Conservative movement says charges against Cleveland rabbi arrested for soliciting underage sex are ‘horrible and disgusting’

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(JTA) — Two groups associated with Conservative Judaism called the allegations against a Cleveland-area rabbi arrested for soliciting underaged sex “horrible and disgusting,” as the rabbi resigned from his synagogue.

“These deeply disturbing accusations betray the sacred trust our communities put in their clergy and must be fully and immediately investigated and dealt with appropriately,” the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly said in a joint statement Wednesday, as reported by the Cleveland Jewish News.

Cleveland-area Rabbi Stephen Weiss

The statement was issued two days after Rabbi Stephen Weiss was arrested and charged with attempting to solicit unlawful sexual contact with a minor online. Prosecutors said that he had actually been in communication with an undercover investigator posing as a 15-year-old boy. He was arrested Monday by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force after traveling to a pre-arranged location to meet with someone he thought was the boy.

The groups praised the B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, the Conservative synagogue in Pepper Pike, Ohio, where Weiss had served as senior rabbi since 2001, for immediately suspending Weiss this week following his arrest. It added that the Rabbinical Assembly had begun its own process of adjudicating Weiss’ case through its ethics committee, Va’ad Hakavod. Weiss was ordained by the Conservative-affiliated Jewish Theological Seminary.

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Weiss resigned from his congregation Thursday, shortly after being suspended, his lawyer, Michael Goldberg, told the CJN. “Regardless of the evidence or whether Rabbi Weiss is guilty of anything, his remaining in his position would cause further disruption and pain to his community,” Goldberg said.

Weiss was previously rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta and Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Michigan. He served on many Cleveland-area and national Jewish boards, including Camp Ramah and the Greater Cleveland Board of Rabbis.

The county prosecutor’s office will present Weiss’s case before a grand jury; he has been released after posting bond. He faces a maximum of 3.5 years in prison.


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