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Women’s group seeks to strip ‘rabbi’ title from Moti Elon over sex offenses

Kolech to petition High Court against Chief Rabbinate decision allowing Elon to keep his honorific after agreeing to not serve in clerical roles

Rabbi Mordechai 'Moti' Elon seen in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court prior to his sentence hearing, on December 18, 2013. (David Vaaknin/Flash 90)
Rabbi Mordechai 'Moti' Elon seen in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court prior to his sentence hearing, on December 18, 2013. (David Vaaknin/Flash 90)

A women’s rights group has said it will petition the High Court of Justice against a Chief Rabbinate of Israel decision allowing a rabbi convicted of sexual assault to keep his title.

Activists from the Kolech organization say that the rabbinate is failing in its duty to protect the public by allowing Rabbi Mordechai “Moti” Elon to continue using the title despite his 2013 conviction, the Ynet news site reported on Saturday night.

“A sex deviant cannot be competent to serve as a city or neighborhood rabbi,” Ayelet Cohen Wieder and Chana Kehat of Kolech said in a statement.

“The role of the rabbinate is to make it clear that conviction for a sexual offense means denial of competence. This is a golden opportunity to take part in righting  [that wrong].”

In April, a rabbinate disciplinary committee, which had threatened to strip Elon of his title, decided that he could keep it after he committed to not serve as a rabbi in any community role for a period of 10 years from the date of his conviction.

Kolech then asked the rabbinate’s legal adviser to intervene, arguing that the rabbinate was not fulfilling its duty to protect the public from rabbis who abuse their position and that it had failed to “uphold the values that are supposed to be reflected” in the title of rabbi.

However, the legal adviser’s office responded that “the decision expresses the proper balance between all the general interests and relevant considerations of the matter,” Ynet reported.

The adviser noted that the purpose of removing the title of rabbi was to prevent an individual from filling a clerical role in the community and that with his commitment to not do so until 2023, Elon had satisfied that objective.

Elon was convicted in 2013 of committing an indecent act against a minor on two occasions. He was sentenced to six months of community service, as well as a 15-month suspended jail term. Elon, once a celebrated mentor of Israel’s religious Zionist movement, was also ordered to pay the victim NIS 10,000 ($2,850) in compensation.

In 2015 police looked into new allegations against Elon, after a one-time student published a Facebook post saying that the rabbi had harassed him on two occasions. Those claims did not lead to new legal action, but the accuser’s post garnered wide publicity, making waves in a religious Zionist community already forced to come to terms with Elon’s behavior and some rabbinical support for him.

In December 2018 a Channel 12 investigative program reported that Elon had admitted to further sexually inappropriate behavior toward a young man.

According to the “Uvda” investigative report, the man appealed to a number of leading rabbis and told them that he had reached out to Elon over the preceding year for assistance in difficulties he was facing. But the meetings quickly took on a sexual nature and involved unspecified alleged offenses.

The man was advised to file a complaint with police, but said he preferred that the matter be handled by rabbinic authorities.

A panel of three leading rabbis in the religious Zionist movement summoned Elon and he, confronted with evidence that included recordings made by the alleged victim during their meetings, admitted to the undisclosed offenses. A source told “Uvda” that Elon “did not deny it and took certain responsibility for the actions.”

Elon agreed to stop all public activity including teaching, as well as private meetings. and to seek treatment, the report said.

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