Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the 77-year-old head of the Breslov hasidic Shuvu Banim sect who fled Israel more than two years ago after female followers – including one minor – claimed Berland sexually abused them, has allegedly resurfaced. But will he ever be sent back to Israel to face justice?
Above: Rabbi Eliezer Berland
Wanted “Sex Fiend” Breslov Hasidic Leader Allegedly Resurfaces – In South Africa
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Where in the world is accused sex abuser Rabbi Eliezer Berland?
Berland, the 77-year-old head of the Breslov hasidic Shuvu Banim sect, fled Israel more than two years ago after female followers – including one minor – claimed Berland sexually abused them.
Since fleeing Israel, Berland has hopped from country to country. He was forced out of Morocco, arrested and expelled from Zimbabwe, and escaped arrest in South Africa twice before fleeing to Holland just before Rosh Hashana in September 2014. Berland intended to change planes in Holland and continue on to the Ukraine, where he hoped to spend Rosh Hashana at the grave of Breslov’s founder, Rabbi Nachman, in Uman.
But Berland didn’t make it to Uman. Instead, he was arrested in the international airport near Amsterdam on an international arrest warrant.
Berland unsuccessfully fought extradition to Israel using a mixture of inartful lies (including falsely claiming to be a Holocaust survivor) and allegedly faked illnesses. But when the time for Berland’s extradition was likely only days away late this summer, Berland disappeared from the public eye and apparently fled the Netherlands.
Rumors placing Berland in Guatemala began to be spread, but there was still no public siting of the wanted hasidic leader.
But now Yeshiva World has reported based on a report in MyNet that Berland sent a message to his followers (apparently via Facebook) hours before Rosh Hashana asking them to join him in South Africa. The message did not give an exact address for Berland but did promise a telephone number and address for Berland would soon be made available to them.
Despite these reports, it is unclear whether Berland is actually in South Africa or if he even left Europe.
Berland was born in Haifa and reportedly studied at the Knesset Chizkiyahu Yeshiva in Kfar Hasidim under Rabbi Elyah Lopian and Rabbi Dov Yaffe. Berland went on to join the Ponevezh Yeshiva Kollel (yeshiva for married students) and later moved to the Volozhin Kollel in Bnei Brak and was allegedly a study partner of the late haredi leader Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, better known as the Steipler Gaon. Berland later left the non-hasidic haredi community and joined Breslov, where he eventually started his own sect.
During his nearly 2-1/2-year flight from the law, Berland has been dubbed the “Sex Pest” and “Sex Fiend” rabbi by various African newspapers. His followers, who flocked to be with him at his various locations, trashed public parks and resorts, and allegedly left a string of unpaid bills and damage.