Bruria Keren, the mother of 12 who encouraged followers to cut the heels off their shoes, cover themselves from head to toe and refrain from speaking for set periods of time (taanit dibur), will be released from jail on Sunday. She served a four-year sentence for abusing her children, including one who is disabled.
The Israeli press refers to her as Mother Taliban.
According to this (Hebrew) report in Kikar Shabbat, Keren’s grown daughter gave an interview to army radio station Galei Tzahal. The daughter has forgiven her mother, saying “Some of the children suffered more, some less, and each one sees it from his point of view. As a mother I can now see that most of it was not from bad will or abuse, but a lack of mental health.”
Although Keren was surely not the main impetus behind the small but growing movement for Orthodox Jewish women to cover their faces, it’s sad that she inspired others to follow her lead. Apparently she was quite charismatic. The daughter said, “[My mother] decided that this is the path of tzniut. I don’t believe one is required to dress that way. We have rabbis and halacha. She decided that she needs to act in this way.”
Keren ate poorly in jail and was hospitalized for malnutrition. Kikar Shabbat refers to a Maariv report, which I couldn’t find, saying this was because of kashrut requirements. However, Keren also had extreme views about nutrition and a friend of mine once took her daughter to Keren for a nutrition consultation. She observed a speech fast while in jail, although in the interview linked to below she said a few words out loud.
The daughter in question refused to be interrogated regarding the case, saying that for her, it was past history and not a public matter.
A comment on the Kikar Shabbat website asks why she went to jail instead of getting treatment. Does anyone know?