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Secrecy surrounds the sacking of a prominent South African rabbi who was
allegedly caught having an affair with a married woman.
Amid a growing scandal, Rabbi Lewis Furman of Johannesburg, who was also
a family counsellor and international speaker, is believed to have left
South Africa for Israel where he is undergoing "rehabilitation".
Furman — who is alleged by congregants to have been a "serial
philanderer" — was forced to resign his position in South Africa and
will not practise as a rabbi in this country again.
South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said: "These events have caused
much pain and anguish, which has been exacerbated by much unfounded speculation.
"Allegations of improper conduct concerning Rabbi Furman were recently, and
for the first time, brought to the attention of the office of the chief rabbi.
"The matter received swift and urgent attention, and after due hearing, and
in consultation with senior members of the ... Rabbinate, including his
employers, he was requested to immediately resign from his congregational
position, which he did.
"It was also agreed that he will not hold any further position in the South
A source close to the chief rabbi said Furman's behaviour was "not
criminal" and the Rabbinate's comments were constrained by the Jewish prohibition
on gossip, loshan hara. Literally translated, it means "evil tongue" .
But outraged members of the Jewish community, speaking on condition of anonymity,
have accused the Rabbinate of "sweeping the matter under the carpet" and
failing to be "transparent" about it.
They say Furman had a reputation as a "serial philanderer" who was caught
out when he mistakenly sent an incriminating SMS to the wrong person.
Furman was apparently then confronted and assaulted by a cuckolded husband.
Furman, who served as a chaplain in the then South African Defence Force,
has held rabbinical positions in large Jewish congregations in Pretoria and
Fourteen years ago, in Johannesburg, he established a "very successful" branch
of Ohr Somayach, an influential teaching academy and international outreach
organisation with campuses in Israel, the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.
Furman lectured extensively in all five countries and was a frequent guest
on radio and television.
Tapes of his lectures are still on sale on the Ohr Somayach website.
A brief biography published on a website during one of his speaking tours
in Melbourne, Australia, states that Furman's "profound insights into how
Jewish law and thoughts affect our day-to-day lives, as well as his warmth
and sense of humour, means that he is a popular lecturer and scholar in
Rabbi Larry Shain of Ohr Somayach declined to comment on the scandal this
week, referring all queries to the chief rabbi, as did the Jewish Board of
Attempts to obtain comment from Furman proved fruitless.
TELL US: Is the chief rabbi being sufficiently transparent about the case
or should he make public the allegations against Furman?
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