This article as first published in The Times of Israel.
In the wake of a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked Calgary, leaders of the Canadian city’s Jewish community have moved quickly to distance themselves from a local rabbi’s expression of support for a convicted Jewish psychiatrist with a notorious past.
At issue is a letter from Rabbi Yisroel Miller, the leader of House of Jacob Mikveh Israel, an Orthodox synagogue, which was read aloud during the sentencing hearing for Dr. Aubrey Levin. Levin, who had occupied a prominent position in the University of Calgary‘s psychiatry department, was convicted Jan. 31 of sexually assaulting male patients who had been referred to him for assessment and treatment by the province of Alberta’s criminal justice system.
At the hearing, Levin’s attorney characterized the assaults as “minor” and read aloud a letter submitted by Miller, the psychiatrist’s rabbi at House of Jacob Mikveh Israel. Miller wrote that Levin’s “humble manner and complete lack of arrogance endeared him to everyone,” and pleaded for leniency.
“The bad does not erase all the good,” Miller argued. “I know all the goodness within him still remains. A prison term would be a death sentence for him.”
Justice Donna Shelley was unmoved, sentencing Levin to five years in prison for “horrible violations of the trust that these the patients put in you as their psychiatrist.”
“As a psychiatrist, you knew their vulnerabilities . . . 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 was under house arrest, having beencharged with attempted jury tampering.
Her husband was released on bail Wednesday, pending the outcome of an appeal.
Levin’s membership in Calgary’s approximately 7,500-person Jewish community was not publicly acknowledged until the rabbi’s letter was read, according to Bev Sheckter, executive director of Jewish Family Service Calgary.
“I would have been happy had no one ever known he was Jewish,” she told The Times of Israel.
Calgary’s Jewish community was further shaken by the revelation of Levin’s highly controversial past in his native South Africa, where he lived before immigrating to Canada in 1995.
In South Africa, Levin had served as the chief psychiatrist in the apartheid-era military, receiving the nickname “Dr. Shock” for his use of electroconvulsive aversion therapy to “cure” gay soldiers. The psychiatrist, now 74, also reportedly held conscientious objectors against their will at a military hospital and subjected them to powerful drug treatments.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.