Rabbi on run af­ter child is forced to drink sol­vent


IS­RAEL IS seek­ing the ex­tra­di­tion of a strictly Ortho­dox rabbi, Elior Chen, who fled to Canada af­ter be­ing ac­cused of in­struct­ing a mother of eight to bru­tally abuse her chil­dren as a means of “cleans­ing” and “ed­u­cat­ing” them.

The case, the sec­ond of its kind in re­cent weeks in­volv­ing Charedi fam­i­lies, has shocked Is­raelis.

The 38-year-old wo­man was charged in a Jerusalem court this week with sav­agely beat­ing her two younger sons, aged four and three, forc­ing them to eat their own fae­ces and drink a con­coc­tion of salt wa­ter and tur­pen­tine un­til they “vom­ited out the devil”. Two of the rabbi’s dis­ci­ples are sus­pected of work­ing with her.

The three-year-old was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal in a veg­e­ta­tive state from which he is not ex­pected to emerge. The mother, an Amer­i­can im­mi­grant, is sep­a­rated from her hus­band. Her name can­not be pub­lished for le­gal rea­sons.

Po­lice spokesman Micky Rosen­feld told the JC that de­tec­tives search­ing the fam­ily’s Jerusalem home “found knives, ham­mers and heaters which we be­lieve were used to pun­ish the chil­dren”.

They also seized al­legedly in­crim­i­nat­ing doc­u­ments and in­stru­ments from Rabbi Chen’s home in the Charedi town of Be­tar Il­lit. In one of his note­books, he is said to have told his fol­low­ers to heat stones on a hot­plate then put them on the chil­dren’s bod­ies “and they will cleansed”.

“We be­lieve the rabbi fre­quently vis­ited the fam­ily’s home and was di­rectly in­volved in what hap­pened there,” In­spec­tor Rosen­feld said. “We know he fled to Canada and we are con­tin­u­ing the ex­tra­di­tion process.” Is­rael has an ex­tra­di­tion treaty with Canada.

Dr Yitzhak Kad­man, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Coun­cil for the Child, said that while there was no ev­i­dence that child abuse was more preva­lent in Charedi fam­i­lies than else­where — in Is­rael as a whole, 38,000 cases were re­ported last year — such groups tended to har­bour con­spir­a­cies of si­lence. Like other “closed and con­ser­va­tive com­mu­ni­ties”, such as Is­raeli Arabs and kib­butzim, they didn’t want out­siders to know about them.

“Based on our ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge,” he told the JC, “child abuse ex­ists in the Charedi com­mu­nity. We find all sorts of abuse, in­clud­ing phys­i­cal abuse, emo­tional abuse, even sex­ual abuse.

“But they keep the prob­lem inside. They say they can cope with it with­out any out­side as­sis­tance. They’ll deal with it their way, even in a bet­ter way.”

Dr Kad­man re­ported, how­ever, that over the past two years there had been a slight but sure change in at­ti­tude among Charedi rab­bis and fam­i­lies. “In more and more cases we find a will­ing­ness not to hide the prob­lem any longer, to com­plain to the so­cial ser­vices or the po­lice. They are even turn­ing to us to es­cort the com­plainants through the le­gal and bu­reau­cratic pro­cesses. We have a Charedi rabbi on our board.”

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