‘The Rabbi Has No Body’: Tape Reveals How Ally of Convicted Sex Offender Tried to Whitewash His Acts

Moshe Dror Tzanani, a senior rabbi in Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s Shuvu Banim Hasidic community, has been recorded trying to explain away the accusations of sexual assault for which Berland was imprisoned.

The recording, obtained by Haaretz, was made in the summer of 2016 – just a few months before Berland was convicted in a plea deal of assault and indecent acts against women. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, of which he served 10.

Berland is once again under arrest; the police suspect him of fraud, tax fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and exploiting his followers. Shuvu Banim is an extremist sect of the Bratslav Hasidim and Tzanani is considered Berland’s most likely successor.

The recording concerns an incident that was not included in the evidence used to convict Berland. In the defense brief submitted in a civil lawsuit filed against him by the person who exposed the Berland affair, Tzanani said he never justified Berland’s actions.

Two people are heard in the conversation: Tzanani and a man whose name has not yet been released. In the recording, the second man can be heard saying that a relative of his – now in her 20s – was sexually harassed when she met with Berland.

“A few years ago, she met with the rabbi; it was in Betar. She went into [the room with him] and the rabbi touched her,” the man said. “He put his hands under her blouse and groped. He gave her a kiss on the mouth and told her that, with this, he was correcting the sin of slander. She said she felt that this wasn’t anything impure, but it confused her a lot.”

The young woman’s relative told Tzanani that she did not attribute great importance to the incident at the time, but Berland's arrest caused her feelings to resurface.