Shul ‘sex sting’ charges likely

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY NATHAN JEFFAY

IS­RAEL’S MIN­ISTRY of Jus­tice looks set to pros­e­cute a chazan ac­cused of try­ing to land him­self the coun­try’s top can­to­rial job by tempt­ing its in­cum­bent with a honey-trap.

Jerusalem po­lice be­lieve that free­lance chazan Is­rael Rand hired a fe­male private in­ves­ti­ga­tor to tempt his for­mer teacher, Naf­tali Her­shtik, the can­tor of the Great Syn­a­gogue in Jerusalem, into a sex­ual en­counter.

Mr Her­shtik, who made his name in chaz­anut at Finch­ley Syn­a­gogue, North Lon­don, in the 1970s, is one of the world’s most renowned can­tors. His Great Syn­a­gogue job is re­garded as Is­rael’s prize can­to­rial post, and po­lice sus­pect that Mr Rand was try­ing to dis­grace him in or­der to re­place him.

Ac­cord­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, last sum­mer the wo­man lured Mr Her­shtik into a ho­tel room fit­ted with hid­den cam­eras. Though they did not have sex, sug­ges­tive pho­to­graphs were sent to the Great Syn­a­gogue by Mr Rand.

The shul board was split on whether Mr Her­shtik could con­tinue in his job. In April the mat­ter was re­ferred to the labour court, where a judge said it was a ha­lachic judge­ment, and re­ferred it to a dayan, whose de­lib­er­a­tions were ham­pered by the fact that he re­fused to look at any of the pic­tures. How­ever, he con­cluded that Mr Her­shtik could re­main in his job. Mr Her­shtik’s con­tract comes up for re­newal in Au­gust.

The po­lice have com­pleted their in­ves­ti­ga­tion and passed a re­port to the Min­istry of Jus­tice. Min­istry spokesman Tal Vider told the JC on Wednes- day: “The pros­e­cu­tion is check­ing the facts and de­cid­ing if we are go­ing to bring charges.” If the po­lice re­port was deemed plau­si­ble, the min­istry will be­gin pro­ceed­ings against Mr Rand through the crim­i­nal courts. “It sounds like it will end in charges,” he said.

How­ever, Mr Rand told the JC it was Mr Her­shtik who should be un­der the spot­light. He ad­mit­ted that he hired a private in­ves­ti­ga­tor, but in­sisted: “I didn’t want his job. It’s a big lie.”

Mr Rand al­leged that Mr Her­shtik tried to block cer­tain chaz­anim — in­clud­ing him­self — from per­form­ing where he has in­flu­ence, adding: “Ev­ery­body has their in­ter­ests. He wants his son [an­other can­tor, Ne­tanel] to sing here or his stu­dents to sing here, even if he needs to step on some­body’s head.” He also claimed that Mr Her­shtik “has been ha­rass­ing me in dif­fer­ent and var­i­ous ways for sev­eral years.”

He hired an in­ves­ti­ga­tor to look in to “a few is­sues I know and have heard about Mr Her­shtik”, both per­sonal and fi­nan­cial, and claimed that with­out his knowl­edge, his in­ves­ti­ga­tor sub­con­tract­ed­tot­woother­in­ves­ti­ga­tors.When he was given pic­tures of Mr Her­shtik with one of th­ese in­ves­ti­ga­tors in a ho­tel room, he sent them to the syn­a­gogue.

How­ever, he in­sisted she was not a honey-trap. “He was [the one who] sug­gested to come to a ho­tel and spend a day. It was his idea,” he claimed.

Asher Schapiro, the chair­man of the Great Syn­a­gogue’s board, de­scribed the saga as “a very se­ri­ous mat­ter” and “some­thing we are try­ing to han­dle in a ju­di­cious man­ner”, but de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

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