JOHANNESBURG — Israeli Rabbi Eliezer Berland (77) fled to South Africa last week after Zimbabwe deported him for violating immigration laws.
Berland, a member of an offshoot of the Breslov Hassidic sect, left Israel to avoid arrest after several women, including a 15-year-old girl, complained of being sexually abused. Before arriving in Bulawayo Berland hid in Miami, Zurich and Morocco.
South African chief rabbi Warren Goldstein sent an e-mail to his colleagues throughout the country informing them that Berland and a number of his followers had arrived in Johannesburg.
“Our community (must) not be involved with sheltering or supporting Berland and his followers,” Goldstein warned.
Any congregants likely to be “drawn into supporting or sheltering Berland and his followers” should be spoken with, he added.
“Berland must return to Israel to face the criminal justice system.”
Many of the fugitive rabbi’s supporters have followed him into his self-imposed exile, creating something of a mobile hassidic court around Berland.
The “mega-rich cleric,” had flown into Bulawayo in the private jet of a supporter and had been living in one of more expensive hotels together with his horde of supporters.
Berland’s exit from Morocco was likewise the result of a government-ordered deportation.