The Metropolitan Police has confirmed to Jewish News that an investigation, opened in December into allegations of sexual abuse by Golders Green rabbi Chaim Halpern against a young London woman, has now been closed.
The 21-year-old woman took part in a Channel 12 Israeli TV programme in mid-November 2022. She told the TV journalists that Rabbi Chaim Halpern had touched “private parts” of her body when she went to him for counselling in London, and had repeatedly tried to see her when he visited Israel earlier in the year.
The TV programme included tapes of phone conversations, allegedly between the rabbi and the woman, who now lives in Israel. The male voice on the tapes says he loves the woman, that she is beautiful, and asks if she wants him to “come with you in bed”. Rabbi Halpern has consistently denied making either verbal or physical approaches to the woman, and has also said that it is not his voice on the tapes.
A Met Police spokesman told Jewish News that the police had been made aware of the programme in December last year. In the programme, they said, “an unnamed woman, who appeared anonymously, alleged she had been the victim of non-recent sexual offences that are said to have taken place in London”.
As a result, the Met said: “Detectives from the North West Command Unit opened an investigation. As part of their enquiries they reviewed the interview and the related material broadcast alongside it. They contacted the television channel that conducted the interview in Israel, in an effort to make contact with the woman and confirm her identity”.
However, the spokesman said: “To date, these efforts have been unsuccessful. It is not possible to progress an investigation of this nature without officers being able to identify and speak to a complainant. They cannot rely solely on anonymous or third party testimony and for that reason the investigation has been closed”.
However, the spokesman added: “Should new information emerge, officers would of course consider it carefully. We take allegations of sexual offences seriously and recognise the courage that it takes for victims to come forward.
“We would urge women who have been the subject of assault or abuse of any kind to speak to us. You will be listened to and taken seriously, your identity will be protected and specialist officers will be there to support you through the investigation and any subsequent judicial process.”
Yehudis Fletcher, a campaigner supporting victims of abuse in the Jewish community, told Jewish News: “While this outcome is disappointing, it was inevitable. The police had no new complainant and there was therefore nothing to propel an investigation forward. Because the police did not secure the trust of the victim who made the allegations in the TV broadcast, the investigation was over before it began.
“The scandal is actually not about an individual, but rather about a community that actively prevents us from reporting abuse, keeps us in vicelike control to stop us from realising we can get help from the outside world, and crushes all dissent.
She added: “It is about men who do nothing until women go to the media, and then condemn us for going to the press. It is about men who extinguish the flame of our agency just when it starts to shine, and then tells the world that any criticism of our lifestyle is a hate crime. It is to our community’s shame that discourse has been dominated by a determination to solve the symptom, rather than the underlying problem: hierarchical systems with no oversight or accountability and patriarchal values that exclude women altogether.”
Now that the Met has formally closed its inquiry, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) is free to proceed with its internal inquiry relating to Rabbi Halpern, whose congregation comes under the UOHC umbrella. Late last year it was confirmed that the former Recorder of Redbridge, Judge Martyn Zeidman KC, a member of Edgware Yeshurun, would head this inquiry.
He made it clear at the time that he did not intend to begin his own investigation until the police had concluded theirs, but he declined to comment further this week.
Jewish News has made four approaches to the UOHC for contact information for the judge over the past three weeks after a number of readers asked to be put in touch to give evidence, but received no reply.
Ten years ago there were other allegations of sexual impropriety made against Rabbi Halpern and a police inquiry opened. Nine months later the inquiry was closed and no charges were brought.