An Observant US Army Family Targeted by the Chabad Rabbi They Trusted and the Army Chaplain Ordained to Protect

A U.S. Army investigation found that Captain Michael Harari, a chaplain at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (pictured), “aligned” his actions with Tacoma Rabbi Zalman Heber to ostracize Traci Moran after she alleged that Heber sent her explicit messages.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

| A U.S. Army investigation found that Captain Michael Harari, a chaplain at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (pictured), “aligned”… (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times) More 

After a rabbi sent her explicit messages, JBLM soldier’s wife says she was targeted and betrayed

When Traci Moran, an observant Jewish woman living at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with her enlisted husband, came to Army Chaplain Capt. Michael Harari in August 2018, she was looking for spiritual guidance, she said.

A Tacoma rabbi, Zalman Heber, had been sending her sexually explicit text and voice messages for almost a month despite Moran asking more than once that he stop, the messages showed.

Harari was her husband’s unit chaplain — meaning he was responsible for the spiritual well-being of the unit’s families — and the only rabbi on base. And he and Heber were part of the same Hasidic organization, Chabad, that runs synagogues and cultural centers around the world.

All that meant, Moran said, that Harari was “in an incredibly unique position to take my report and tailor counseling to my specific religious views.”

Instead, an Army investigation obtained by The Seattle Times found that Harari violated her confidence by sharing her allegations with Heber. Then, Heber and Harari worked in parallel to “harass and attempt to intimidate and ostracize the Morans from the civilian communities surrounding JBLM [Joint Base Lewis-McChord],” according to the investigation, which examined whether Harari violated the Army’s Equal Opportunity policy.

Heber confirmed sending Moran sexually explicit messages last summer. But, he said, the messages did not constitute sexual harassment.

Harari did not respond to a request for comment, but in a memo submitted to the investigation said the Morans “verbally assaulted” and “slandered” him and his wife. A representative of Harari’s endorsement agency, the organization that confirms he is capable of carrying out his religious duties on base, denied “any linkage between Harari and Heber.”

Meanwhile, Moran said she has lost faith in both Jewish and military institutions.

“I have been victimized twice,” Moran wrote this month in an official complaint to the Army about what she says is the base command’s inadequate response to Harari’s actions. “First, by the rabbi [Heber] who sexually harassed me, and then by the chaplaincy of JBLM.”

“Too much information”

When Moran, who had recently moved to the Pacific Northwest from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, went to pick up a shipment of kosher food at Rabbi Heber’s house in July 2018, she said she sought to make a connection by telling him about the community activities she’d previously led.

Heber then began messaging her, and she messaged back. Almost immediately, though, the exchange became full of what Moran, in one plea to Heber to stop messaging her, called “TMI — too much information.”

The explicit messages, a selection of which The Seattle Times reviewed, included Heber describing sexual acts with his wife.

“I really don’t want to know about your personal life with [your wife],” Moran replied at one point.

On Aug. 12, 2018, Moran and her husband, Staff Sgt. Jared Moran, sought rabbinical guidance by taking the messages to Harari, according to the Army investigation.

“CPT Harari assured us he would not repeat the information to anyone as he was bound as a chaplain not to,” Moran testified in her sworn statement.

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Rabbi David Lazar – Sexual and Verbal Harassment Allegations

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A former employee is suing Temple Isaiah, alleging sexual and verbal harassment. The temple has denied the claims

A former employee of Temple Isaiah and the Jewish Community Center of Palm Springs has sued the temple and its rabbi, saying he witnessed the rabbi sexually harass someone and then was verbally harassed and eventually fired over the incident.

The civil suit, filed in March, alleges Rabbi David Lazar sexually harassed two women — described in the lawsuit as a volunteer and congregant — and then, along with other leaders at the Jewish Community Center, verbally harassed the former employee, Christopher Greene, and then denied him proper pay and medical benefits before firing him after he complained about the sexual harassment of the two women.

Representatives of the temple declined to be interviewed on the advice of their attorney, who also declined to respond to questions, citing ongoing litigation. They did provide a statement about the lawsuit and said temple leadership and the rabbi are committed to making the temple a “safe and welcoming” place for all.

“Temple Isaiah and Rabbi Lazar adamantly deny the allegations of sexual misconduct. Temple Isaiah does not and would not condone any such conduct and is confident this matter will be properly adjudicated in the appropriate legal forum,” representatives said in the statement.

