Safed Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, who is in detention after being accused of rape and sexual misconduct by numerous women, has been harassing prison guards ahead of his trial later this week.
A number of guards and police officers lodged formal complaints with the Israel Prisons Service claiming Sheinberg attempted to intimidate them by placing a curse on them, Israel’s Army Radio reported Monday.
Staff at Tzalmon Prison, in the Galilee, said that Sheinberg singles out certain employees, copies down their names from their uniform name tags, and then declares, “I place on you a kepeida.” A kepeida is a spiritual curse falling on someone who has provoked anger or offense.
Religiously observant prison staff have become frightened of Sheinberg and are avoiding interacting with him.
Sheinberg also threatens staff by telling them he is a personal friend of the chief rabbi of the Israel Prison Service, Ofer Elimelech, and warning that Elimelech will see to it that they contract illnesses and suffer other misfortunes.
The IPS has opened an investigation.
Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who also serves as Tzalmon’s chaplain, said he attempted in vain to intervene and stop Sheinberg’s intimidation and verbal harassment. “I asked him to stop threatening people, but it didn’t work,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Almighty pays attention to his curses, I’ve encouraged the staff not to be afraid of him,” Eliyahu said.
Sheinberg has been accused of sexual crimes by 10 women who approached him in the past for religious guidance. He was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on July 1 as he attempted to leave the country.
Students and teachers at Orot HaAri yeshiva, where Sheinberg was the dean, said they were shocked at the accusations against the rabbi, who was extremely popular.
The women approached a rabbinic council with their allegations. A team of local rabbis, led by Eliyahu, began investigating the accusations in mid-June, and later reported them to the police.
Some of the women had approached Rabbi Sheinberg for religious counsel and a blessing for fertility after they struggled to conceive.
Sheinberg has denied the charges.