A man convicted on Monday in England for being a member of a barred neo-Nazi group spent time at a yeshiva in Jerusalem trying to convert to Judaism.
David Simpkins told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he lived with Adam Thomas for a period of several weeks at the Machon Meir yeshiva in Jerusalem. Thomas, who went by Avi while he was living in Israel, later returned to the UK, joined the neo-Nazi group National Action and named his baby after Adolf Hitler.
“While Avi, or Adam I guess, was extremely intelligent, he had an extreme approach to Judaism,” Simpkins said. “He was very insecure (bordering on paranoia), constantly emotional, and intense. He was quick to anger when agitated, but I never saw anything remotely resembling violent tendencies.”
Simpkins said Thomas spoke of having a terrible childhood in the UK and grew up with family who were far-right extremists.
“He started learning about Judaism to discover why he was supposed to hate them,” Simpkins said. “Then he decided he really wanted to become an Orthodox Jew himself.” But at the yeshiva in Jerusalem – one which is popular with converts as well as Jews who grow up secular – Thomas struggled.
“The rabbis decided that Adam needed to deal with his childhood professionally and return to convert with a clear head,” Simpkins said. “He was making the common mistake many who desire conversion make, which is to replace one psychological extreme with another... Adam was given two weeks to leave the yeshiva when the rabbis decided he needed psychological help before proceeding.”
Simpkins said he had no contact with Thomas after he left Israel two years ago.
According to the Birmingham Mail, Thomas testified about his experiences in Israel during his trial.
The newspaper reported on Monday that Thomas told the Birmingham Crown Court that he moved to Israel in 2015 at age 18. He said he was motivated to convert because it would allow him to join the Israel Defense Forces. According to The Guardian, Thomas was twice turned down by the British army because of an Asperger’s diagnosis.
“I finished college and, just after turning 18, I moved to Israel, and lived there just under two years,” Thomas was quoted saying by the Birmingham Mail. “I lived with very different people, I stayed on a farm, and a kibbutz... the population is Jewish and I was interested in converting to Judaism at that stage.” He added: “If you do convert to Judaism, it comes with a passport and that allows you to join the Israeli military.”
Asked in court why he changed course, Thomas said: “I just lost my interest in that and couldn’t see what I was chasing. I stopped being able to see what was out there for me.”
Thomas and his girlfriend, Claudia Patatas, were convicted on Monday of membership in the extreme right-wing group National Action. Both have proclaimed themselves Holocaust deniers, and they posed for photos with their baby alongside a Nazi swastika flag and while wearing Ku Klux Klan robes. They reportedly gave their child the middle name Adolf, after Adolf Hitler.
Pictured as the model Jewish student: Nazi who named his son Adolf spent a year studying to be a JEW in Israel https://t.co/RoBzCqFfCp— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) November 13, 2018