Face-Covering Mother of Twelve Convicted of Child Abuse

The trial of Bruria Keren, the face-covering mother of 12 who started a movement encouraging hyper-tzniut (extreme modesty), has been convicted of abusing six of her twelve children.

Keren attracted the attention of the press in December 2007 because she covered her face, wore multiple layers of clothes, refused to speak while men were present, and persuaded other women to do likewise. Shortly after this “movement” became known in the press, she was arrested for severe child abuse.

Here you can find photographs and links to more posts on the subject.

According to Ynet, Keren’s lawyer brought expert witnesses who recommended psychiatric care for his client, “whose voice I never heard, and whose face I never saw.”  But the psychiatrist appointed by the court determined that the behavior stemmed from religious belief, not psychosis.

The judge, while placing the blame firmly on the parents, criticized the extended family and community, who for 25 years stood by while the children suffered and “the walls around them grew higher.”

Defense attorney Gil Dechoach criticized the decision.  (I don’t know what happened to the female lawyer who represented her originally.) He claimed that because his client refused to speak to him, she could not get a fair defense. “This is a woman who was enclosed in darkness, did not leave her house for ten years, who was absorbed in ceremonies and murmurings. She should be treated by a doctor and not imprisoned with convicts.”
Rafi’s take on it can be found here.


  1. This is one of those cases that points out a basic flaw with legal systems around the world; Courts are forced to choose between psychiatric care and punishing the perpetrator. This woman needs a fair dose of both punishment and psychiatric care.

  2. I read about this in the Israeli news and it seemed very sad to me. The system really failed this family and it is a tragedy for 12 children.
    MIL – do you have a take on why haredim are rallying support around teh mother who started her children? I cannot possibly understand what they are thinking. I drive thru a haredi neighborhood on the way to work and it is just disgusting. Piles of burning garbage everywhere.
    There are two questions: why do they support this women and why do they do so with violence.

  3. “He claimed that because his client refused to speak to him, she could not get a fair defense” – this just shows how much help she does need. I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life.

  4. Ariela,

    The mother who starved her kid is a member of the insular Niturei Karta community that rejects Israel as a state. The rioters are members of the same community and they are protesting the intrusion of the “zionist entity” into their internal affairs. Most hareidim don’t fell very comfortable with the going ons.

  5. rickismom says

    A woman who makes a child that comes home late sleep outside obviously needs help.And if she did what she is accussed of, certainly she needs both punishment and help.

    This has nothing to do with the chareidi community. A person with mental problems like this is likely to become “religious” if that will serve their purposes.

    I would like to add that those who cover the brides face completely (as two of my DIL brides did), and the vast majority of those who wear shawls are very normal, tnius women, who manage just fine.Not necessarily “closed-minded” or judgemental in nature…..

  6. Perhaps we could, for just a moment, focus on the fact that this woman committed not one crime, but many crimes against her children? That a court of law has found her guilty? And where, in all of this discussion–and yes, the discussion over the two years this has been around–is the compassion for those children? Where in all the handwringing about whether Keren will get the right psychiatric care or even if she needs it is there equal angst about what she has done to her children and the affects that will follow them throughout their lives? Her community is upset about the verdict? Where in blazes were they for the ten years she was ruining her childrens’ lives? She wasn’t exactly hidden in a cave somewhere. People all over knew about her.

    Frankly, she got what was coming to her. Is she nuts now? Does she need psychiatric help/religious re-programming? Whatever. Let the prison system deal with her. Now tell me, who is actively dealing with the harm she has caused to her children? Who is expending breath on seeing to it that they receive the help they need?

  7. Leah – that is interesting. However, I have not heard any Haredi Rabbis critisize the riots. And – a haredi member of our government has taken the abusive mother into his home, and has critisized the hospital. Perhaps the Haredi community does nto feel comfortable with the riots, but they are supporting them and the child abuse either in their silence or directly.

  8. I didn’t read all the posting in response to this verdict, but did anyone see/mention that the husband was ALSO charged and held responsible.

    To me, this is a vivid and horrific statement on the prolonged insularity of an overly restrictive liefstyle. Deveikut to Hashem does not need insularity, and it does not need repressive restrictions. On the contrary, I think “these days” [exposure of the abuse of women and children in their many forms] are telling us to be more inclusive, more sharing, more chessed, more understanding, more tolerance, and more helping hands.

    We should not wait for Hashem to intervene because of the disintegration in our society, we all need to extend ourselves, by just reaching out in whatever situation we find our selves in, whether shopping, waiting for a bus, in the doctor’s office, in a govt. office. et al.

  9. Very sad story altogether. However I wonder whether the over emphasis on what is proper or not for a woman to do, at the expense of common sense, does not lead to such excess.

  10. mominisrael says

    That is a good point, Trilcat.
    Regarding the other woman in the news: It’s true that she is not just haredi, she is from the Edah Haredit community (I’ve written about them here: https://www.amotherinisrael.com/2009/05/22/pashkvilim-anti-establishment-posters-in-jerusalem-part-i/ and https://www.amotherinisrael.com/2009/06/04/exclusive-interview-with-a-former-kannai-part-i/. However I have read several articles by haredim defending the riots–Dudi Zilbershlag said he would not to condemn them.
    RickisMom: Absolutely. While I can’t say that her extreme dress and abusive behavior aren’t connected, obviously few people who dress strangely are abusive.
    ProfK, that is a good question. I am pretty sure that they are with family members, and Rafi at Life in Israel posted about a charedi fundraising effort for the family (but no names were mentioned!).
    Neshama, I agree. When your face is covered you can’t see when your neighbors need help.
    I-D, I agree, but this woman must have had many problems from the start.

  11. glowing_flower says

    Kudos on what Prof K said. Her children are still hopefully reachable with the right kind of care and concern. Abused children can have happy, productive lives, and some do it without receiving therapy, but their odds are better with the right kind of help and support.

    I also think that her mode of dress and other issues are beside the point. People of every shape, size, color, wardrobe, socioeconomic status etc. abuse their children. Let her get the help she needs and whatever punishments the courts deem necessary, but KEEP THE FOCUS ON THE CHILDREN.