'Pogrom' in Breslov synagogue, Rabbi Berland followers beat worshipers

Berland was the leader of one of the largest communities belonging to Breslov Hasidism.

Pogrom' in Breslov synagogue, Rabbi Berland followers beat worshipers, September 27, 2018 (Dennis Zinn)
Followers of Rabbi Eliezer Berland violently disrupted the Breslov synagogue in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood on Wednesday, with one worshiper describing the scene as “blasphemy, a real pogrom inside the Great Synagogue of Breslov,” Ynet.com has reported.
According to the report, Berland’s supporters broke furniture, cut electricity cables and caused great damage to the synagogue, breaking into offices and stealing computers.
Supporters blamed the media for presenting only half the picture, charging only “the videos and photos that are convenient” were shown, said an associate of Berland. “No one shows how on Yom Kippur the rabbi prayed there with 2,000 worshipers despite the attempts of some extremists to interfere.”
The source claimed that Berland’s opponents created a similar uproar on Yom Kippur.
Tensions have been particularly violent over the past few months between supporters and opponents of the rabbi. Berland, the head of a hassidic sect called Shuvu Banim, was released from prison in April after being convicted for sex offenses. He fled Israel after the allegations were made, traveling from Morocco to Zimbabwe and finally to South Africa, where he was apprehended and sent for trial in Israel.
The Breslov synagogue, known simply as “the shul,” is a central place of worship for the Breslover Hassidim, and has been the focal point of violence between Berland’s followers and other members of the community.
Berland was the leader of one of the largest communities of Breslov Hassidim. But since serving a prison sentence, his power significantly weakened. However, he and his followers have been working hard to obtain re-recognition among the ultra-Orthodox community, with an emphasis on the Breslov Hasidism. These efforts often encounter fierce opposition from the rabbi’s opponents, both within and outside the haredi community.
Yet, despite Berland’s conviction, he still has a core group of followers. “If people tell me that cats and elephants are dancing now outside, of course I will think they are crazy,” says Yaakov Salma, one of Berland’s students. “This is exactly what I think when all sorts of people tell stories about the rabbi. It simply cannot be. Not possible,” Haaretz reported.
Rabbi Yom Tov Heshin claimed that privately, Berland’s followers didn’t deny the allegations when the scandal broke, but rather, “They claim that he is allowed, he is God,” the Haaretz report said.
A few hours before Sukkot, Shuvu Banim members decided to build a sukkah, but this blocked the street and neighbors objected to it. As a result violence broke out.
City inspectors and police forces arrived at the scene to ensure order. Members of Shuvu Banim threatened their opponents in a WhatsApp messaging group.