mr. Chen's teachings. Mr. Rosenfeld said it was difficult to classify Mr. Chen and his followers. 

“It wasn't a widespread or vast [network], but we know there were a number of individuals that were connected to him,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “It's difficult to put this into context, whether it's a cult, whether he's an extremist or some kind of psycho.

"Abusive Rabbi" Trial to Open February
By Aviad Glickman
YNet News - December 1, 2009

Self proclaimed rabbi Elior Chen, charged with abuse, assault of minors, given one month to respond to charges brought against him. Victims' mother to testify against him

The indictment against "abusive rabbi" Elior Chen, who is accused of a line of serious abuse against eight children was read at Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday. 

Chen fled Israel in March 2008 to Brazil and was extradited back to Israel last month after a long legal process.

In the hearing, Chen's lawyer Ariel Atari requested to delay giving his response to the charges against his client. At the request of the judge, Yoram Noam, Chen stood up and declared that he understands the charges brought against him. 

During the hearing the judge announced that Chen must decide by December 10 whether or not he would like to keep Atari as his attorney, otherwise, he will be appointed a public defense attorney.

The court also ruled that the defense must respond to the indictment by January 3.

The judge ruled that Chen's trial will open on February 15 and run three days a week.

At the end of the session, Atari told Ynet, "The matter of representation was not reopened; there are some technical details that need to be worked out. We asked to postpone the hearing in order to study the material of the investigation."

During the trial, M., the mother of the children allegedly abused by Chen, is slated to testify against him. Harsh accusations were also made against Shimon Gabai, David Kugman, and Avraham Mascalchi, who incriminated Chen in their interrogations.

M. reached a plea bargain with the prosecution, according to which she will be sentenced to five years in prison if she testifies against Chen. The trial is slated to last for about two months.

Chen is charged with abuse of a helpless minor, and several counts of the assault of a minor. According to the charges, Chen and his followers would severely beat the hands of one of the children, aged three, with a wooden hammer and stick. They also burned the child's fingers and other parts of his body with a lighter.

David, the father of the abused children, told Ynet that he was not aware that the trial had opened Monday morning. "Such a crooked person, who burns children, what kind of punishment can you give him? Want kind of punishment can you give a Nazi? This is what he did, let him live with it," the father said.

He added, "I have a lot going on in my life besides the trial, I don't have much time for it. What's important is that the truth comes out. Chen is trying to spread rumors as if it's all a ploy. These lies are the most infuriating. We hope the prosecution does its job right.

"There is no solace for what he did. The best punishment for a man who harms in this way is that he be healthy and in his right mind so he knows what he has done."

The family's lawyer, David Halevy, said, "Beyond the physical and emotional injuries, this is a man who did not take responsibility, he fled the country and did everything possible to try and foil his prosecution to the full extent of the law. The family expects a swift process and for Elior Chen to receive a suitable punishment for his actions in a way that cannot endanger other families in the future."


Four disciples of cult leader Chen convicted of child abuse
By Liel Kyzer
Haaretz - May 13 2010

Four disciples of cult leader Elior Chen were convicted yesterday of severely abusing eight children.

Prosecutors plan to ask the Jerusalem District Court to sentence all of them to lengthy prison terms. However, the sentencing hearing will take place only in September.

At least some of the defendants - David Kugman, Avraham Mascalchi, Ro'i Tzoref and Shimon Gabai - plan to appeal their convictions.

Chen, who called himself a rabbi, told his disciples the abuse was necessary to "purify" the children, all members of one family. As a result, the children were severely beaten, burned, locked in suitcases and forced to eat their own feces, among other acts; one child remains in a coma to this day as a result.

In her ruling, Judge Nava Ben-Or called the case "incomprehensible," adding that Israel has never before known anything like it.

For instance, Mascalchi, 25, was convicted of burning the fingers of one child, taping his mouth shut, stuffing him into a suitcase and leaving him there for some time. Kugman, 24, was convicted of tying up the children and then beating them. He also held one child to an electric heater, causing burns so severe that the child needed a skin transplant.

Two of the four defendants denied all the charges against them. The other two admitted to some, but claimed that they were helpless under Chen's "magical" influence. Ben-Or was unmoved.

