Jerusalem hassidic leader was held ‘captive for years’

For 10 years Rabbi Eliezer Berland says he was little more than a marionette controlled by his son and grandson.

A scandal that is rocking the Breslov community of Shuvu Banim has taken another twist, with its spiritual leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s return to his Jerusalem home from his hiding place in the North on Saturday night, after breaking away from 10 years of captivity, during which he says he was little more than a marionette controlled by his son and grandson.
Some two weeks ago, prominent members of the small Jerusalem-based community found a DVD outside their homes, containing videos and documents proving that the 73- year-old Berland was in fact being controlled by his son, Rabbi Nachman Berland, and grandson Nathan Berland, who for years prevented direct access to the older man and dictated his every move and action.
Shortly afterward, Eliezer staged his kidnapping to flee to the North, where he took refuge in Moshav Amirim, initially not disclosing his whereabouts. In a phone call with some 20 of his closest hassidim, Eliezer recalled the torment he underwent.
“I was locked at home for 10 years,” he said. “They wanted to admit me to an insane asylum. Over the course of the last year, I’ve been admitted to hospitals every two weeks, because of the duress I was subject to,” he said.
The senior Berland said he’d return only on the condition that he would regain control over the community, and the security personnel surrounding him at his son and grandson’s demand be removed, thus enabling direct contact between him and his hassidim.
Following Berland’s demands, a new six-man management team was formed to help lead the community.
But pressure from within the Berland family led to Nachman being included on the team, following Eliezer’s approval this Friday.
The other members of the team, however, are fearful that Nachman’s presence would mean he would dominate his father.
On Saturday night, the elder Berland returned to his home in the capital’s Morasha neighborhood, where gung-ho hassidim demonstrated their determination that their leader be given his freedom, without the shackles of his son’s alleged domination.