Illustrious Rabbi from Brazil Apologizes for Stealing Expensive Ties in the US

Rabbi Henry Sobel from Brazil Henry Sobel, 63, the renowned rabbi and president of the São Paulo Israelite Congregation, who was arrested, March 23, in Palm Beach, Florida, charged with stealing four big-brand-name ties, left the room in the hospital he has been admitted to in São Paulo to briefly meet reporters and apologize for his act.

Sobel has been hospitalized at the Albert Einstein Israelite hospital, a world-class institution, in the south side of São Paulo, since early Friday, March 30, the day after the Brazilian media reported on his shoplifting activities in the United States.

He was admitted to the hospital, according to the doctors, due to "an episode of mood disorder, represented by a lack of emotional control and altered behavior."

The health facility also informed that the rabbi had been taking large quantities of drugs to treat severe insomnia that "cause potential states of mental confusion and amnesia."

In his statement to the press Sobel said that the person who stole the ties in the United States "is not the Henry Sobel that you know." He also apologized for the distress he caused everyone and said that it was very difficult to explain the inexplicable.

The rabbi, who was born in Portugal, but moved as a kid to New York city, where he became an American citizen, was the head of the Congregação Israelita Paulista for the last 35 years. He temporarily resigned his post last Thursday, a few hours after his shoplifting activities were made public in Brazil.

Despite his enemies and detractors among the conservative Jews, Henry Sobel has become a celebrated character in Brazil for his fight against the military dictatorship's human rights abuses, between 1964 and 1985. He has also helped to establish friendship ties among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

In his brief press encounter at the hospital, the rabbi didn't go into the details of his Florida actions. He arrived at the Albert Einstein's press room a little before 5 pm and seemed very calm while greeting everyone who was waiting for him. It was his first public appearance since the news of his shoplifting was publicized in Brazil.

"I don't know where to start," he began. "I am taking relatively strong medications. Regarding what happened, it is very hard for me to explain the inexplicable. I do not have scientific and psychological knowledge to understand, explain and, much less, justify what occurred, but one thing I know: the Henry Sobel who committed that act is not the Henry Sobel you know."

"I want to close with an apology, and I also want to make a commitment. I want to apologize for the  distress that I caused, especially for having taken medication without a medical prescription. I want to apologize for the distress that I caused everybody, and I want to make a solemn commitment: I intend to keep on defending all the moral and ethical values that I have always stood up for, as a Jew, a man and a rabbi."

He ended the short statement with a "nothing else," refusing to take questions from the reporters and going back to his room in the hospital's 7th floor.

The hospital is not saying when he is leaving the place. A bulletin released after his public appearance states that the religious leader will continue at the Albert Einstein being treated with drugs that should stabilize his psychic condition.

Flávio Huck, the neurologist who is taking care of Sobel, said that the rabbi is suffering from mood disorder. "These are situations," he stated, "in which the individual can have periods of sadness and periods of excitement or both things together."

According to the Palm Beach police, Sobel was arrested after a surveillance camera showed him stealing a tie from a Louis Vuitton store in that city. The police found four ties, all of them luxurious brand name articles in his car.

All of them, it was determined later, had been stolen from three different stores. Besides the Louis Vuitton he also grabbed a Giorgio's, a Gucci and a Giorgio Armani. Each tie costs about US$ 150.

Sobel spent the night in jail in Palm Beach, and only was free after seeing a judge, paying US$ 680 for the ties and posting US$ 3,000 in bail. He is expected back in the Florida court on April 23.

The rabbi receives a monthly salary of 25,000 reais (US$ 12,200).



  • Show Comments (14)

  • aes

    Rabbi Jeckyl and Mr.Hyde
    Taking medication without a perscription, hmm.

    Rabbi Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. ‘It was the illegal narcotics that made me do it’. What? Why does a rabbi use illegal narcotics? Dimentia? Character Disorder? Addict. Fear of psychiatrists, of ‘looking bad’. Like a Greek Tragedy, ‘the fall from grace’.

    The tie stealing, ‘klepto’, addict who spent thirty five years doing, I assume, some good. What now? Imagine the leaders of the congregation and their angst. Takes a truly wise rabbi to weigh this one. Seems like a problem for Soleman. Quelle domage.

  • joe blow

    bill cleveland- you are a real ignorant!

  • Thinker

    Hey, letÀ‚´s stick to FACTS, please. This guy stole some ties. Ergo, he IS a shoplifter, and should GO TO JAIL. Period.
    Claiming it was a mental disorder, hell, a mental disorder directed at high-end stores and goods? Why didnÀ‚´t he steal popcorn, or something cheap? No sir, doc says my mental disorder is expensive….how convenient, ainÀ‚´t it?
    DonÀ‚´t give a shit heÀ‚´s a rabbi, or jew, or what else, but, what a disgraceful religious leader anyway…shame on him.

