Above: Rabbi Eliezer Berland in handcuffs in Zimbabwe in April 2014
Amsterdam Jewish Community Closes Synagogue After Hasidim Of Alleged Sex Abuser Rabbi Cause Disruptions, Breach Security
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Amsterdam Jewish community (NIHS) has closed one of its synagogues – not because of any terrorist threat, but because of the misbehavior of Breslov hasidim from Israel.
NIHS closed the synagogue on Lek Street in the south of the Netherland's capital city today. The pending move was announced by NIHS on Facebook Wednesday after security breaches and other bad behavior by hasidim of Breslov Shuvu Banim sect leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the JTA reported.
“Following a number of security incidents concerning the Lek Street synagogue in recent months, the board of the NIHS has decided to close the shul temporarily for security reasons,” the statement reportedly read.
Berland, who is now in his later 70s, fled Israel more than two years ago after several female followers, including at least one minor, accused him of sexual assault. He is faces possible extradition and must report to Dutch police on a regular schedule.
Before being arrested in Amsterdam just before Rosh Hashana 2014, Berland was forced to flee from country to country to avoid extradition. Along the way, his followers trashed buildings and parks and caused other disruptions and problems, drawing the ire of locals almost everywhere Berland went.
The Het Parool daily newspaper reportedly blamed the synagogue’s closure on Berland’s Israeli followers.
NIHS said Berland’s followers verbally abused security volunteers. Entrance codes for the synagogue’s electronic lock were changed several times because they “had been given [by Berland’s followers] to people who are not members of the community,” the NIHS statement reportedly said.
Roi Banet, a spokesperson for the Lek Street congregation, told Het Parool last month that allowing Berland’s followers to pray in the synagogue was “naïve,” noting that the hasidim did not keep agreements they made regarding their conduct and regarding equitably sharing the space with the synagogue’s members.
The synagogue may possibly be reopened on January 23.