They thanked the community for support that had been given to Temple Isaiah and Lazar and said the temple remains the center of spirituality it has been in the community for decades.

“Our mission is unchanged: to serve the Palm Springs community and to foster a culture of openness, inclusiveness, and acceptance,” temple leaders said. “The safety and well-being of the Temple’s staff and congregants have been and remain our first priority.”

Witness statements from two women who said they  had attended services at Temple Isaiah and say they were harassed by Lazar recount unsolicited kissing and touching. Transcripts of a deposition with Douglas Morton, the temple’s former executive director, recount staff meetings where Lazar would get angry with Greene and scream at him.

The deposition also  states at least two women told Morton that Lazar had done something that made them uncomfortable. Morton said he addressed the rabbi about it and Lazar thanked him for letting him know and said he had heard from colleagues in Israel — where he had spent a large portion of his career — that cultural norms were different in the United States.

 

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Malky Wigder – Sexual Harassment – Rabbi Ephraim Bryks

From the Archives of Frum Follies:

Malky Wigder Alleges Sexual Harassment by Rabbi Ephraim Bryks

Rabbi Ephraim Bryks (born around 1954) was accused of sexually abusing boys and girls in Canada in cases that got a lot of publicity on CBC and American media. He dodged conviction but also lost libel cases against the networks that broadcast the story. Eventually, his former synagogue in Winnipeg stripped him of his emeritus title. and removed a plaque commending his service to them.

After returning to the US he ran a yeshiva for children from the former Soviet Union.

Eventually he was cut off from pulpit positions because of  his reputation. He was also induced to resign from the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) in 2003 and the Rabbinical Board of Queens (Vaad Harabonim) rather than face charges according to a report in the Jewish Week (NY) in 2010.

Nevertheless he presents himself as a rabbi, a marriage counselor and a convener of his own rabbinical court (though no other rabbis are listed by name). Stories of his attempts to use these roles to sexually exploit women are widespread on the grapevine.

Approximately ten years ago, Rabbi Yosef Blau, the senior spiritual advisor at the Yeshiva University seminary, publicly declared:

Ephrayim Bryks has become a rabbinic marriage counselor. The term marriage counselor or life coach can be used by anyone. He is not the only “rabbi” suspected of sexual abuse using one of these titles to access vulnerable individuals or couples both here and in Israel. Consulting actual professionals is expensive and unless the community publicly warns against going to these charlatans (often worse) many innocents will continue to be hurt.

 

Rabbi Blau confirmed to me that he still stands by that position in emails and discussions over the last 3 months.

Malky Wigder posted (6/10/18) on Facebook this description of his sex harassment and behavior after he offered her free help in dealing with a rabbinical court in connection with her divorce. With her consent I am posting her full account.

Malky Wigder’s Account

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Rabbi Meir Pogrow Denounced for Sexual Misconduct by Six Rabbis from US and Israel

LM had been provided with significant information, including a copy of the Beit Din from the Rabbinical Court in Israel. We also noted that the Teudat Zehut Number (the Israeli Identification Number) is one that is granted to New Olim or new citizens of Israel. We had planned an extensive article based upon the information we had obtained. We could not have done the article justice and the story needed to be told. Frum Follies did for this article what we could not have even contemplated.Thank you to those who provided us with information and to Yerachmiel Lopin for the “Reblog” button.

FRUM FOLLIES by Yerachmiel Lopin

meir Pogrow img4 Pogrow

An Israeli rabbinical court issued a ruling (6/14/16; 8 Sivan 5776) denouncing 46-year-old Rabbi Meir Pogrow for sexual misconduct with women (see image below). The court ruling which I hope to translate in full was signed by Rabbis Menachem Mendel Shafran (Bnei Brak, Israel; a Hasidic posek on the Bais Din of R. Karelitz), Chaim Zev Malinowitz (Beit Shemesh, Israel; the dominant Yeshivish rav in Beit Shemesh), and Gershon Bess (Los Angeles, CA; a product of the Lakewood BMG constellation of yeshivas). The ruling was written as a set of directives to Meir Pogrow about restrictions the Beit Din is imposing on him.

The ruling was followed by a Public Danger Warning with a synopsis of the ruling in Hebrew and English telling the public to avoid Pogrow in all sorts of roles. The advisory to females focused on any sort of interaction. The advisory section addressed to males…

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