Saturday, December 15, 2012

Case of Rabbi Yoram Abergel

Case of Rabbi Yoram Abergel
(AKA: Rabbi Yoram Aberjil, The Mekubal Rebbe

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Rabbi Yoram Abergel (AKA: Rabbi Yoram Aberjil)
Educator, Scholar and Marriage Counselor - Netivot, Israel 
Yeshiva du Rabbi Yoram Abergel - Netivot, Israel
Teacher - Yeshiva in Alon Shvut

Accused of cult like practices, sexual harassment of young women and threatening the lives of his victims and those who advocated for them.

In 2012, Rabbi Abergel was named as one of the wealthiest rabbis living in Israel.

According to reports Rabbi Pinhas Cohen has two files of evidence were compiled about what could be regarded as sexual harassment. Rabbi Cohen passed the complaints on to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (the country's leading Sephardic rabbi) and to the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Yosef gave instructions to establish a special religious court to examine the complaints. The report also states that women who complained were threatened with murder.

10 years ago, there was another wave of complaints by women against him, which were examined by a religious court.

Rabbi Aberjil is an enigmatic character. He developed a kind of new stream in Judaism: Sephardic Hassidism, which draws from both the Chabad (Lubavitch) and Breslov Chasidic traditions. 
Many students feel that Rabbi Aberjil is blessed with supernatural powers.


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Table of Contents: 

  1. First known wave of complaints, which were examined by a religious court.  No more information know at this time
  1. A not-so-saintly rabbi in Netivot (12/10/2006)
  1.  Rabbi Elazar's Followers Speak (Video) (08/02/2011)
  2.  Litvish Community Gets a Taste of Chassidus (09/18/2011)

  1. In Israel, Rabbis Rank Among The Rich And Famous (07/30/2012)
  2. Mass Farbrengen in Kiryat Gat (12/04/2012) 
  3. Rabbi Yoram Abergel: One of the richest rabbis in Israel - accused sex offender (12/15/2012)

A not-so-saintly rabbi in Netivot
By Tamar Rotem
Haaretz - December 11, 2006

Rabbi Yoram Aberjil (AKA: Abergel)
It was a normal evening in early November. In Netivot, the town of memorial celebrations for saintly rabbis, quiet is something tangible - actually rare. Perhaps this was the reason why there was something disturbing about the quiet that prevailed outside. The little ones were already lying in bed in their pajamas when suspicious shadows were seen in the garden outside S.'s kitchen. Looking through the window, she made out three figures, and she felt something bad was about to happen. She knew these were the thugs of Rabbi Yoram Aberjil. At that very moment, her husband, A., was at the police station, filing a complaint of attempted assault by people he identified as the rabbi's followers. She was alone with her small children. "I knew that the outer door of the kitchen was not locked. That's how it is in Netivot. My whole body trembled."

S. pushed the stove against the door and ran to the "safe" room (reinforced against rocket attacks). She frantically emptied the wall closet and put the children into it. Meanwhile, the thugs entered the building. They hammered wildly at the door and shouted over and over for her to open it. A neighbor yelled from above: "What do you want here?" They said: "We've come to kill her."

"I took a carving knife and held it ready. The children started crying. I told them: 'Quiet. If you cry, it will be the end of us.' I held my hand over the mouth of the youngest child. One of the children said: 'Mommy, it's like in the Holocaust.'" The intruders continued to bang on the door and shout. Someone called the police, and when they heard the sirens, they ran off. "That night we packed our bags and fled," she related.

Until a few months ago, Rabbi Aberjil was the rabbi of S. and her husband. The two are in their late 20s, and, like all the members of the community, are newly religious. Over the last year, they decided to move away from the crowded community. They found an apartment outside of the area in which the community is concentrated, and moved the children to schools not identified with Rabbi Aberjil.

In the second week of September, S. relates, the telephone rang, and it was Rabbi Aberjil on the line. "I want you to know that your children are precious to me," he said. "I won't let anyone pick the fruit I planted. The next conversation will be really painful. I will follow you. I have ways of making you disappear in a hit-and-run accident. I will curse your children. I'm telling you, I have powers. Your children will be orphans."

