Above: Rabbi Bryan Opert
Orthodox Rabbi Versus Orthodox Rabbi Blackmail In South Africa Leads To Arrest, Resignation
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A case of Orthodox rabbi versus Orthodox rabbi blackmail in Cape Town, South Africa has led to the arrest of one of the rabbis and his resignation from his synagogue, Ha’aretz reported based on a report in the Afrikaans-language South African newspaper Rapport.
At the end of April, an emissary picked up a bag from the wife Rabbi Ruben Suiza, the head of Cape Town’s Sephardi Jewish community.
The bag contained oblong boxes of cookies wrapped in black plastic, which were disguised to look like R48,000 ($4,492 dollars) in currency.
The emissary was working for a person who sent untraceable emails to Suiza’s wife Debra threatening to publicize that her husband had been frequenting prostitutes unless she paid the blackmail.
However, the Suizas immediately told police about blackmail, and they were waiting for the emissary to pick up the blackmail money and arrested him.
So who was the blackmailer?
Allegedly, it was Rabbi Bryan Opert, the head of the Milnerton Hebrew Congregation and the administrative head of conversions to Judaism at South Africa’s Union of Orthodox Synagogues.
Opert was jailed for more than two days until the Suizas agreed to have the criminal charges against Opert suspended, pending further discussion with police and prosecutors, Ha’aretz reported.
Opert resigned. He also sent a letter to the Milnerton Congregation’s members and the members of the Sephardi synagogue asking for forgiveness. Opert wrote that he was in a “very dark place” struggling with depression and traumatized by the death of his mother when the blackmail took place.
“I realize that many people are disappointed and shocked that a rabbi could do this, and I regret the aspersions that might be cast on the rabbinate.
“The rabbis in our country are fine people and great leaders. It is through their leadership that I have been encouraged…to write this letter,” Opert wrote.
However, Opert did not specify why he chose Suiza to blackmail or why he demanded exactly R48 000.
But he did tell the South African newspaper Rapport that his “real motivation” for the blackmail was an unnamed “intra-communal matter.” Opert declined to say more and referred Rapport’s reporter to Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein for further clarification.
Goldstein refused to comment on Opert’s behavior. But he did reportedly say that “there is a moral duty to deal in an uncompromising and principled way with any corruption or wrongdoing by public officials.”
Goldstein also said that the allegations about Suiza cavorting with prostitutes “were based on fabrications and are without any foundation whatsoever.”
Suiza reportedly said his wife was “traumatized” by the allegations and the blackmail, which were a very “sad event for all concerned,” Suiza added.
[Hat Tip: The Lion.]