Interview with “Mother Taliban”

shalim ad-1Channel 2’s “360” program broadcast Yifat Erlich’s prison interview with Bruria Keren. For some reason she called her Rabbanit M.—I don’t know where the M comes from. Her husband isn’t a rabbi, but it is common for female teachers to be known as Rabbanit. Of course the title adds to the drama.

I’ve already reviewed the first broadcast, Erlich’s “undercover” investigation of hyper-modesty.

Below is a rough translation/summary of the program, with a few comments. You can find the video on Rafi’s site.

A prison official said that “Rabbanit M” arrived wearing 27 layers. She doesn’t shower, she spends all her days with holy books, and doesn’t communicate except by writing.

When Erlich asked how she spends her time, Keren replied (in writing) that she says psalms, prays and takes care of her bodily needs. Since she is careful only to eat food she has prepared herself, her body is missing many important elementss. She’s been in jail for 2½ years.

According to prison records, her last visitor was her husband, in December 2009. [This is unbelievable.] The official said she decided to cut herself off from other prisoners and prison staff, and this interview is her first contact with the outside world. The prison official said that while she spoke initially, now she communicates only by writing.

Keren writes that she took a vow not to speak, and this calms her. “I was so good to everyone, but everyone called me the evil-doer of the world. I decided not to speak to anyone. I don’t care what anyone says, I decided to forgive everyone with all my heart.”

Erlich interviewed Keren’s lawyer. [As Rafi said, it’s unclear why she has a male lawyer because she won’t let him see her face.] If he could see her and speak to her, he said, he would be able to present her side better. The court decided that her mental health was compromised, and that she caused irreparable damage to her children. She hurt them not just physically, but shamed and insulted them.

Keren says that she was everyone’s “Kotel.” The children never heard say no, the purpose of her whole life was to make sure her children were happy. She stayed up late working so they could have whatever they needed. “I didn’t stop hugging and kissing them.”

Her husband tells Erlich that he doesn’t know another mother who loved her children more than his wife loved hers. “True,” he says, “This led her to do things that shouldn’t be done.” She did not do anything out of sadism or hate like the media suggested. If she would have dressed like a normal haredi woman this would have been a much smaller issue. The way she dresses makes people crazy.”

Keren tells Erlich that was born on Kibbutz Shluhot [a religious kibbutz] and moved to an unspecified agricultural moshav. She worked with her father in the fields, and loved it. When asked whether she grew up in a religious family she nods her head vigorously. They kept Shabbat, kashrut, and the rest. Her father was a cantor and read the Torah in the synagogue.

The husband said that his wife madee her children healthy breakfasts with soy milk, almond milk etc. “We have twins,” he said, “I think they are numbers 10 and 11. One was born “not well,” and thanks to my wife he reached a reasonable level [of functioning]. The changes in modesty were to save the child.”

Keren says that the heavens guided her in her choice of clothing. She quotes a gemara about the importance of dressing like our foremothers to bring the redemption. She says that kashruth hasn’t changed, hyraxes are still unkosher, so why is it okay that tzniut has changed?

Benizri spoke with the undercover reporter about how strong Keren was, how determined. Benizri says that some women stopped covering after the trial, but after a while they started again.

Researcher Sima Zaltzberg explains that Keren’s followers are in denial about what she did, and they see her as a role model.

Teaching: Keren claims that she didn’t ask to teach, women came to her. She has students in the US, Canada and Israel. If asked to teach again after her release, she won’t refuse. She explains the importance of dressing modestly, like our foremothers.  She admits to hitting her children and the reporter says this is the first time that she has. She says she never meant to hurt them or leave marks. She only did it for education, not out of anger. and apologizes if she did hurt them.

She has served 2/3 of her term and is waiting for a ruling on an early release. She is also writing a book about her journey. She has a special talent for including delicious recipes, that she is inventing for her husband and children when she gets out of jail.

“Hashem kadosh ve-ain od milvado.” These are the only words that she speaks, saying that God is holy and there is no other.

