Support offered to women after rabbi accused of sex assault leads Purim party

Jewish Women's Aid have released a statement after Chaim Halpern was the guest of honour at an event with several young people


A Jewish organisation that supports Jewish women and children affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence has released a statement after the JC revealed that a rabbi at the centre of sex assault claims attended a Purim party with young people this week.

Rabbi Chaim Halpern was the honoured guest on Tuesday at a Purim party at Beis Shmuel synagogue in Golders Green that was attended by around 50 men and young boys, despite the local authority having sent out a safeguarding alert.

In a statement, Jewish Women's Aid criticised the "lack of cohesion and solidarity by the community's religious leadership", saying that his invitation to the celebration "diminished and disregarded" survivors of sexual assault.

Chaim Halpern, 64, also known as Aaron Halpern, who leads the nearby Divrei Chaim synagogue, was the subject of a police investigation into sexual assault a decade ago and is currently facing a rabbinical inquiry into his conduct.

Halpern has regularly been involved in providing counselling to women in London’s strictly-Orthodox community.

But last year a 21-year-old woman who went to him for help branded him “dangerous and sick”, claiming he used his position to groom and assault her.

The unnamed woman went on television in Israel to accuse Halpern of assaulting her — touching her “private parts” — when she went to him for spiritual guidance. She said he was “evil and must be stopped”.

She later told the JC: “The truth is overdue. Reb Chaim thinks that because he’s a rabbi, he can do whatever he wishes.

“He tricked me into trusting him by acting charming, giving attention and compliments. He invests time into phone calls and emails, but it’s all just grooming.”

Photographs and footage of the event on Tuesday show Halpern addressing the congregation and dancing with guests at the Beis Shmuel synagogue in Golders Green, north London, which is run by his brother Moshe, another rabbi.

In a statement, Karen Lewis, Director of Client Services at Jewish Women's Aid, said: "A few weeks ago the Interim Education Director of Hackney Council Paul Senior sent a strongly worded letter advising parents and guardians against sending their children to Rabbi Chaim Halpern for counselling. This comes following allegations of serious sexual impropriety.

"Only this week, Rabbi Halpern was feted as the Guest of Honour at a Purim Party at Beis Shmuel Synagogue in Golders Green. The event was arranged by the synagogue's leadership."

She continued: "This lack of cohesion and solidarity by the community's religious leadership sends mixed messages to the community and especially to survivors of sexual abuse who once again have their feelings diminished and disregarded.

"At Jewish Women's Aid we have two Independent Sexual Violence Advocates as well as specialist counsellors who are available to support Jewish women who are survivors of sexual abuse. We believe you; we can support you."

Halpern denies all allegations. Asked about his client’s involvement in the Purim event, the rabbi’s solicitor, David Sonn, refused to comment.

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