Former Yeshivat Hakotel head Rabbi Mordechai Elon had sexual relations with male students in the past, a rabbinical forum that works to prevent sexual abuse in the national-religious sector said in a statement Wednesday.
The Takana forum held an emergency meeting Tuesday night to discuss the allegations facing Elon, following an announcement it posted Monday demanding Elon step down from all rabbinical, teaching and community responsibilities and saying he was a threat to the public.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a member of Takana, told Army Radio Wednesday that Elon had admitted to the acts during the emergency meeting, adding that the rabbi’s confession was documented in the forum’s protocol. Cherlow said that since the accusations against Elon had been made public, 10 other students of the rabbi had filed complaints against him to the forum.
Wednesday’s Takana statement addressed why the group had decided to post the announcement on Monday, and said the incidents in question “can only be described as of the most severe kind.”
The statement said that after its founding in 2003, one of the first complaints Takana had received was against Elon, dealing with allegations of “sexual exploitation by a religious authority.” After the first complaints were received, Elon was called in for a meeting with Takana and “swore that he had overcome his problems and that the allegations were in the past and there were no additional incidents,” the statement read.
The forum received another complaint a year later, this one reportedly of a more severe nature than the original, according to the statement.
Takana said that when it looked into the new complaint, it dealt with incidents “of a deliberate sexual nature carried out over an extended period of time” that had allegedly taken place while the group was holding discussions on the original allegations. The group said that because it had then “lost all belief in the words of the rabbi, who concealed these actions while the committee was discussing the original complaint,” it had come to the conclusion that it was no longer fitting for him to work as a religious teacher or counselor.
According to the statement, the rabbi was then asked to leave his post as head of the Jerusalem yeshiva and cancel a number of public appearances and community roles. He later moved to Migdal in the North, citing health problems.
Takana denied Wednesday that it had had any role in Elon’s decision to move to Migdal four years ago.
The statement said Elon “has not fulfilled [the] obligations he agreed to” – in particular the requirement that he stay away from intimate, personal and private meetings with people seeking his advice or religious counsel. The statement said Takana had made the decision to go public with the allegations “because they saw no other way to protect the public from possible harm in the future.”
Elon has publicly denied all of the allegations against him and said they derived from one “seriously disturbed” student, adding that the charges constitute “a blood libel, but I am happy that the truth is beginning to emerge.”
Takana chairman Yehudit Shilat told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that claims of the allegations being solely the result of a single disgruntled student or someone with a personal vendetta against the rabbi were “absolutely false.”
Shilat, who said she hadn’t slept over the past 55 hours, would not comment on the number of complaints received against Elon, nor the severity of them, saying the organization still needed more time to determine how many of them had any basis.
According to the statement posted by Takana Wednesday, the group had initially been reluctant to publicize the matter, in order to “protect the complainants.” Shilat said this had been to protect the privacy of the plaintiffs’ families, a desire that was later outweighed by the public security concerns that prompted the posting of Monday’s announcement.
Shilat said that the publication of the allegations had been met by “sadness and anger” in the national-religious community, but the organization’s principal concerns were for the Torah and the well-being of the public.
Following publication of the allegations Tuesday, police issued a statement saying that in October 2006, police received a letter from then-attorney-general Menahem Mazuz, in which he instructed them not to launch a criminal investigation into the allegations.
The statement added that a senior assistant to the attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, had told Takana that any new complaints or relevant information must be handed over immediately to the police.