At the end of October, they asked for help from a series of rabbis, among them the town's chief rabbi, Rabbi Pinhas Cohen. They unwittingly opened a Pandora's box. Other families of yeshiva students also came to Rabbi Cohen and told of threats made by Rabbi Aberjil. As a result of conversations with women, two files of evidence were compiled about what could be regarded as sexual harassment. Rabbi Cohen passed the complaints on to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (the country's leading Sephardic rabbi) and to the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Yosef gave instructions to establish a special religious court to examine the complaints.

This is not the first time Rabbi Aberjil has found himself in trouble. Some 10 years ago, there was another wave of complaints by women against him, which were examined by a religious court. He reacted strongly against the current accusations. "The town was seething. People I know who merely spoke with the women who complained were threatened with murder," said one rabbinic source in the town. Rabbi Cohen received threats by phone. His car and that of his wife were vandalized, and he lodged a complaint with the police. Other complainants were ostracized and expelled from Aberjil's study center, as was anyone who was in contact with them. Two of the complainants were beaten up. As a result of the various incidents, the young men and their wives lodged complaints with the police.

In early November, Rabbi Aberjil gave a speech that could be described as incitement to murder. It was circulated on ultra-Orthodox Web sites: "Whoever mentions my name, create a riot; tell him 'shut up, you sinner' ... If you have a prayer book, throw it at him; if you have a shoe, throw it at him; if you have a stone, throw it at him ... Take a stick and beat him until the man has to get to Emergency ... anyone who harms us. Because if he dies, nothing will happen; he died of wickedness."

According to the complainants and rabbinic sources who supported them, the police's handling of the matter was inadequate. They were abandoned by the rabbis, and this week the special rabbinic court decided to close the case for lack of evidence.

Rabbi Aberjil is an enigmatic character. He developed a kind of new stream in Judaism: Sephardic Hassidism, which draws from both the Chabad (Lubavitch) and Bratslav Hassidic traditions. In a town of "courts" and holy men, he has been able to create a unique image, and draw in the newly religious with magical cords. Both his admirers and his enemies agree that he is a deeply knowledgeable scholar. In his youth, he learned at an Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox (but not hassidic) yeshiva. His style is that of a preacher, spiced with stories of miracles and frightening tales. A rabbinic source in the town explained that it is easy to turn the newly religious into followers: "They revere him. He says he has a connection to G-d, and the newly religious are excited by that. It would not make an impression on those who grew up ultra-Orthodox."

Aberjil gathered strength in Netivot by collecting these scattered souls under his authority. Aside from his community in Netivot, he has been able to attract other groups, among them businessmen who come to consult him. "He knows how to appeal to them. He keeps talking about negating oneself. It's like brainwashing, and they become dependent on him, like robots," said one of the female complainants. Some 300 men learn at the study center in Netivot, but about one third of them do not define themselves as his followers. The real disciples and their wives are a separate group. They get up early on Shabbat to pray with the rabbi, and to take part in his study session. On the eve of Shabbat, the women, dressed in white, walk considerable distances from their homes, wheeling strollers, in order to receive a blessing. "The women admire him," said the wife of one of the yeshiva students. "They behave like lovers." Students tell of long counseling conversations Rabbi Aberjil has with their wives. According to the complaints, these talks sometimes become intimate, and slip into the realm of sexual harassment.

"Yoram Aberjil presumes to be a marriage counselor," says journalist Yossi Bar-Moha, who has published investigations into the courts of kabbalists. "Neighborhood rabbis tell me that he destroys families. To this man he says, 'Your wife is no good,' to that woman he says, 'Don't marry him.'"

Many students relate that Rabbi Aberjil expresses himself as if he is blessed with supernatural powers. His powers captivated settlers, many of whom came to consult with him before the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. One of them, from the settlement of Morag, told Haaretz that he bought a house in the settlement one month before the evacuation, because of the advice and blessing of Rabbi Aberjil.

Another young man related that Aberjil despises other rabbis, with the exception of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and forbids his followers from listening to "Radio Hakodesh," the pirate station of the newly religious. "Don't believe any rabbi," he likes to say. "I alone have holiness. I alone am G-d-fearing."