"The children of the S. family have, on their own bodies, experienced a harsh and painful lesson about the behavior of a man who knowingly divests himself of every mechanism of restraint and follows a 'righteous man,' or any other leader, without holding himself accountable for his actions, even though he understands their nature perfectly well," she wrote. "To absolve someone of criminal liability under such circumstances is like saying man is nothing but an animal."

4 Elior Chen followers guilty of abuse
By Aviad Glickman
YNET News - May 12, 2010

Four members of the cult led by Elior Chen were convicted on Wednesday by the Jerusalem District Court of a line of serious offenses for their involvement in the children's abuse affair. One of the children who was abused is still in hospital in a vegetative state.

Judge Nava Ben-Or noted in her ruling, "I have full confidence in the testimony of the children's investigator Micha Haran and his professional opinion. I watched the investigation tapes and have no doubt the children told the truth."

The indictments against the four included 22 counts which pertained to 40 abuse incidents.

David Kugman, 24, was accused of shaking the children intensely while holding their hands and legs together with other members of the group. In some of the cases they would cuff the children's hands and legs with plastic cuffs and ropes.

The indictment detailed an incident in February 2008 during which Kugman and another Chen follower pressed one of the children to an electric stove and removed him only after his skin started pealing off. He then poured alcohol and salt on the wound. The victim required skin transplant surgery as a result.

Burning fingers, sealing mouths
Avraham Maskalchi, 25, was charged with abusing children using a wooden hammer. In one of the cases, he burned the fingers of one child, tied him up with a rope, placed a yarmulke in his mouth and sealed it with scotch tape. Maskalchi and Kugman then put the boy inside a small suitcase and deprived him of food and water for a long time. They were charged with assaulting and abusing a minor.

The two were also accused of locking another boy inside a suitcase for three days, and force-feeding yet another child with feces.

According to the indictment, at one stage one of the children complained of the abuse and was beat up in response.  

The two other suspects to be convicted on Wednesday are Roi Tzoref and Shimon Gabai.

Elior Chen's wife, who neglected her eight children and left them to be abused, was sentenced to five years in prison last week.

"The actions carried out against the children included shaking, beating, binding, burning, force-feeding them feces, and more, reflect a loss of humanity on behalf of the perpetrators," the judge ruled.

Chen's own trial has not yet ended.


Elior Chen disciples charged with up to 20 years in prison
By Dan Izenberg
Jerusalem Post - November 23, 2010

Four men tortured children, feeding them feces and locking them in suitcases; one has been in a coma since 2008 after severe beating.

Jerusalem District Court judge Nava Ben-Or sentenced four “disciples” of self-proclaimed rabbi Elior Chen to up to 20 years in prison for their sadistic brutalization of the children of a woman who became a follower of Chen.

Ben-Or sentenced David Avraham Kugman to 20 years in jail and a one-year suspended sentence and ordered him to pay NIS 200,000 in compensation to the children. Avraham Maskalchi and Shimon Gabai were each sentenced to 17 years in jail, a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay NIS 100,000 in compensation.

Roi Tzoref, who spent only part of the time during which Chen was in control of the children, was sentenced to 30 months in jail, six months suspended and ordered to pay NIS 10,000 in compensation.

Chen is being tried separately while the mother of the children, identified as M., has already been sentenced to five years in jail for her role in the affair. She turned state’s witness and testified against her former “teacher.”

In her verdict, Ben-Or wrote, “By their actions, the defendants, particularly Kugman, Maskalchi and Gabai, subverted the most fundamental moral foundation of human society. The inflicted a deep wound on the ability of little children to trust and rely on adults. They inflicted a mortal wound on the helpless and seriously undermined the fundamental understanding that children, by virtue of their being children, are to be defended against evil. The instinctive awareness that little children have of reward and punishment, cause and effect and morality, an awareness that is so vital for their growth and development in human society.”

