Safed rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, head of the city’s Orot HaAri yeshiva, was named Thursday night as the prominent religious figure accused of sexual offenses who was arrested earlier this month while trying to flee the country.
Sheinberg has been accused of sexual crimes by 10 different women who approached him in the past for religious guidance. He was caught at Ben Gurion Airport on July 1 as he was attempting to leave the country.
Ynet news reported that students and teachers at Orot HaAri were in shock at the accusations against Sheinberg, who was extremely popular and had many ardent followers. Sheinberg was a popular Kabbalist and respected figure in Israel’s national-religious community who also built bridges with the Hasidic public.
Sheinberg’s written works have been dumped into a trash can in one of the institution’s rooms. “From here, they’ll be put away and buried,” Rabbi Gad Cohen of the yeshiva told Ynet.
“Rabbi Sheinberg has become an abomination in the eyes of students.”
Sheinberg had recently resigned from his position and left Safed, under pressure from a committee of local rabbis.
The women had approached the rabbinic council with the allegations. A team of local rabbis, led by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, began investigating the accusations in mid-June, and later reported them to the police.
“In consultation with various sources, and psychologists and professionals, the rabbi was asked to resign, and he did so immediately from his role of yeshiva head,” the rabbis told Channel 2 in a statement.
“He agreed to leave the city until the facts were clarified,” they added.
Sheinberg has denied all the charges against him.
Eliyahu told the news website the women were initially reluctant to report the allegations to the police. The rabbis then turned to the cops with the charges, but were informed they could not file a complaint on behalf of the women, Eliyahu said.
According to Channel 10, the women had approached the rabbi for religious counsel and a blessing for fertility after they struggled to conceive.