According to rabbinic sources who supported the complainants, Aberjil threatened that he would shut down his institutions if he got as much as a reprimand. "The rabbis and the religious court judges have relationships of mutual loyalty, and they had no intention of seriously investigating the matter," said the source. There was an intervention by the chairman of the Shas party, MK Eli Yishai, who treats the rabbi - regarded as an exceptional vote-getter in the south - with kid-gloves. Last week, the complaints and the cassette recordings of the alleged incitement were handed over to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

"We innocently believed that we would find a cleaner life in the ultra-Orthodox community," said one of the female complainants. "For us this is a very strong crisis of faith. We expected that at least the chief rabbis would see the truth, but we were bitterly disappointed."

Rabbi Aberjil's secretary, Erez Reuven, said in response that no force had been used against any of the families. "Not one of us lifted a hand against them. The families should not have left in the first place, and of course they can come back to the town." Referring to the study session whose contents included incitement to murder, he said: "The rabbi educates toward 'ahavat Yisrael,' love of the nation; and by the end of the session he explained that he was against violence."

The Negev sub-district of the police gave this response: "The complaints were dealt with efficiently and sensitively. Proof of this can be found in the calm that is being preserved. The complaint against the rabbi regarding incitement to violence was lodged at the Netivot police station. Once testimonies have been collected, the cassette and the material from the investigation will be given to the attorney general, who is the person authorized to determine whether it is a matter of incitement, and whether to instruct the police to launch a [full] investigation."


Rabbi Elazar's Followers Speak (Video)
Israel National News (Arutz Sheva TV) - August 8, 2011

Speakers included at this broadcast included Rabbi Yoram Abergel.

Arutz Sheva – “It would be impossible to summarize 27 years in a few minutes,” said Aharon Vilf, a close associate of Rabbi Elazar, who was known as Baba Elazar. “The shock will go away in time, but right now the heart hasn’t sent to the brain or to the consciousness the depth of the tragedy.
“Rabbi Elazar’s life was one piece of holiness, something we don’t come across often,” added Vilf. “And with that, he spoke to each person at eye level, at his understanding. There were people here from all the communities, from all the parties, from all the movements, secular people, religious people. And you didn’t see a difference in his treatment, in his respect, in his appreciation, or in the attention he gave. He was a Jew who didn’t look for platforms for himself.”
Rabbi Yoram Abergel from Netivot also spoke of Rabbi Abuhatzeira, saying, “The loss which occurred here is a loss of the entire people of Israel. We must remember that there are three pillars in the world: Torah, grace, and prayer. The pillar of prayer that saved the entire generation from all its enemies was Rabbi Elazar.”

One of the Rabbi’s followers who consulted with him on many issues told Arutz Sheva: “They took away our father. He was a man who cannot be described. A blessing by him was something else. We would stand next to him and we’d shake. We didn’t even dare to look into his eyes.”


Litvish Community Gets a Taste of Chassidus - September 18, 2011
Chabad News

Alleged sexual predator, Rabbi Yoram Abergel giving a class arranged by Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Koenig
For the first time in the history of Modi’in Ilit, hundreds of yeshiva and kollel students attended a shiur given by Rabbi Yoram Abergel of Netivot. Rabbi Abergel was speaking at a Chai Elul event arranged by the local Chabad library, which is run by shliach Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Koenig. For many of the participants, it was the first time they had learned any Chassidus in depth.

Rabbi Abergel spoke about the holiness of the Torah and the greatness of the bittul that we acquire from learning it. He described the bittul of Achiya Hashiloni, from whom the Baal Shem Tov learned Torah and then went on to describe the Alter Rebbe and the Tanya that he wrote. The participants were very inspired and they decided that they should set aside time to study Tanya. Many of them purchased sefarim on the Tanya so that they could learn more.


In Israel, Rabbis Rank Among The Rich And Famous
By Daniel Estrin
NPR - July 7, 2012

Over the past year, Israelis have taken to the streets to protest the country's high cost of living. They've also directed their anger at a small group of business moguls who have used their close ties to government officials to gain control of large chunks of the Israeli economy.
Now, the Israeli edition of Forbes magazine has shed light on a surprising category of Israelis who have quietly also climbed to the top rung of society: multimillionaire rabbis.
Rabbi Yaacov Israel Ifargan is one of them. Earlier this month, 1,000 major supporters from across the country flocked to Netivot, a blue-collar town in Israel's southern desert, for an annual gala event honoring their spiritual guru.

