Name Of The Father: New film on sins of a Charedi cult leader shown on BBC

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W hen the documentary film Name of the Father aired in Israel a few weeks ago, it led to dozens of phone calls from men and women who had suffered sexual abuse in a Charedi community — and spurred national debate about how the country’s extremist communities can be better policed.

Now the three-part series, which details the rape, violence and child marriage that have taken place in a Strictly Orthodox Breslov community, has been adapted into a documentary for BBC’s Storyville. And it’s a harrowing watch.

In the 1980s, the Brooklyn-based Rabbi Eliezer Shlomo Shick, also known as the Mohorosh, set up his own town in Yavniel, in the north of Israel.’

A charismatic speaker who often cried when he lectured, he mainly populated it with former secular Jews. Many of them had been in jail and had converted to his cause. Eventually, around 400 families lived in the town.

From his main base in America, the rabbi kept a tight control on his community. Closed-circuit cameras tracked members’ every move, and they would write letters to him over the fax machine that he would answer in detail.

He succeeded in making every member of the community feel connected to him and when he died, in 2015, they continued to adhere to his rules. To this day, the ill-educated and poor community that is fed by the town’s soup kitchen, cannot envisage life outside it, says the film’s director Bat-Dor Ojalvo.

She stumbled across Yavniel while working on another programme exploring rape and how the Israeli police deals with the crime. “I soon realised we were looking at a cult,” she tells me.

When the first episode of the programme aired in Israel, Ojalvo got a phone call in the middle of the night from the Mohorosh’s only son Moishe.

He’d been cut off by many in the community after his father was recorded, on his deathbed, calling his son a murderer. “He said he wanted me to hear the whole truth, from his perspective,” says Ojalv

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