London rabbi arrested for alleged sexual assault

Police arrest Rabbi suspected of sexually assaulting women who came to him for marriage counseling and spiritual guidance.

February 21, 2013 01:32
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo of religious woman hiding face

Religions woman hiding her face 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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LONDON – Metropolitan police arrested a London rabbi on Wednesday on suspicion of sexually assaulting women who came to him for marriage counseling and spiritual guidance.

As part of their investigation into the sexual abuse and into three suspects for perverting the course of justice, four men were arrested in the north London borough of Barnet on Wednesday. Police have not named the men, but one of them is believed to be Rabbi Chaim Halpern, 54, of the Beis Hamedrash Divrei Chaim synagogue in Golders Green.

The rabbi has been at the center of an alleged sexual abuse scandal that has shocked London’s haredi community.

In November, Rabbi Ephraim Padaw, head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, received a complaint about inappropriate behavior by Halpern toward about 30 women who had sought marriage guidance from him.

Halpern stood down as a religious judge but continued to serve as rabbi of his own synagogue.

In December, a group of senior London rabbis issued a public statement declaring him “not fit and proper to act in any rabbinic capacity” and called for him to resign his post as rabbi.

In response to the call, Halpern sent a letter his community professing his innocence.

“I proclaim I am innocent of all allegations. Furthermore, all investigations carried up until this point have been carried out in an incorrect manner,” he said.

A special rabbinical court was set up to look at the accusations that Halpern, a member of a prominent London haredi family, had been involved in inappropriate sexual activity in marriage guidance sessions.

Police confirmed that four men were in custody in a north London police station in relation to an investigation of sexual assault. The three other men, aged 62, 64 and 25 – one of who is reportedly Halpern’s brother – were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in relation to the rabbi’s arrest. Under police powers, the men can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours without being charged.

Ch.-Supt. Adrian Usher, borough commander of the Barnet Police, issued a statement called for those involved in the allegations to come forward.

“In Barnet, we are currently working with members of all our communities to ensure the voices of victims of abuse are heard,” he said. “My message to those victims is simple: come forward and we will listen to, support and believe you.”

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