Rabbi Moti Elon won't serve prison time for sexual crime against minor, court rules

Leading national religious figure convicted of sexual misconduct toward student gets sentence of 6 months community service, 3 years probation.

Rabbi Moti Elon in court 370 (photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)
Rabbi Moti Elon in court 370
(photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)
Prominent national-religious leader Rabbi Moti Elon, who was convicted in August on two counts of indecent assault by force against a minor, will not serve time in prison, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled on Wednesday.
Although the state attorney had requested Elon be sentenced to between eight and 18 months in prison, he was given a six month commuted sentence to be served in community service. He also was given three years probation and ordered to pay the complainant NIS 10,000.
The sentencing documents included a summary of an evaluation as to the possible danger the rabbi posed to society, concluding that he was a low to medium risk but that community service was a sufficient punishment.
The document also noted that Elon had established a security framework for himself by only receiving people in the living room of his home and has greatly reduced his former custom of hugging people who turn to him for advice.
The opinion of the evaluator was further explained in the document saying that “the concrete steps which the convicted has undertaken, as well as the legal process, is a positive supervisory factor.”
The evaluator noted however that it was impossible to know how long such measures would remain in place after the criminal process was concluded and the issue had left the public eye.
Character witnesses for Elon were brought to buttress his defense’s request for community service, including that of Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, the renowned and respected founder of the Migdal Or social guidance and educational network who lives in the town of Migdal where Elon also resides. Grossman noted the help Elon had provided him in his assistance with Grossman’s educational and social work and activities.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky also gave favorable testimony about Elon and his work with families bereaved by terrorist attacks.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Elon said once again that his conviction was “fundamentally mistaken and a false libel,” and that the entire process was “dismal.”
He also called for “everyone” to examine how such processes were conducted.
“What are the influences, how are things influenced, how do things work, these things will be come clear in the way that they do,” he commented obliquely.
As to the sentence itself, Elon said that he “happily” accepted the punishment of community service.
“I’ve been involved in community service for 40 years and I’m happy to continue such service until the age of 120. If this is in a formal manner for the state then for sure it’s good,” he said.
He added that he would act in accordance with Da’at Torah, a concept meaning that one asks a rabbi before making major decisions, in reference to any possible appeal against the conviction and sentence.
“As for myself, I’m good, really, my family is good, thank God, we are all good. I thank God truly and with happiness... I think good and I know things will be good.”
Elon’s lawyer, Asher Ohayoun, said after the hearing that the sentence was “measured” and one which they had expected.
He added however that Elon and the defense team was still extremely disappointed with the conviction.
Ohayoun said that the conviction should be reviewed judicially as it was “fundamentally flawed,” saying that there were many errors in the ruling but noted that the court had only allowed partial details of the case to be published due to its sensitivity as it pertains to sexual misdemeanors.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Ohayoun said it was his legal opinion that an appeal was justified and that it would be “worthwhile” doing so.
He noted however that Elon would turn to rabbis he himself consults with before making a decision to appeal or not.
After the sentencing, Sagi Ofir of the Jerusalem State Attorney’s Office said that he hoped the sentence will serve to deter future sex crimes.
He did not say if the state intends to appeal the sentence but explicitly did not rule it out in a radio interview later in the day.
MK Aliza Lavie criticized the sentence saying that it was too light and was not sufficient to deal with the difficulties experienced within the national religious community in dealing with such matters.
“This is a sad day for Religious Zionism, but also an important day that represents a significant milestone,” said Lavie. “It must be remembered that the incident [relating to] Rabbi Elon although it has aroused broad public interest, is just one among many such incidents that have been referred to the Takana Forum since it was established,” she continued in reference to the internal body within the national religious community that first brought the issue to light.
“If a few years ago the prevailing assumption in the national religious community was ‘with us this doesn’t happen,’ today it is clear that the phenomenon of sexual harassment exists in the religious community as it does in any other sector and that it can happen to anyone.”
Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said that the court had been “merciful to the cruel,” with the sentence of community service.
“The punishment does not in anyway fit the severity of the crime, and does not convey an appropriate message to warn against sexual abuse of minors,” she commented.
Gal-On called on the state attorney’s office to appeal the sentence “as long as he is not behind bars.”
According to the conviction in August, during a private meeting in 2005 with a 17-year-old boy, known as “Alef,” Elon stroked his face and different parts of his body on top of his clothes; sat the boy on his lap; and kissed him on the face for a prolonged period.
In a separate incident, Elon met Alef in Hakotel Yeshiva where the rabbi served as yeshiva dean. He took him to his office, closed the door and sat down next to the youth on a couch. He then brought Alef towards him, sat him on his knees and, while clothed, rubbed his genitals against Alef’s body while both were fully dressed.
Charges regarding a second complainant were dropped in February when the victim refused to testify in court.
Elon vigorously denied the allegations and his supporters have argued that he was accustomed to giving warm hugs to many of his students.
They claim that the incidents for which he was convicted were misinterpreted. Supporters also claimed that he was the victim of a conspiracy to besmirch his name by opponents of the rabbi.
Elon had been one of the predominant figures in the national religious world before allegations of misconduct arose and was dean of the renowned Hakotel Yeshiva.
His Torah lessons were broadcast on national radio, he had a television slot and enjoyed a large and devoted public following.