Scales of Justice symbol.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The so-called “rabbi of the North,” Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, was convicted on Wednesday of sexual offenses against eight women by the Nazareth District Court.
Sheinberg admitted to the crimes in a plea bargain with the prosecution that will see him sentenced to almost nine years in prison.
The rabbi, a renowned yeshiva head from Safed, was originally indicted in July 2015 on 12 charges of sexual offenses including rape, sodomy and indecent assault.
Sheinberg, 48, who is married and has eight children, is the founder of Yeshivat Orot HaAri in Safed, which he established in 1999. He was a respected and prominent figure in the National Religious community and lauded as a particularly spiritual rabbi with preternatural abilities to see into the future and give advice.
The indictment stated that Sheinberg acted in an established pattern with his victims who were young, religious women – most of whom were married to his students – who saw the rabbi as an authoritative figure.
The rabbi would make his victims believe they needed him and that only he could provide an answer to their problems through what he called his “relaxation” treatment, according to the indictment.
“Under this definition the rabbi would obtain, through deceit, the agreement of his victims to his actions which were actually sexual assault,” the indictment said.
The rabbi would allegedly acquire the trust of the victims step by step and gradually increase the severity of his actions; first instructing the victims on how to treat themselves and afterward going to their houses for “treatment” sessions where he would tell them to undress.
“The rabbi would fraudulently obtain their consent for him to touch them intimately and perform various sexual acts,” the indictment said. “At a more advanced stage, Sheinberg would propose to some of his victims to have sexual relations with him, and had full sexual intercourse with one of his victims.”
The court proceedings against him were conducted behind closed doors because of the sensitive nature of the case, and the court did not release details about which charges Sheinberg was convicted over.
The court did say, however, that case was “complicated” and that the defense had brought “new and significant evidence” that had a real effect on the possibility of proving some of the charges against Sheinberg.
“Because of this, the presiding judges decided to ask the sides to enter a mediation process with a mediating judge” who after hearing both sides recommended that the case be decided through a plea bargain.