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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