A rabbi is being called out for being a fraud, NewJersey.com reported Monday. According to the report, self-proclaimed "good Jewish boy from New Jersey," Rabbi Michael Elkohen, is actually Micael Elk.
In a story that has captivated Israelis in recent days, Elk was actually a Christian missionary sent to Israel as part of an effort to convert Jews, claimed two anti-missionary groups. He lived "undercover" for 15 years.
"In the ultra-Orthodox enclave in Jerusalem where Elkohen now lives, he was often called on to perform marriages, circumcisions and other sacred Jewish rituals," said the report. "He was even hired to write Torah scrolls, handwritten copies of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, in a task typically reserved for the most devout and highly trained scribes.
Elk "was a clearinghouse for missionary activity," said Rabbi Tovia Singer, the director of Outreach Judaism. The group is counter-missionary, meaning they try to recruit Jews. "He was able to guide missionaries on where to go in Israel. The idea of these messianic groups is to blur distinctions in order to lure Jews who would otherwise resist the Christian message."
Elk is calling the report "a lie," saying "I was born Jewish," worked as a missionary seven or eight years ago but has since "repented."
"The case came to a head in recent days after the ultra-Orthodox news site Behadrei Haredim reported that Elk's 13-year-old daughter had told a schoolmate that Jesus 'accepts everyone, even if they are wrong,'" said the report. Israel has regulations about attempts to convert minors without parental consent.
A 2006 obituary of Elk's father lists him as a member of the Friendship Mennonite Church in Carneys Point. His mother is still living but isn't responding to questions.
According to a 2012 online interview, Elk was raised in a "secular" Jewish home but "fell in love" with Orthodox Judaism in college at Temple University. According to the University, however, Elk never attended classes there. There is a record of a Michael Elk graduating from a nearby Christian school, Eastern University.