Aside from defending herself, she gave the interview to continue her campaign to encourage her brand of modest dress. If we want to dress like the biblical Sarah and Rebecca, perhaps we should pick flax and weave the clothes ourselves too. Fortunately or not, we don’t have pictures. While it’s true they didn’t wear button-down dress suits, every generation has adopted styles from the surrounding culture with modifications.

Related posts:

The Burka Wedding Pictures

Face Covering Family in Beit Shemesh

The Problem with Putting Veils on Little Girls


  1. Mental illness “masquerading” as religion. Nothing more, nothing less. The problem is: 1. The empty slate followers who are only a little ill and think they are being religious by being VERY ill; 2. The press, who play up the religious angle because it’s sexy. Well…you know what I mean.

  2. I seriously don’t think it’s a question of taking religion too far – which does sometimes happen, I agree; In this case, it seems more likely that the sickness just needed an expression, and religion was the most convenient place to hide – literally. There has ceased to be anything religious about this story and it’s simply craziness, straight up.

  3. The link to Rafi’s website doesn’t work.

    Ehrlich put it very well at the end of the “undercover” segment. The Torah is “sam hachaiym,” but some people just overdose. That’s why there is a mitzva of ba’al tosif.

  4. “While it’s true they didn’t wear button-down dress suits, every generation has adopted styles from the surrounding culture with modifications.”

    And each generation is descending farther from the level of our ancestors, and the original teachings of the Torah. If one thinks the current level of dressing and lifestyles are admirable or even Jewish, one is sadly mistaken and on the wrong path. Some serious reflections are in order.

    There seems to be a preoccupation with this news story.

    • Of course there is! I’m very interested in it, because I want to know how to combat such extremism! I want my kids to grow up knowing what is normal Judaism and what it chumradig Judaism, so they don’t get caught up in this or any other harmful deviation.
      You can’t fight what you don’t understand.

    • Funny how the argument of descending generations works. On one hand certain Rabbis say that while in previous generations we didn’t need to be so strict about modesty(no need for stockings, wigs were Ok ect.) but because we have descended so far, we need to be more stringent.
      On the other hand we hear that in previous generations they were so much more strict than we are today…
      Unfortunately that statement doesn’t hold up to the simple test of reading the sources of a thousand years ago. Women covering their heads wasn’t even universal in the time of the Rishonim it was a stringency taken on by Torah scholars.
      I don’t get this revisionist history that once upon a time we are all so ultra-Chareidi. It is simply intellectually dishonest.

    • Whether or not this is true is irrelevant to the simple truth that Bruria Kerem and her followers do not dress ANYTHING like the imahos, either. So the whole argument is stupid.

  5. Wondering what those who think that the wearing of burqa etc is more authentic think about polygamy and the practice of taking concubines.

  6. The Torah says that the generation at Har Sinai was on the highest level in their relationship with Hashem. This doesn’t mean they wore burqas!

    It is speaking of their sensitivities to spirituality.

    The path of the Rambam is moderation, not too extreme (under a tent and too restrictive) or too lax (the opposite).

    As there are extremes in clothing, there are extremes in attitudes. They are both repressive. The clash between the 6-7th century islamic view and overly permissive western (loss of modesty) view are opposites to avoid. Our world is in a clash of these poles.

    When proper Jewish education is lacking and parental guiding/discipline is also suffering, the generations produce morally, socially, and culturally disadvantaged youth who then become misguided adults.

    No, not everyone, but enough to bring down the generation. Look around you, open your eyes and minds. Do think the world is a better place than it was 50, or 100 years ago. Even though we are closer to the geulah than we think.

    Wishing everyone a delicious and meaningful Shabbos.

  7. “every generation has adopted styles from the surrounding culture with modifications”

    including burkas!

  8. The debate about clothing shouldn’t even be brought up; Bruria Keren is insane and wicked. In my opinion giving this evil woman even a little space to air her religious views is giving her too much, more than she deserves. If she were getting good results, and by that I mean happy, healthy, well-adjusted children, then we could consider her words. But she is a child abuser, a horrific one. Anything she says has zero weight with me.

  9. Nurse Yachne says

    27 layers of clothing and no showers? EE-yew! Let’s start a Bruria Kere Personal Hygiene Group.


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