National religious rabbis urge probe of sex abuse allegations against Rabbi Tau

Rabbis Yuval Cherlow and David Stav of Tzohar say police must investigate claims against ultra-conservative religious leader

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Rabbi Zvi Tau in 2018. (Screenshot)
Rabbi Zvi Tau in 2018. (Screenshot)

Several senior national religious rabbinical figures called publicly to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against Rabbi Zvi Tau, a prominent ultra-conservative rabbi.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, director of the Tzohar Center for Jewish Ethics at the Tzohar rabbinical organization; Rabbi David Stav, chief rabbi of Shoham and the chairman of Tzohar; and his son, Rabbi Avraham Stav, all said Wednesday that the accusations against Tau must be fully investigated.

“The case of Rabbi Tau must be examined,” wrote Cherlow in a Facebook post (Hebrew), adding that it “is forbidden to take a position in advance [of an investigation], it is forbidden to use a case that has not been examined for any other agendas — there is no other way other than examining the allegations.”

Cherlow wrote that he had spoken with several women who made allegations of sexual abuse against Tau. “The women who claim to have been harmed have the right to have their voices heard,” he wrote, adding that Tau also “has the right to clear his name.”

Tau, 85, is head of the influential Har Hamor yeshiva in Jerusalem and the spiritual leader of the ultra-conservative Noam political faction, which ran together with the far-right Religious Zionism party in last week’s election. Noam’s primary platform is opposition to LGBT rights and the “destruction of the family.”

Ahead of the election, Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu personally met with Tau to convince Noam to run on a joint list with Religious Zionism, as the former prime minister feared that right-wing votes could be discarded if the party ran independently and failed to cross the electoral threshold.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow (Aryeh Katz)

In August, a woman named Nechama Te’ena published a Facebook post alleging that 30 years ago, when she was 8, Tau committed “ongoing” sexual assaults against her. Te’ena wrote that when she attempted to confront Tau, he screamed at her.

“It’s hard to believe something like this, almost impossible,” she wrote. “But this man, who has so much power and so many followers, assaulted me, and I am sure that I’m not the only one.” Over the past few weeks, Te’ena has been staging small protests outside the Knesset accusing Tau of raping her and others, and asking why the Israel Police refused to investigate.

In her August post, Te’ena claimed that she had gone to the police and the media, but that Tau’s associates succeeded in hushing up the story. Her accusations were largely ignored by mainstream media outlets until this week, once several prominent rabbis publicly called for the claims against Tau to be probed.

In an interview with 103FM radio on Wednesday, David Stav said he has spoken with at least one of Tau’s accusers and believes an investigation must be carried out.

Rabbi David Stav, co-founder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization. (Flash 90)

“There are allegations, and whenever there are allegations, the one that needs to investigate is the Israel Police,” said Stav.

The senior rabbi added that Tau and his associates should actively cooperate with such a probe if they seek to clear his name: “Everyone tied to the rabbi should want the truth to come out.”

Stav also dismissed claims made by Tau’s associates that Te’ena is an unreliable witness because she struggles with mental health issues — noting that even if it were the case, it in no way invalidates the need for the allegations to be investigated.

His son Avraham Stav, himself a prominent rabbi associated with Tzohar who teaches at the well-regarded Har Etzion yeshiva, said Wednesday that he has also spoken with multiple women who accused Tau of sexual assault.

“The entirety of the claims and the evidence sounds very credible, and creates a strong impression that there is good cause for suspicion,” the junior Stav tweeted (Hebrew) on Wednesday.

He added that even if there were only one complainant, the claim should be investigated, “but the accumulation of complaints greatly increases the likelihood that there are things amiss — making a full investigation an urgent duty.”

Tau has repeatedly publicly defended prominent figures accused, and even convicted, of sexual assault and rape. In 2011, he signed on to a letter backing convicted rapist and former president Moshe Katsav, and last year he publicly criticized Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, for pursuing multiple sex abuse allegations against author Chaim Walder, claiming that the charges were “a bluff” and that no such crimes had occurred.

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