UK: ‘Rabbi’ with 7 wives becomes celebrity
British man claiming to be a rabbi married to seven different women at the same time, became a somewhat minor celebrity in the UK last week after his story was reported by several national newspapers and a TV documentary
LONDON - In a self-styled reincarnation of a biblical king, Philip Sharp lives in Brighton, on the southern coast of Britain, with his seven wives and five children. Though not legally married they live according to the belief they are bound in the eyes of God to “love and eternally serve him in every way”. In return, his job is to bring them close to God “in the covenant of the family”.
Judith, wife number one, said, “We have a rota for washing up and cooking but not for sex. Each wife has her time.”
Vision from God
Sharp, a self-styled messianic rabbi, maintains that seven years ago he had a vision from God that he was the reincarnation of an Old Testament king and indelible.
“God would give me revelations and would talk to me about my role in the restoration of the true nation of Israel as a prophet,” he said.
His 17-year marriage subsequently broke down and he took his children out of school to teach them himself. His ex-wife took him to court where a judge instructed him to send them back. He refused and was imprisoned for contempt.
His ex-wife then tried to have him committed as violently insane and accused him of pedophilia, his TV and radio ministries were axed and the congregation he had founded dwindled. This made him more determined and he maintained that those who remained became more and more committed.
He said, “I knew that intimacy was required of us and I preached that the men should be my sons, the women wives.” All the men left except for one, “But he set himself up as my equal so he had to go.”
Only one of Sharp’s seven “wives” was born Jewish, the others, who range in ages from 27 to 62, all converted.
In 2000, the Charity Commission investigated an alleged misuse of funds of his "Shema Yisrael Charitable Trust." They found irregularities involving the sale of the messianic synagogue in Hove, Sussex and that Sharp used charity money to pay for a lavish life that included holidays and cars.
In 2004 the commission froze the charity trust’s bank account but Sharp was allowed to continue his business after additional trustees were appointed to oversee the work of the charity.
Tom Sackville, chairman of Fair, a cult watch charity that investigated Sharp’s group, said, “Our investigation found that the charity was a money making scam based on a bogus religious faith.”
“Like all cult leaders, he was taking advantage to exploit people’s naivety and vulnerability to take their money and have sex with women. His activities should not be supported by charity. The real tragedy is that the Charity Commission did not take any action to stop him,” he added.
In a statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed its concern over the newspaper articles.
It read, “As far as The Board is aware Philip Sharp has no recognized rabbinical training or ordination, and therefore no right to be called rabbi. His lifestyle, with multiple female partners, is inconsistent with contemporary Jewish custom and practice.”
“The British Jewish Community does not regard messianic groups, such as Jews for Jesus, and Sharp’s Shema Israel congregation as Jewish. They play no part in organized Jewish life in this country.”
“Readers of the various articles should not mistakenly believe that the practices and lifestyle described are part of the Jewish religion.”
Sharp and the program’s producers have declined to comment.
Judith, 47, was the synagogue secretary, the only “wife” born Jewish.
Tracey, 38, has two teenage sons from her first marriage and a daughter with Sharp.
Chava, 62, widowed, a devout Christian who converted to Judaism and was a virgin when she “married” Sharp. Shares a bedroom with Maureen, also 62, the household matriarch and mother of youngest wife.
Margo, 36, a New Zealander who worshipped at the synagogue and then became nanny to Philip’s children from his first marriage. Has two daughters and one son with him.
Vreni, 36, came from unhappy family circumstances in Switzerland.
Hannah, 49, met Sharp when he preached in her synagogue in Austria and followed him back to the UK.
Karyn, 27, recruited at 24 by her mother, who told her, “Philip thinks you might make a good wife for him.”
Reprinted with permission from European Jewish Press