A woman in the process of converting to Judaism told FailedMessiah.com that a well known and powerful ultra-Orthodox rabbi who supervises conversions worldwide asked her for sexual favors in return for completing her conversion. The woman alleges the rabbi, Leib Tropper, founder of Eternal Jewish Family, arranged sexual encounters between her and and his wife – encounters Tropper watched. She also alleges Tropper asked her to engage in sexual encounters and have phone sex with other men.
Unauthenticated video and audio tapes were anonymously sent to Jewish bloggers over the past few days. These tapes appear to support her claims.
Tropper abruptly resigned over the weekend from Eternal Jewish Family, the conversion organization he founded, citing a desire to pursue “a variety of other interests.”
“I have decided to resign my position at the Eternal Jewish Family (EJF) effective December 12, 2009…. As a founder of EJF, I am proud of my role of being an architect of a very dynamic and important movement in our community. I will in the coming months do my utmost to be of service to the Jewish community in any way I can.”
The resignation, made in an official EJF press release late Monday, two days after Tropper’s resignation took effect, made no mention of the allegations.
Calls to Tropper’s home were answered by a voicemail system announcing his voicemail box is full. Eternal Jewish Family refused comment, and calls to Yeshvas Kol Yaakov, a yeshiva for returnees to Orthodox Judaism Tropper still heads in Monsey, NY, were not returned. Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel, named yesterday as the new head of EJF’s rabbinic committee, did not return a call left for comment.
FailedMessiah.com obtained an exclusive interview with the woman making the allegations, whose name is being withheld due to fear of reprisal. She claims to have made the tapes after Tropper allegedly pressured her to have sex with other men.
The woman says she intended for the tapes she made to be played only for leading rabbis involved with EJF. Instead, the tapes were leaked through email and on the Internet.
Although not the first person to do so, Guma Aguiar, a billionaire former backer of EJF who has been in a long running dispute with Tropper, sent some of those tapes to FailedMessiah.com. Aguiar has long contended that Tropper has embezzled money from EJF, and launched a court case against Tropper in Israel over the summer in an attempt to recoup money he says he personally gave Tropper to distribute to various Israeli charities. It is unclear how Aguiar got the tapes.
The woman told FailedMessiah.com Tropper was “holding things over me.” Tropper can be heard on one of the tapes asking the woman to have sex or phone sex with other men, and explaining to the woman that some of the money he sent her is for lawyers, while the rest is for her. He used to tell me, she said, “If you fulfill my needs, I’ll fulfill yours – and you need a conversion.”
According to the woman, the motivation for Tropper’s actions was sexual. She says Tropper asked her to role play certain sexual scenarios with these men, either capturing the encounter on tape or describing the encounter in detail to him afterward, which she says she refused/. “He likes to see women raped,” she said. While sometimes Tropper suggested men for her to have encounters with, he encouraged her to find men on her own and then report back to him. “He wanted someone who would be very rough.”
She says other women were also recruited by Tropper to fulfill these fantasies. One of those other women, she claims, is Tropper’s own wife Leba, who the woman says engaged in a sexual relationship with her as Tropper watched. In one of the audio tapes made available to FailedMessiah.com, the woman refuses sex with other men. As Tropper persists, she tells him that she “just wants everything to stay the same,” and says she “likes what she did with Leba.”
Tropper can also be heard on the tapes saying, “I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to…you own your body, I don’t own your body.”
At one point in the relationship, the woman claims she cried and told Tropper, “This feels like prostitution,” and tried to put an end to Tropper’s sexual demands. She says Tropper defended his actions and continued unabated.
Repeated calls for comment to Rabbi Tropper’s home and his yeshiva were not returned.
Vicki Polin, the head of The Awareness Center, The International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault, noted that adult women are more likely to be victims of clergy sexual abuse than are children. “This is just one of many cases in which a member of the clergy uses their authority to lure in…unsuspecting adult women for their own personal pleasure.”
Tropper and Wachtfogel, the new head of Eternal Jewish Family’s rabbinic committee, were both instrumental in arranging the 2005 ban issued by leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis against Rabbi Natan Slifkin. Slifkin, who writes on the interface of Torah and modern science, was labelled a heretic, and his books were banned, in part for suggesting the universe is older than 5770 years.
In 2006, after Israel’s chief rabbis issued demands tightening the conversion process and regulating which Orthodox rabbis would be allowed to supervise conversions, Tropper was able to position EJF as the leading moderator of Orthodox conversions outside of Israel.
In what may be the first documented case of its kind in America, in 2006 Tropper revoked a woman’s conversion months after supervising it because Tropper was told the woman sometimes wore pants. Tropper told the woman she and her child born post-conversion are no longer Jewish and said he had the woman’s file at the Israeli chief rabbinate amended to reflect that, effectively barring her from living in Israel as Jew if she so chose, and effectively revoking her conversion worldwide. Tropper’s actions contributed to the woman’s divorce. She and her child now live as non-Jews.
When asked if she still wanted to convert to Judaism, the woman making the current allegations against Tropper said she does. “Yes, I do. Very much so…somehow I will do it.”
* Parts of this post may appear to be similar to the New York Jewish Week's story posted last night. That resemblance exists because I wrote the Jewish Week story. The Jewish Week removed my byline at last minute, because editors said they needed to quote me about Tropper's significance for Orthodox conversions to Judaism.
Jewcy Conversion Exposé: 1, 2.