  • Bill Cleveland

    Boy, I had no idea what a bunch of anti-semitic bastards there were out there. As a American in Sao Paulo I have to say the nasty comments make me embarassed to be an America (and I bet those of you positing such nasty comments are Americas). Hey, he committed a crime and he claims he it was due to his medication. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but what’s with all the `Holo-hoax’ and how much money he makes crap? I bet the same people would write the same nasty rubbish if he was black, or Asian or Arab. But I bet if he was a white Republican you’d have plenty of excuses. Pick up your sheets and get back to the Klan rally, you morons.

  • skeptic jew

    How to interpret the word ‘robbery.
    like all anti-semites, you are so ignorant that you can’t even quote your sources right.

    i am sure that you cannot, given an original copy of both sets of the talmud – jerusalem and babylonian- place in which book this is.

    for starters, there is no ‘qbda zara’ – it is ‘avoda zara’ according to all transliterations and pronounciations.

    next, the quote is not there (i just reviewed the entire chapter to be sure). it is a fabrication. the babylonian talmud, in most of today’s editions, is a vast 20-book set that takes years to be reviewed in a superficial manner and a lifetime in depth. it is easy to invent quotes and place them somewhere, since even most jews aren’t knowledgeable of it – and those who are are likely not to remember it all. but a lie is a lie, and you have been caught red-handed.

    so just keep showing the world what ignorant and boldfaced liars you racists are!

    for the record, as an orthodox jew with rabbinical ordination, i was in utter disbelief, shock, and anger over this incident. this man has broken the law, desecrated the name of G-d, tainted the post of rabbinate, and given all anti-semites a full-course meal! to blame on medication places him on the same level as britney spears.

    if he is a real rabbi, he should know that part of repentance is to declare aloud that one has made a mistake (the others are to stay away from the mistake and to make a firm resolution, also aloud, to never do it again). he didn’t. he is a fake, a phony, and a fraud.

    one last point: he was never the president of the congregation, but rather the president of the rabbinate of the congregation (which means he tells the other rabbis what to do and say). he does not speak for the jewish community of sao paulo or brazil, he only speaks for his own synagogue – and even there, only on religious matters.

  • Maks

    I guess the film: The Believer is true then?
    People really do hate Jews? May I ask why?

  • Rebbe Shlomo

    How to interpret the word ‘robbery.
    “How to interpret the word ‘robbery.’ A non-Jew is forbidden to steal, rob, or take women slaves, etc., from a non-Jew or from a Jew. But a Jew is NOT forbidden to do all this to a non-Jew.”
    -Tosefta, Qbda Zara, 5

  • danny bee

    it is interesting to see on the blogopshere now, from white supremacisgt bloggers, with names like WHITES ONLY etc, using this news story to utter the most foul and obnixous antisemitic rants, about the Holocaust, and Jews in general. There is a sickness in America that needs to be cured, and it is not mood disorders, it is antisemitism on a very large scale along white Christian supremacists. so sad to see this;


    After news about Brazil Rabbi Henry Sobel theft of some expensive ties
    from a store in Florida, and his subsequent apology and
    hospitalization and resignation, many white supremacist blogs in the
    USA slammed Jews in general, using this news story for their sick and
    rabid antisemitism.


    “Keep in mind that the Jewish Talmud establishes a moral
    double standard – Jews are permitted to lie, cheat and
    steal from non-Jews, but not from fellow Jews. Several
    rabbis have been busted for drug trafficking and money
    laundering but you won’t hear much about it in the Jew
    controlled media..”

    Another gentleman wrote “I bet this jew gets $2K or more per month in
    holohoax checks. LMAO,
    stealing ties.”

    And another wrote: “Yeah, where’s the obligatory “he survived the
    Holocaust by hiding in
    cellars” mumbo jumbo? He better have it ready when he goes before the

  • João da Silva

    [quote]A common illness those days in Brazil !!!!!!
    Even an endemic….epidemy !!!!!!! [/quote].

    Hi Ch.c, may be you Swiss being neutrals,should consider giving Sobel a political asylum.I hear that you guys have excellent hospitals there and I am sure you will be able to take care of his health,both mental and physical. Consider this option.

  • ch.c.

    mood disorder !!!!!!
    A common illness those days in Brazil !!!!!!
    Even an endemic….epidemy !!!!!!!

  • Maks

    Too Rich…
    Almost 500 Dollars a day … that just doesn’t seem right …

  • danny bee

    He might have been under the control of strong drugs, yes.
    You know, when i first read this news story about this theft by the rabbi, i thought OUCH. Klepto. But then upon reading his explanation about “this was not the Henry Sobel you know…” i remembered a similar story about a friend of mine in Washington DC who was taking valium for a anxiety disorder, 1985 or so, and he told he went into a art gallery show, and for no reason at all he stole a bottle of champagned and walked out the door with it. He had never stolen anything before in his life, he said. He told me about this and said I have no idea why i did it. Pure impulse, with no rational reason. Maybe this is what hapepned to the rabbi?

  • u.s.guest

    I think he would be happy in Brazil.. And of course , Palm Beach would be delighted if he would LEAVE THE U.S….

  • Roberrrrrt

    Two for the price of one!!!
    Deport him back to the States where he belongs…and include BO-SHITTER in the same package!!!

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