Rabbis' Riches
Here is the estimated wealth of Israel's top 10 richest rabbis, according to the Israeli edition of Forbes magazine. 
1. Rabbi Pinchas Abuhatzeira: $335 million
2. Rabbi David Chai Abuhatzeira: $194 million
3. Rabbi Yaacov Ariyeh Alter: $90 million
4. Rabbi Yisaschar Dov Rokach: $46 million
5. Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi: $26 million
6. Rabbi Yaacov Israel Ifargan: $23 million
7. Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto: $19 million
8. Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira: $13 million
9. Rabbi Reuven Albaz: $10 million
10. Rabbi Yoram Aberjil: $9 million

Note: The exchange rate used is 1 NIS= 0.2581 USD
The emcee gave Ifargan a rock star's welcome. Later, one by one, guests came up to the dais to sing the rabbi's praises, each speaker more important than the last.

The chief rabbi of the Israeli army said a few words. So did government ministers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his blessings in a video address.

There were advertising executives in the crowd, top businessmen, even a supermodel. Ifargan is no less of a star.

"The rabbi has abilities that people don't understand, something that we cannot grasp, doesn't make sense to everyday person," said Ifargan's aide, Amos Elad. "You know, he can see someone and he can see right through him. That's why they call him, the nickname is, the 'X-ray' rabbi."

Donations In Exchange For Insight
Over the past two decades, the X-ray rabbi has cultivated a celebrity following among Israel's wealthiest business people. They seek the rabbi's advice about their health and their personal lives, and, some say, their stock options. Politicians and army generals also turn to the rabbi.

None of them are particularly religious. So why do they do it?

"Israel is in a chronic state of emergency," says anthropologist Yoram Bilu. "There are so many questions which cannot be answered. Should we attack Iran or should we not? You know, no one knows the answer, no one knows the future. It's entirely fluid. You know, going to an oracle, I think, it's not a far-fetched solution. Throw a dice."

In times of uncertainty, Ifargan offers certainty. In exchange, his followers offer him generous sums of money. Forbes in Israel ranks him the country's sixth-richest rabbi with an estimated worth of $23 million. He's one of a few hundred self-styled Jewish mystics in Israel.

Ifargan, right, sits next to businessman Nochi Dankner, center, at an annual gala in Netivot, Israel, that honors the rabbi.

Daniel Estrin for NPR
The tradition began in Morocco. The Baba Sali, a revered Moroccan kabbala master, moved to Israel in the 1960s. When he died, his descendants built their own rabbinic franchises — and began turning a profit.

The Baba Sali's grandson, Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, became the wealthiest of them all. He had many followers in Israel, but also one dogged pursuer: investigative journalist Yossi Bar-Moha. In the late 1990s, Bar-Moha began publishing exposes claiming the rabbi was forcing his followers to pay enormous sums for his blessings.

Bar-Moha proudly flips through notes from a police investigation into Abuhatzeira. At one point, the journalist confronted the rabbi himself.

"I told him, in your bank account you have 600 million shekels. Where are you going to take it, to the grave?" Bar-Moha says.

Following The Money Trail
Last year, Abuhatzeira was stabbed to death by one of his followers, who was upset the rabbi's blessings hadn't helped him. The dead rabbi's son, Pinchas, inherited his father's wealth. Forbes crowns Pinchas Abuhatzeira Israel's richest rabbi, with an estimated wealth of $335 million.

Israeli tax authorities are now investigating some of Israel's high-flying rabbis for tax fraud.

Rabbis say they use their funds to help the needy. At the recent gala for the X-ray rabbi, his aide said Ifargan's franchise is above board.

Just before the evening came to an end, Ifargan issued a few words to his followers. He said many people worry about national security and worry about the economy. But one thing is clear: The power of belief will make you secure.

Then, shortly after midnight, his bodyguards ducked him into a black Mercedes-Benz, and he was gone.


