A recording has surfaced in which Shuvu Bonim community leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland is heard boasting of receiving a donation for tens of thousands of dollars more than requested, Times of Israel reported.
Berland, who was released from prison last year after a sentence on charges of assaulting female followers, leads a Breslov-breakoff which focuses on outreach to secular Israelis. He has long been rumored to demand exorbitant donations in exchange for blessings and promises to heal the sick.
“We had a meeting, and in the middle of the meeting, a telephone call came that a woman donated NIS 300,000, $80,000,” Berland says in the recording, which is not dated.
“I had told her 18[,000] — that’s what I told her — and she heard 80,” Berland says, indicating that he had spoken to the woman in English.
After an indistinct murmur, he says he went on to ask for more money: “I told her now we need another 50,000 [unclear if dollars or shekels], so she said, ‘I don’t have any more.’ I said, ‘Then speak to your friends.’”
“So she made dozens of telephone calls, and didn’t manage to collect even one agura [cent], and then she remembered that she has a friend, here in Israel, who is having a wedding [in the family], so I told her, pick up the phone to your friend and ask if she can loan you [the money]…”
Contacted by The Times of Israel, Barak Barber, a current Berland aide, did not deny the authenticity of the recording.
Asked to comment, he wrote that “I don’t understand what there is to react to. What did you hear [in the recording] that isn’t okay?”
Barber said the recording “is very old. I’ve never heard the rabbi berating anyone, ever, but those who don’t understand his exaltedness will never understand any explanation, so it’s not worth the effort.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)