Orthodox Rabbi Defends Jewish Psychiatrist Convicted in Sex Assaults

Letter Launches Controversy Among Jews in Calgary

Sex Assault Shrink: Dr. Aubrey Levin, right, shown here walking to court in the Canadian city of Calgary, was convicted of sexually assualting patients. A rabbi defended him.
Sex Assault Shrink: Dr. Aubrey Levin, right, shown here walking to court in the Canadian city of Calgary, was convicted of sexually assualting patients. A rabbi defended him.

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Published February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Fissures are appearing in Calgary’s Jewish community following the conviction of one of its members, a prominent forensic psychiatrist, for sexually assaulting patients. Dr. Aubrey Levin was sentenced on January 31 to five years in prison for abusing people involved with the province of Alberta’s criminal justice system who were sent to him for assessment and treatment.

Tensions began to rise among the western Canadian city’s approximately 7,500 Jews when Levin’s defense attorney announced to the court during a sentencing hearing that his client’s sexual assaults were only “minor” offenses, and then proceeded to read aloud a letter from Levin’s rabbi, Rabbi Yisroel Miller of House of Jacob Mikveh Israel, Calgary’s Orthodox synagogue.

The rabbi wrote that the psychiatrist is still loved and respected in the Jewish community and that “his humble manner and complete lack of arrogance endeared him to everyone.” The rabbi also pleaded for leniency for Levin, writing, “The bad does not erase all the good. I know all the goodness within him still remains. A prison term would be a death sentence for him.”

Nine counts had been originally brought against Levin, a 74-year-old immigrant from South Africa. A jury found him guilty of three, acquitted him of two, and was deadlocked on the remaining four, for which the judge in the case declared a mistrial.

“Dr. Levin, your actions in sexually assaulting…constitute horrible violations of the trust that these the patients put in you as their psychiatrist,” said Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donna Shelley at the sentencing.

“As a psychiatrist, you knew their vulnerabilities. They have confided in you things they likely had not confided to anyone else. They were entitled to feel safe and supported during their appointments with you. Instead, you exploited them in a predatory and repetitious manner.” The offender’s wife, Erica Levin, was not in court. She is under house arrest following an alleged attempt by her to bribe one of the jurors.

Andrea Silverstone, the Shalom Bayit (domestic violence) coordinator for the Jewish Family Service in Calgary, told the Forward that Levin’s connection to the Jewish community generally flew below the radar until Miller’s letter was read aloud in court.

Then, on February 2, the Calgary Herald published a letter from a Jewish woman named Maggie Serpa. “This letter and this rabbi do not represent the Calgary Jewish community,” she wrote of the letter read in court. “I am a Jew in Calgary, where there are several synagogues. This rabbi does not represent my opinion and that of many others in this sad case. Levin has a right to pray and get spiritual support, as anyone else does, but he does not have the right to use the Jewish community to bolster his defense.”

Three days later, the paper ran a letter from Adam Singer, president of the Calgary Jewish Federation, who also was quick to distance the community from Rabbi Miller’s remarks. “Everyone is entitled to express their own opinions, but in making these comments, Miller was not speaking on behalf of the Jewish community of Calgary,” he wrote. “Calgary Jewish Federation, the representative body of Calgary’s Jewish community, condemns sexual abuse, domestic violence and violations of human dignity. The victims of such crimes deserve to see justice done, and those found guilty in a court of law must face the consequences of their actions.”

Silverstone, who is also executive director of Support Services For Abused Women,” a Calgary non-profit organization, pointed out how vulnerable Levin’s victims were. “These were people who were mandated by the court or strongly advised by their lawyers to see him,” she said. “This is really shocking for the community,” Silverstone noted not only about Levin’s crimes, but also about Rabbi Miller’s letter. “I couldn’t believe a rabbi from Calgary would do that.” Rabbi Miller has not issued any more statements, and so far, there has been no public response from House of Jacob Mikveh Israel’s board.

“I want to reach out to Rabbi Miller. I am very eager to talk to him so that I can understand the decision he made, and to make him understand the damage his statement has done,” Silverstone said. “Not condemning the actions of the perpetrator makes the suffering of his victims worse.”

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.