Aish Hatorah, the global Jewish organization, distanced itself from the use of its center in the Old City of Jerusalem by sex offender Eliezer Berland, leader of an extremist haredi sect, who held a celebration there on Sunday evening.
Berland was filmed driving into the Western Wall plaza and then entering the Aish Hatorah World Center located just opposite the Kotel.
Rabbi Steven Burg, CEO of Aish Hatorah, said in a statement that the organization did not know that the celebration was for Berland and that when it discovered he was there, it’s staff called the police.
“On Sunday night, December 26th, a prominent organization in the Old City with whom we regularly cooperate and try to help whenever possible asked Aish for a last-minute favor,” Burg said in the statement. “We were asked to please provide event space to private citizens, not a group or organization, with few details. We were most certainly not told that the space was for the notorious convicted sex offender Rabbi Berland or anyone associated with him.”
Berland was convicted in 2016 after admitting to two counts of indecent sexual acts and one of sexual assault. In June this year, he was convicted on charges of fraud, exploitation, attempted intimidation, tax offenses and money laundering. He was recently released from prison.
Burg said he was “horrified and sickened to learn that Aish had been put in such a compromised position.”
“As soon as it was clear who was present we contacted the police and took steps to have the party removed,” he said. “Aish has a longstanding history of promoting timeless Jewish wisdom and values, particularly to those who do not yet have a positive association with their own Jewish heritage. Having the presence of someone who so clearly besmirches those values is a shocking embarrassment that undermines everything that Aish and our World Center stand for.”