Haredi deputy minister involved in closing father's sexual assault case - report

The police closed the case against the head of the Damesek Eliezer Yeshiva in Jerusalem after victims didn't cooperate with them.

Mir Yeshiva study hall Sunday afternoon (photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
Mir Yeshiva study hall Sunday afternoon
(photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)

Israeli Deputy Minister Yaakov Tessler, of the United Torah Judaism Party, was allegedly involved in the cessation of a criminal investigation against his father, Ephraim Tessler, following suspicions of committing sexual offenses against at least four boys who studied at the yeshiva he headed, Haaretz reported on Thursday.

The police closed the case against the head of the Damesek Eliezer Yeshiva in Jerusalem after the victims didn't cooperate with them.

According to the report, the boys' testimonies indicate that after they were pressured, they agreed not to testify against Tessler, and in return, he would be removed from the yeshiva.

It was also reported that a silence agreement was signed with at least one of the boys so that he would not resort to criminal proceedings.

According to intel gathered by police, the deputy minister was a guarantor that his father would be removed from the yeshiva. The investigation was closed in 2018, after about two years, during which Tessler was removed from the yeshiva by the Vizhnitz hassidim.

 UNITED TORAH Judaism’s Yitzhak Goldknopf (left) and Moshe Gafni bring ghetto-like demands and mentality to the coalition. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) UNITED TORAH Judaism’s Yitzhak Goldknopf (left) and Moshe Gafni bring ghetto-like demands and mentality to the coalition. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

What happened prior?

In November 2017, the head of the yeshiva was arrested and the police charged him with suspicion of sodomy acts on minors aged 14-16, suspicion of non-consensual sodomy act and suspicion of an indecent act.

According to two testimonies, Yaakov Tessler, the son of the head of the Yeshiva and who was appointed this week as the deputy culture and sports minister, was involved, along with other hassidic leaders, in order to prevent the criminal proceedings and the cooperation of the boys with the police. The affair was kept secret and those in UTJ  were not aware that it had taken place.

Yaakov Tessler, Wizenitz's representative in the Agudat Yisrael Party, which is part of UTJ, was elected to the Knesset for the first time in 2019, served in it until 2021 and was reelected to the current Knesset.

Before that, he was a member of the Ashdod city council and assistant to the former minister Ya'acov Litzman in the Health Ministry. His father, Ephraim, is one of the leading hassidic rabbinical figures in Bnei Brak. For many years, the father was the head of the yeshiva, which is intended for boys between the ages of 13-16.