Rabbis offered ‘hush money’, claims sexual assault victim

Rabbi produced an ‘envelope of cash‘ from perpetrator for ‘therapy’, says woman subjected to years of abuse


A sexual assault victim claims that Orthodox rabbis offered her cash on behalf of her abuser after she turned to them for help.

The young woman, who says she was assaulted from the age of 13, told the JC that she viewed the offer as “hush money”.

She claims that one of the rabbis who attempted to persuade her to accept the cash was Rabbi Chaim Halpern, head of the Divrei Chaim Synagogue in Golders Green, who himself has faced two police inquiries into allegations of the sexual abuse of young women.

The latest inquiry into the senior rabbi’s conduct was dropped by the Metropolitan Police this week after officers failed to make contact with his alleged victim to confirm her claims.

The collapse of the case came ten years after the police closed a similar investigation, which saw Rabbi Halpern arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, due to insufficient evidence following a nine-month probe.

However, the new claims by an assault victim raise questions about how sections of the Jewish community deal with sexual abuse claims.

Last week, the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the JC how, after finally getting up the courage to reveal that she had been abused by a friend of her family for many years, she was sent to speak to two rabbis, including Rabbi Halpern, 64, who was regularly involved in providing counselling to women in London’s ultra-orthodox Charedi community.

But instead of being given the counselling she had expected, she said the first — unnamed — rabbi offered her an envelope “stuffed with cash”.

The woman was told that the money had been given to him by her attacker to forward to her to pay for therapy.

After she refused the offer, she was then sent to Rabbi Halpern, who she claims repeated the offer of money from the perpetrator, a senior figure in the Orthodox community.

Last week, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, which oversees Rabbi Halpern’s synagogue and the unnamed rabbi at the centre of the claims, denied that victims of abuse were ever offered money with its blessing.

Rabbi Yacov Conrad, registrar of the organisation, insisted rabbis were not authorised to offer money to sexual abuse victims. He said: “I have never heard of such a thing. I do not think it is something the rabbinate would approve of.” However, the woman, who was in her early 20s at the time, told the JC:

“When I saw the first rabbi, I told him about the abuse and said that the perpetrator needed to be stopped from ever abusing anyone else and that he needed help.

“I also said I wanted an apology from him for the years of abuse I had suffered. He never did apologise.

“I made it clear that otherwise I’d be going to the police to report him.

“The response from the first rabbi, and later from Rabbi Halpern, was to offer me money.

“It which was couched as being money to pay for me to see a psychologist, but which I knew was part of the system to ensure I kept quiet. There was also social pressure to keep my complaint within the community, rather than take it outside, such as to the police.

“At one point, the first rabbi placed an envelope stuffed with cash in front of me and told me it was for me.

“I didn’t accept a penny of it.”

She said that Rabbi Halpern had made a further verbal offer of cash.

She described it as “hush money” and said she understood it was “common practice” for victims of sexual abuse to be offered money in this way in the Orthodox community.

She added: “There will be dozens and dozens of girls and women like me who have been through this process with Rabbi Halpern. I have spoken to some of them and they have similar stories to me.”

The woman later reported her abuser to the police and he was convicted and jailed for the sexual assaults.

The woman says she was sent to Rabbi Halpern in 2011, about a year before he was first accused of sexually assaulting women during counselling sessions.

She claims Rabbi Halpern also bombarded her with late-night phone calls and asked her “creepy questions” which, following the allegations against him, she now sees as an attempt to “groom” her.

The victim said Rabbi Halpern made “numerous” calls to her mobile after she was referred to him for “guidance and mediation” .

She said: “I instinctively didn’t trust him and didn’t want to be alone with him, so when I met him, I took a chaperone. That one visit was enough to convince me I didn’t want to see him face-to-face again.

“So instead, he’d phone me, often late at night, around midnight. It was completely inappropriate for him to have been doing that, especially at a time when I was exceptionally vulnerable.

“He had nothing to tell me, but asked me creepy questions about what I’d been doing that evening. Now, I realise he was attempting to groom me, by pushing boundaries. It was just gross.”

Rabbi Halpern, she said, acted as a “mediator” between her and her abuser. “His role seemed to be to persuade me to accept hush money, rather than providing me with any psychological support,” the woman said.

She said he asked her to “settle” the matter within the community.

As a result of her subsequent decision to report her abuser to the police, the woman said she was “pushed out” of the Charedi community in which she had been raised.

The latest police investigation into Rabbi Halpern was closed last week after detectives failed to make contact with his alleged victim.

The Metropolitan Police launched its inquiry after a woman claimed he touched her inappropriately during a spiritual guidance session.

The 21-year-old woman claimed Rabbi Halpern also continually telephoned her trying to persuade her to have sex with him. She made the claims in an interview with Israeli TV’s Channel 12 in November and also in a further interview with the JC.

According to a therapist treating the young woman in Israel, where she now lives, she had recorded many hours of calls she received from the rabbi providing evidence of his alleged inappropriate behaviour.

However, the police has now said its inquiry has been closed after officers failed to make contact with the woman making the claims.

A spokesperson said: “In December 2022, the Met was made aware of an interview broadcast on an Israeli television in which an unnamed woman, who appeared anonymously, alleged she had been the victim of non-recent sexual offences that are said to have taken place in London.

“Detectives from the North West Command Unit opened an investigation. As part of their enquiries they reviewed the interview and the related material broadcast alongside it.

“They contacted the television channel that conducted the interview in Israel in an effort to make contact with the woman.

“To date, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

“It is not possible to progress an investigation of this nature without being able to speak to a complainant.

“Should new information emerge, officers would of course consider it carefully.”

“We would urge women who have been the subject of assault or abuse of any kind to speak to us.”

Asked about the new claims, Rabbi Halpern’s lawyer said that following the Met Police’s announcement that it has closed its investigation and will make no furhter enquiries, “the rabbi has no comment.”

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