Mass Farbrengen in Kiryat Gat - December 4, 2012
Chabad News  

Alleged sex offender, Rabbi Yoram Abergel - guest of honor
On Monday night, hundreds of people attended a huge Yud Tes Kislev farbrengen in Kiryat Gat. The guest of honor was Rabbi Yoram Abergel of Netivot, who spoke about the liberation of the Alter Rebbe and the merit of his teachings.

The next speaker was Rabbi Betzalel Wechselstein, Rav of the chareidi community in Kiryat Gat and a descendant of the Alter Rebbe. Other speakers included Rabbi Daniel Chizkiyah of the community of Chanichei Hayeshivos, and Rabbi Gedalia Riesel, leader of the community of Slonimer Chassidim and the son-in-law of the Rebbe of Slonim.
Rabbi Tzvi Blau, mashpia of the yeshiva, was the emcee. Music was provided by the yeshiva students’ choir, and at the end of the evening there was lively dancing and good resolutions. During the course of the farbrengen, everyone watched a video of the Yud Tes Kislev farbrengen from 5745. 


Rabbi Yoram Abergel: One of the richest rabbis in Israel - accused sex offender
By Vicki Polin
Examiner - December 15, 2012

Alleged cult leader and sexual predator
Rabbi Yoram Abergel was recently named as one of the 10 richest rabbis living in Israel by Forbes magazine. Yet, it appears no one mentioned the fact that he was also accused of cultic practices or of multiple cases clergy sexual abuse against adult women, nor having a past history of making harassing and threatening phone calls to those who want to leave his community.

According to many, Rabbi Aberjil has been described as being an enigmatic character who has developed a kind of new stream in Judaism: Sephardic Hassidism, which draws from both the Chabad (Lubavitch) and Breslov chasidic traditions. It’s also been reported that many of Rabbi Abergel’s students feel that he is blessed with supernatural powers.

Back in 2006, the Israeli based newspaper Ha’aretz did an expos√© about Rabbi Yoram Aberjil in the article: “A not-so-saintly rabbi in Netivot”, sharing information that high ranking rabbinic chasidic leaders tried to keep secret. According to the article the first wave of complaints made against Rabbi Abergel relating to sexual harassment started back in 1996.

Unfortunately, when the paper translated Rabbi Yorem Abergel’s last name to english it was spelled “Aberjil” instead of the more common spelling of “Abergel”. Because of the slight spelling change, when Forbes magazine named the rabbi as one of the wealthiest in Israel, no one picked up on the fact that this rabbi was considered by many to be a cult leader –– who was also accused of clergy sexual abuse against adult women.

In 2006, a young couple who at the time was newly religious decided to move away from Rabbi Abergel’s synagogue and removed their children to the schools he controlled. After doing so they started receiving death threats. According to the Ha’aretz article Rabbi Abergel telephoned them telling the couple:

"I want you to know that your children are precious to me," he said. "I won't let anyone pick the fruit I planted. The next conversation will be really painful. I will follow you. I have ways of making you disappear in a hit-and-run accident. I will curse your children. I'm telling you, I have powers. Your children will be orphans."

At the time the couple sought help from a serious of rabbis, including Rabbi Pinhas Cohn, along with other parents of children who attended schools associated with this alleged cult leader. It was at that time two young mothers came forward with evidence relating to clergy sexual abuse charges.

The truth is these types of allegations have followed Rabbi Yoram Abergel around for years. Complaints were filed against him back in 1996, which were reviewed by the Beit Din (Jewish religious court) of the community. Nothing was done, the same thing happened in 2006. Both times those who came forward with complaints had death threats made against them and were ostracized from the community.

When it comes to sex crimes in the chasidic world, what happens in community happens in others. The way the case of rabbi Yoram Abergel was handled is very similar to the way cases inBrooklyn, NY and Melbourne, Australia have been handled. When an alleged offender is highly connected, respected, and or has financial standing within a community -- those who have been victimized have very little hope of having their cases heard and the offenders being prosecuted. And when those who stand behind the victims speak out, they risk being harassed or even murdered.

Over the last few years a very bright light has been shining on these types of cases, and by doing so those who advocate for the survivors have also had their lives threatened. Just last week,Meilech Schnitzler was accused of throwing a bleach type substance into the face of Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, who is highly respected advocate for the protection of chasidic children.

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