The trial of Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, the former head of the Orot Ha’ari Yeshiva in Safed, charged with perpetrating sex crimes against 12 women seeking his treatment and advice, began on Wednesday behind closed doors at the Nazareth District Court.
Sheinberg made no comment before the session began.
Dozens of Yeshiva students demonstrated outside in solidarity with the victims. Also protesting where women from a Galilee rape crisis counseling center.
Demosntrators carried signs that read:’We believe you and salute you, stand behind you,’ ‘You aren’t alone, the Orot Ha’ari community condemns Ezra Sheinberg and his actions.’
Rabbi Avraham Engel, of the Orot Ha’ari Yeshiva said their group had come all the way from Safed “to support and encourage the brave women standing at the frontlines of justice.”
A former student remarked: ‘For the first time, he is silent, and we are smiling.”
Chen Beck, from the education department at the rape crisis center for Galilee and the Golan said “this story is difficult for someone outside the community to understand.
There was no violence. It is very difficult to understand this from the outside.”
Sheinberg was charged in July for having sex with 12 women after “exploiting the fact that he is considered to be a righteous person with special powers, that they had unconditional faith in him, and that they saw what he said to be the words of a living god.”
According to the indictment the rabbi assaulted the women during personal meetings or video sessions in which he asked them to undress.
During the incidents most of which occurred during the last decade, Sheinberg had headed the Orot Ha’ari Yeshiva and was a community leader.
He was considered an authority figure in the community at large where many, religious and secular people alike, would seek out his advice.