Rabbi Yaakov Deutsch Sentenced to Nine Years for Sexual Abuse of Teens

A Nazareth Court sentenced Rabbi Yaakov Deutsch from Afula to nine years in prison on Wednesday, after he was convicted on charges of sexual abuse against four teenagers – two boys and two girls – whom he taught.

Deutsch was also sentenced with paying a 290,000 shekel ($75,895) fine.

The full seriousness of Deutsch’s actions were examined in the court hearing for the sentencing, and the verdict condemned Deutsch’s acts and motives.

Regarding the testimony of one victim, “it was wrong to think that the accused has the power to ‘cure’ her, and he even made her believe that the relationship between him and her is an ‘instruction from above,'” the verdict stated, noting that the rabbi was using religion as a front for the abuse.

“These acts began when she was about 15-years-old – young and vulnerable – and caused her great confusion as to the morality of the conjugal visits with the accused in light of her haredi education,” it continued. “Between the two there was an ongoing relationship […] in flagrant violation of the trust of the complainant and the accused, and despite her young age.”

The court also rejected the defense’s arguments that the accused were exploiting his status; the court noted that his actions dealt a severe and incontrovertible blow to the dignity, liberty, and physical and mental well-being of the complainants.

“The greatness and power of the defendant in relation to his community, and beyond, led the complainants to trust the defendant, and to be alone with him,” it fired. “Moreover, even the parents of the complainants who saw the defendant as a respected rabbi, trusted him, and thus it never occurred to them that their children might fall victim to exploitation in his hands.”

The ruling surfaces amid a series of court hearings on another scandal involving a rabbi based in the north: at least ten women have accused Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg of Tzfat (Safed) of sexual abuse in a religious context, which made headlines after Sheinberg attempted to flee Israel and was arrested before his departure.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    The District Court in Nazareth on Wednesday sentenced Yaakov Deutsch, the prominent former rabbi of a large community in Afula, to nine years in prison plus two suspended years, for sex offenses he committed against minors between 2008 and 2010. Deutsch will also have to compensate his four victims with payments of 150,000 shekels ($40,000), 20,000, 40,000 and 80,000 shekels, respectively.

    In the first charge sheet, Deutsch was convicted in two cases on multiple counts of forbidden consensual sex, sodomy and unlawful touching of a female minor, when she was 15 to 17 years old. In the second case he was convicted of unlawful touching congruent with an act of rape, committed on a 13-year-old female minor. The third case involved a similar charge against a 13-year-old male, and the fourth indictment involved a 14-year-old male.

    In issuing the sentence, the Court’s Deputy President Tawfic Kteily said that the accused’s deeds had “seriously and permanently damaged the victims’ dignity, liberty and body, as well as their mental wellbeing.” He added that “the accused found these victims to be easy prey. They saw him as an influential figure, one who was a spiritual authority and a guide, whose word was their guiding light.”

    The judge also noted that the victims’ parents “looked up to the accused as a dignified and respected rabbi, giving him their complete trust, without even imagining that their children would be exploited and abused by him. He therefore breached the parents’ trust as well.”

    The judge added that “the harsh effects of his deeds on their mental wellbeing, their development and functioning were detailed in the reports relating to the victims, which show that the damage inflicted on them is widespread, affecting all aspects of life, and may last for an extensive part of their lives, particularly if they do not receive appropriate treatment. This damage should be taken into account when considering the suitable penalty.”

    Deutsch’s lawyer attorney Elad Rath told Haaretz that “it’s no secret that the rabbi has consistently denied all the charges attributed to him. We greatly respect the court but believe that it erred both in its verdict and in the severe punishment it imposed on him, a penalty that ignores a long list of personal circumstances as well as his lengthy contribution to society.”

    Rath said that he would appeal the sentence and “wait patiently for the Supreme Court’s decision.”

    Attorney Or Lerner, from the Northern District State Prosecution office, stated that “anyone who exploits his lofty public status, particularly within his own community, in order to commit such contemptible crimes which so severely damaged the souls of these minor plaintiffs and their families deserves to receive such a harsh sentence, which expresses society’s revulsion.”

    Lerner added that he is “full of respect for the plaintiffs who, despite the inherent difficulty in coming forth, lodging a complaint and disclosing the acts done to them, in light of the harsh consequences facing them after taking such a step, took the courageous step, filed a complaint and bravely stood on the witness stand.”

    He expressed the hope that the sentence handed down would send a deterrent message to potential culprits as well as encourage anyone considering lodging a complaint about similar offenses.

    The investigation into Deutsch’s case started in 2010. He was arrested by the investigative unit of the Afula police while trying to leave Israel to, in his words, attend festivities in Turkey. The suspicion was that he was planning to continue from there to the United State. Deutsch came to Israel more than 40 years ago, acquiring his status over the years while establishing educational institutions and a not-for-profit charity group. He became a kabbalist rabbi, supposedly possessing mystical properties. He gathered a large community of believers around him who saw him as an authority on questions of religious law.

    In December 2013, a sentence of six months of community service was handed to another rabbi, Moti Elon, who was convicted of forceful unlawful touching, committed while he was the head of a yeshiva. He was given a 15 months’ suspended sentence and a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,500).

    Another rabbi, Eliezer Berland, who headed the Breslau community of “Shuvu Banim”, was suspected of sexual offenses against women in his community. He fled Israel in April 2013 and was arrested in Holland in September 2014. In February a court in Holland ruled that he was extraditable to Israel.

    The head of the “Orot Ha’ari” Yeshiva in Safed, Ezra Schoenberg, is currently under arrest after 13 complaints were filed against him by different women. He is suspected of rape under fraudulent circumstances, unlawful touching and issuing threats. He was arrested over two weeks ago and his remand was extended until Friday. Schoenberg was also arrested at the airport. His lawyer claimed after the arrest that Schoenberg was en route to a vacation after undergoing cardiac catheterization.

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