The Tacoma rabbi accused of sending repeated inappropriate messages to two women, and sexually explicit texts to one of them, will resign his position Sunday.
“I write to notify you that I am resigning my position as Rabbi of Chabad of Pierce County effective Sunday, August 11, 2019,” Rabbi Zalman Heber said in a statement provided to The (Tacoma) News Tribune by his attorney Friday evening. It was not clear if he was also stepping down as director of the organization.
“Serving the community in Tacoma and Pierce County has been a privilege and an honor,” the statement continued. “I am grateful to our community for giving me the chance to serve, and I am proud of the work I have done on their behalf over the course of the last 16 years. I wish the community well going forward.”
The Seattle Times and The News Tribune late last month detailed the allegations against Heber by the wife of a soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
In 2018, according to the coverage, after Heber had been sending Traci Moran sexually explicit text and voice messages for almost a month, she went to Army Chaplain Capt. Michael Harari at JBLM for guidance.
Harari, her husband’s unit chaplain, and Heber were part of the same Hasidic organization, Chabad, that runs synagogues and cultural centers around the world.
An Army investigation obtained by The Seattle Times found that Harari violated Moran’s confidence by sharing her allegations with Heber. Then, Heber and Harari worked to “harass and attempt to intimidate and ostracize the Morans from the civilian communities surrounding JBLM [Joint Base Lewis-McChord],” according to the investigation.
Heber confirmed sending Moran sexually explicit messages last summer. But, he said, the messages did not constitute sexual harassment.
A story posted Friday by The News Tribune, told of a pattern of harassing a Chabad member. Kim Shomer, a Tacoma attorney, told The News Tribune that Heber sent her messages over a year and that the harassment culminated in the rabbi requesting a hug, a violation of the tenets of her faith, she said.
An initial statement to The News Tribune said Heber was resigning as rabbi and Chabad director. A revised statement removed the reference to director.
“That will be determined,” Heber’s attorney, Barry Wallis, said regarding the director position.
Information from The Seattle Times was included in this report.