Argentina’s Jewish community has lost its leader after he was asked to resign following allegations of sexual misconduct and extortion.
Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of Daia, the umbrella organisation for Argentinian Jewish communities, quit his post on Saturday night after he was accused by a 35-year-old actress, Esmeralda Mitre, of inappropriate advances and seeking donations.
Social media networks carried several versions of Mr Cohen Sabban’s private meeting with the actress and his alleged sexual misconduct, as well as his requests to her for money to help his organisation.
Ms Mitre said in a statement on Saturday night: “I have experienced an unpleasant situation as a woman and, as a victim of a request for unlawful money, so that events do not happen again with another person, I have made them known to to the relevant people.
“I am not going to initiate legal actions, make statements or provide details about the facts. I defend my privacy and my artistic career.”
Two days later, however, Ms Mitre did reveal more details, claiming that Mr Cohen Sabban – a married father of four – had touched one of her breasts and tried to kiss her on the mouth. She also alleged that he had asked her for $80,000 (£59,000).
“That is extortion, because I don’t know where the money was intended to go.”
The actress’s lawyer Ricardo Gil Lavedra said he intended to take Mr Cohen Sabban to court for what he insisted was a “clear” case of sexual harassment if no apology was forthcoming.
Ms Mitre has courted controversy of her own in recent weeks.
During an interview with the Infobae news website on April 12, she attempted to clarify a statement by her former husband, Darío Lopérfido, on the number of those who had “disappeared” under Argentina’s military dictatorship.
Mr Lopérfido had cast doubts on the generally accepted figure of 30,000 and suggested that it might be a third of that total.
Ms Mitre commented: “It’s like what happened in the Holocaust. They said it was six million, but maybe there were not that many.”
After a meeting at Daia’s headquarters, she publicly apologised and clarified that it had not been her intention to “insult the Jewish community. I apologise for having offended the greatest tragedy known to humanity.”
The sexual advances allegedly occurred at a different time at the actress’s Buenos Aires apartment. After the claims were publicly reported, Daia asked Mr Cohen Sabban to step down.
Daia, which is made up of 125 Jewish institutions in Argentina and has 25 local branches, also acts as the liaison between Argentine Jewry and the national government. Mr Cohen Sabban’s three-year term was due to end in November and he had already launched a campaign for re-election. Vice president Alberto Indij, an attorney, became the body’s new leader on Monday.