Three senior judges from the High Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Eliezer Igra, Rabbi Shlomo Shapira and Rabbi Zion Luz, published a Torah opinion following the release from prison of head of the Orot Ari religious community in Tzfat (Safed), Ezra Sheinberg, and detailed what he must do to be accepted into the Katzrin community where he moved following the release.
Full opinion from the lawyers of the Great Court:
In the Torah opinion published by the three judges, they clarify the path of repentance for a person who "sinned and sexually harmed the daughters of Israel and the women of Israel, while exploiting dignity and authority, as well as the exaltation of holiness, Torah, and rabbinic status for extremely serious sexual crimes."
The judges summarized the "threshold conditions for atonement to such crimes":
"There is no possibility of Yom Kippur atoning for sins between a person and his fellow man until he [receives forgiveness] from the victim...Atonement cannot be attained so long as he has not paid the victim money ordered by the court, and so long as he has not reconciled with the victim.
"An oral and written public confession must be provided saying: I have sinned, I have sinned, I have committed a crime, I have failed many in my actions, I have used the Torah training given to me by the victims to commit serious sexual crimes, etc.
"He will conduct himself with the utmost humility, and not with arrogance of mind, and will change all the ways of his life, and as the Rambam says: 'The way of repentance is to be the one who returns, always cries out before G-d in tears and supplications, and gives as much charity as possible, and keeps far away from his sin, changes his name - meaning that he has changed and is no longer the man who did those deeds. And he shall change all his deeds towards the good and straight path.
Maimonides further instructs that such a man shall be "exiled from his home [and] atone for injustice because it causes him to submit [to the will of G-d], and be meek and low-spirited.''
"He shall remove from himself any rabbinic and Torah labels so that he does not [hurt] others again in his actions, including shaving his beard, and he shall not put on himself any rabbinic clothing. (Halchot Talmud Torah 44:11 and Shulchan Aruch Halchot Talmud Torah).
"He will not [be considered a rabbi or make rabbinic rulings] in any way or shape. He will not teach any Torah. He will not give advice or answers in any matter to any person, and if there is someone who turns to him to receive his advice, he will reply, 'I do not deserve it at all, and I never deserved it, and I only misled others with my advice.'"
The three senior judges conclude: ''These are the summaries of the repentance process that we believe the sinner must do before any community is allowed to accept someone who has sinned in the crimes described above..."
As you may recall, sex offender Ezra Sheinberg was released last Sunday from the Maasiyahu prison at following the end of his prison term. Sheinberg was originally scheduled to be released in October of 2021 after receiving time off for good behavior in prison, but his early release was cancelled following a protest by his victims.
Upon leaving the prison with a smile, Sheinberg was asked if he had anything to say to the victims, and replied: "May they be well. I have paid my debt." Regarding providing compensation to the victims, he said: "They sued in a civil court. They will hopefully receive it."
Sheinberg, who was nicknamed "the Rabbi from the North" and lead the Ari community in Safed, was convicted of committing sexual crimes against eight women and was released after serving a sentence of seven and a half years. Sheinberg intends to live with his family in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin.
"Today, the national religious public is facing another test as to whether it will accept into its community a convicted sex offender who did not repent and did not compensate the victims, or whether it will stand with all its might and not allow a new community to be built, thereby protecting the future victims and victims," said Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, following Sheinberg's release.
Smotrich offered his support for the residents of Katzrin, "fighting courageously for the purity of the camp." "These are people who will be able to say 'our hands did not shed this blood' even if another injury occurs," he pointed out.
Smotrich urged members of the public to "join the struggle of the residents Katzrin and denounce the sex offenders among them."
"Support the victims, the male and female students, and the dozens of people who spent years taking his advice. It's up to us to bring about change,'' added the Minister.
Dozens of women and men protested Saturday evening outside of the prison ahead of Sheinberg's release.
Leading the protest movement was Michal Hakohen, one of Sheinberg's victims, who joined dozens of women to protest his move to Katzrin: "Tomorrow the Katzrin community is expected to receive the sex offender who managed to trick women and harm them while using manipulation and charisma," Hakohen said.
"Sheinberg never expressed true regret for his actions and it is truly possible that he will establish a new community in the city and put additional women in danger of falling into his trap. We all need to protest against Sheinberg's move and point out the danger that this man poses, so we can prevent the next assault. The State of Israel must take responsibility and prevent the sex offender from returning to a community where he may return to his ways, as happens with the majority of sex offenders who end up offending again," she added.
The protest on Saturday was part of the growing protest movement against Shienberg's move to Katzrin, and on Sunday at 8:00 pm a rally will be held outside of Sheinberg's home.