She also wrote that the accused did not lose their ability to distinguish right from wrong during the time they were under Chen’s direct influence. “It is true,” wrote Ben-Or, “that they regarded Chen as a tzadik and wished to bask in his shadow. Yes, he had a powerful influence on them and they negated themselves in his presence. However, as their testimony in court showed, they did not blindly obey orders whose moral significance they were not aware of. They did not behave as robots but acted with deliberation.”

In the first section of the 25-page verdict, Ben-Or went into detail on the kinds of sadistic actions which the children suffered at the hands of Chen and the defendants.

The first victim was Sh., the 12-year-old son. He was expelled from school for bad behavior and brought to Chen’s self-styled yeshiva where he was beaten punched and pushed by Chen and his disciples. Tzoref was responsible for Sh.’s “re-education.”

During that period, Chen and his disciples spent a weekend at the home of M., the children’s mother. During the two days, they attacked A., the youngest, who was three at the time, and Nh., who was six years old.

Soon afterwards, Chen “married” M. even though he already had a wife and family, and brought his new “bride” and her children to his home in Beitar Illit.

He put Kugman in charge of A., and Gabai in charge of N., the second youngest, who was four years old at the time. Maskalchi was put in charge of another son but “helped” the other two. Tzoref did not move into Chen’s house and was therefore not involved in the brutalization of the children during the two month’s they remained with Chen.

The victims who suffered the most during this time were A. and N. The following is one of the many descriptions in the verdict of the acts perpetrated by the children’s ‘guardians.’ “Kugman would force A. to wear shoes even though the child was suffering from burns on the soles of his feet. The burns were caused when the accused stood him too close to a heater. The child did not dare move despite the fact that the burn grew worse, because he was in a permanent state of shock. The brushing of the shoe on the burn caused a pus-filled wound.   

Not only did Kugman force A.’s tortured foot into the shoe, but in order to prevent the child from scratching the burn wound, they handcuffed him to a chair so tightly that the blood flow to his hand stopped and they ‘ripped him apart’ with beatings.’ The torture of the two youngest children at Chen’s home was discovered after both children ended up in hospital within hours of each other. N. suffered severe burns and A. was brought in in a coma and has remained in that condition ever since. Ban-Or described Chen’s home as a ‘house of horrors.’

Follower of Israeli 'rabbi' accused of child abus sentenced for complicity

By Nir Hasson

Haaretz - November 23, 2010

Elior Chen, second from right, with three of his followers (from left): Shimon Gabai, David Kugman and Avraham Mascalchi.
The four were convicted of severely abusing eight children under Chen's orders two years ago; one of the children remains unconscious to this day.

Jerusalem District Court sentenced Tuesday four disciples of self proclaimed Rabbi Elior Chen to lengthy prison sentences, after they were convicted of child abuse earlier this year.

The four were convicted in February of severely abusing eight children. David Kugman- the central defendant in the case – was sentenced to 20 years in jail; Avraham Mascalchi and Shimon Gabai were sentenced to 17 years in prison, and Ro'i Tzoref was sentenced to 30 months in prison after the court ruled that he played a minor part in the abuse.

The child abuse affair was uncovered two years ago, when a child Chen had been treating was taken to the hospital unconscious. Once the story became public, Chen fled to Brazil, which extradited him back to Israel. He is now on trial at the Jerusalem District Court.

Chen, who called himself a rabbi, told his disciples the abuse was necessary to "purify" the children, all members of one family. As a result, the children were severely beaten, burned, locked in suitcases and forced to eat their own feces, among other acts; one child remains in a coma to this day as a result.

In her ruling, Judge Nava Ben-Or called the case "incomprehensible," adding that Israel has never before known anything like it.

For instance, Mascalchi, 25, was convicted of burning the fingers of one child, taping his mouth shut, stuffing him into a suitcase and leaving him there for some time. Kugman, 24, was convicted of tying up the children and then beating them. He also held one child to an electric heater, causing burns so severe that the child needed a skin transplant.

Two of the four defendants denied all the charges against them. The other two admitted to some, but claimed that they were helpless under Chen's "magical" influence.

The mother of the eight children, who remains unnamed, was sentenced in May to five years in prison after pleading guilty to shaking, burning and tying up her children.

Chen's trial is currently taking place in Jerusalem. 

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