Head of polygamous Jerusalem cult sentenced to 26 years for abusing women, children

Defendant perpetrated a “cruel regime of punishment, which he had dubbed ‘the laws.’”

Handcuffed 300 R (photo credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier)
Handcuffed 300 R
(photo credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier)
The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday sentenced a local resident to 26 years in prison after he was convicted of imprisoning and physically and sexually abusing women and children.
The ruling brings to an end a case of what police and social workers have called the worst abuse of its kind in decades.
An assistant was sentenced to six years imprisonment.
The central defendant, referred to as “D.A.” and whose identity the media are not permitted to reveal, was considered to be the ringleader of a nine-person cult whose members lived in Jerusalem and Tiberias.
The group of three men and six women was a well-known polygamous Breslov family based in Jerusalem.
D.A., 58, was the head of the “family” and lived with six women and “dozens of children,” some of whom were his biological offspring.
The defendant had total control over the lives of the women and children, whom he sent to work as beggars and to spread religious material.
D.A. led his victims to believe that he was the emissary of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, the founder of the Breslov hassidic dynasty, that he would bring about the redemption of the Jewish people and that his teachings should be disseminated.
Within the family he demanded complete openness from everyone and exposure of every thought, positive or negative. This behavior became obsessive and D.A.
demanded confessions, sometimes in front of the rest of the family, followed by a “judgment” and punishment if he felt it was deserved.
The charge sheet describes the defendant as perpetrating a “cruel regime of punishment, which he had dubbed ‘the laws.’” Among the forms of “exceptional cruelty” that the defendant perpetrated against the victims were rape, violence, starvation, physical and mental abuse, severe degradation and humiliation and other sex offenses.
The court also described the sadistic nature of other crimes committed by D.A. in the name of disciplining his “family.”
These included electrocution, flogging with electric cables, imprisonment in closets, starvation and other forms of extreme abuse.
This regime, the charge sheet said, was carried out in the family home, and the absolute subordination of the women and children to the first defendant was implemented due to his “charismatic personality and the spiritual qualities attributed to him.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.