Jerusalem Hasidic cult leader sentenced to 26 years for abusing wives, children

D. in court.The Ugly Truth – by Haaretz

A Jerusalem resident who established a private cult and married six wives was sentenced on Thursday to 26 years in prison.

Last month, the Jerusalem District Court found him guilty of a long list of crimes, including rape, sodomy and physical abuse, including electric shock and whipping his wives and children.  

The 58-year-old man will also pay NIS 100,000 to his victims. His personal assistant was sentenced to six years in prison.

D., 58, belongs to a large, well-known Hasidic sect and considers himself the spiritual heir of one of Hasidism’s founders. Since 1980, he has married six wives, who together bore him 17 children.

From 2000 to 2009, he lived with his wives and children in an isolated house in Jerusalem, supporting himself by sending the women out to beg.

D. convinced his wives and children that he had special spiritual powers. But in reality, the Jerusalem District Court found, he was a sadist who forced them to confess to various sins and then inflicted brutal punishments, which included rape, sodomy, electric shocks, whippings, starvation and being imprisoned naked in a storage shed.

The judges declared the sentence, writing that “some of the offenses were carried out in the most degrading manner; others included brutal attacks, jailing, and extreme sexual behavior, some of which was performed in front of the children. In some cases the punishments were performed in the presence of the children, and their mere presence was conceived by the defendant as part of the punishment.”

Last month, when D. was found guilty of most charges, judges Jacob Zaban, Raphael Carmel and Rivka Friedman-Feldman wrote that he “caused his wives to believe that their behavior and thoughts harmed not only him, but also the salvation of the nation of Israel, and thereby aroused deep feelings of guilt and self-loathing in them, for which they could atone only by confessing to him and undergoing suitable punishments that he determined and supervised.” They also noted that some of the children were subjected to similar punishments.

“The women, who believed with perfect faith that the defendant sought to help them and redeem the nation of Israel, desperately sought to please him and gave themselves over completely to his caprices. They fully accepted, and sometimes even initiated, the punishments imposed on them,” according to the verdict.

“The fact that the victims of this punishment agreed to perform whatever punishment the defendant imposed on them and didn’t always voice their objections, both due to fear of him and of further punishment and because of their adoration of and faith in him, constitutes an additional sign of the extent of his control.”

The Prosecutor’s Office was hoping for more severe sentences, 65 years for D., and 20 years for his assistant, and may appeal the Supreme Court demanding harsher punishments.

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