Ezra Sheinberg has "repented" from misdeeds he apparently never committed, he claimed wildly Friday, after denying he ever sexually abused the 13 women who filed claims against him.
"I have never threatened any of the women," Sheinberg stated Friday, in an interview with Yediot Aharonot. "The opposite is true. I tried and I was able to help many of them the most in their times of need and when they were subjected to great distress."
Sheinberg also boasted throughout the interview about his alleged prestige – and said that it's the only reason he is being accused of sexual assault.
"Many knocked on my door and asked my advice, including familiar names from the Jewish Home and some well-known and rich businessmen," he stated. "I have become well-liked and accepted, and naturally it creates envy and anger among some parties, who were looking for a way to hurt me."
"I know today they think they succeeded, but this is not true," he continued. "The real facts will be clarified further."
Sheinberg also blamed his accusers.
"Some of them are looking for grounds for divorce, for all kinds of reasons not to be enumerated here, and it was convenient to blame everything on me," he said. "In most cases, their husbands were home [when] I visited them, so they have nothing to complain about today."
The rabbi even claimed that he healed a great many women from all sorts of medical ailments, and even stated directly to the press that women were free to ask him questions through his lawyer.
He then complained that being separated from his family is "very difficult," but that he accepts his "suffering" as part of the repentence process – even though he denies ever committing a crime.
On Friday, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) announced they had opened an investigation to see whether Sheinberg spoke to the media without permission; the IPS said that, for the moment, it appears as if Sheinberg conducted the entire interview through his legal team, which would not be a breach of the law.
More and more evidence
Thirteen women have accused Sheinberg of sexual abuse, and an indictment was filed on the behalf of twelve of them to the Nazareth District Court in June.
The former Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of the Orot HaAri Yeshiva in the northern city of Tzfat (Safed) has denied the charges.
However, a week after his arrest, Arutz Sheva exposed several damning details about the case, including the fact that Sheinberg allegedly admitted his offenses to Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and other rabbis. He has since then claimed over and over again that the allegations are "nonsense."
Supported by the public outrage over the case, more and more women have come forward to publicly speak out about the alleged abuse they suffered, with one providing testimony to the Israeli media under an assumed name, and another publishing her side via an open letter.
Solid material evidence has reportedly also been added to the case.
While in jail, guards complained that Sheinberg was cursing them, taking their names from the name tags on their shirts and writing them on a note before reciting: "I place on you a kfeida," a type of curse.
Later, a police officer central to the investigation revealed that Sheinberg also threatened his victims with "terrible things" in the event they complained to the authorities.
The trial against Sheinberg is being held behind closed doors.