A former Atlanta rabbi has left his pulpit at a suburban Cleveland synagogue following his arrest for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor.
Rabbi Stephen Weiss, who served as an assistant rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue from July 1990 to June 1997, had been the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, in Pepper Pike, Ohio, since 2001.
Weiss, 60, was arrested April 18 by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children task force. He allegedly communicated on a social networking app with an undercover investigator posing as a 15-year-old boy and then traveled to a location in Newburgh Heights, Ohio, to meet what he thought was a teenager. Weiss was charged with one count of attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, one count of importuning and one count of possessing criminal tools.
The Cleveland Jewish News reported: “According to the prosecutor’s office, the vehicle he was driving was searched and law enforcement officers found a box of condoms and two bottles of lubricant.”
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said that Weiss’s case will be presented to a grand jury. He was released April 19 after posting $50,000 bond and was required to wear a GPS location monitoring device. If convicted, the maximum sentence would be 3.5 years in prison.
B’nai Jeshurun suspended Weiss immediately following his arrest. His lawyer told CJN that his client resigned shortly thereafter. “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,” attorney Michael Goldberg said.
Several people connected to Weiss during his time at Ahavath Achim declined to comment for this article.
“I was on the AA board and he was an admired rabbi. There were no concerns about him personally that I was aware of,” said Sherry Frank, who was an Ahavath Achim board member during his tenure. “This is a sad story.”
In a statement to the AJT, Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal, the current senior rabbi at Ahavath Achim, said: “We are extremely upset and disappointed by this news and are processing many emotions. I have opened my door to congregants who have sought an opportunity to share their feelings of disappointment and hurt. Up to this point, everyone has expressed dismay over the situation and feelings of betrayal of a meaningful relationship they had in the 1990s when Rabbi Weiss was at Ahavath Achim. To date, nobody has shared any experience which would engage the authorities or other victim advocacy or care groups. We will, of course, be here to help anyone in processing their emotions and in dealing with their pain during this very difficult time.”
B’nai Jeshurun president Rebekah Dorman told CJN in an April 27 statement: “During this very challenging time, with (acting senior) Rabbi (Hal) Rudin-Luria’s spiritual leadership, we have begun the healing process. We are caring for and supporting each other as we travel this path together. The outpouring of support that I, along with other synagogue leaders, have received from our members is truly heartwarming and demonstrates the strength and commitment of our synagogue community that will see us through to a brighter future.”
An April 19 letter to B’nai Jeshurun members from Dorman and Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria, who has assumed the responsibilities of senior rabbi, included: “We are unaware of any other alleged criminal incidents involving Rabbi Weiss. … Our synagogue has been strong and vibrant for 156 years and faced many challenges along the way. We will continue on in that tradition as a synagogue family that supports and cares for each other in challenging times.”
Weiss graduated in 1985 from the University of California at Los Angeles and that year also received a bachelor’s degree in Jewish and western civilization from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1990. After leaving Ahavath Achim, Weiss worked for four years at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Mich., before joining B’nai Jeshurun.
Weiss was suspended April 25 by the Rabbinical Assembly, the international Conservative/Masorti movement’s rabbinic body.
- Dave Schechter
- Rabbi Stephen Weiss
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- sex crime
- Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
- Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children
- attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor
- Cleveland Jewish News
- Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office
- Sherry Frank
- Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal
- Rebekah Dorman
- American Jewish University
- Jewish Theological Seminary
- Congregation Shaarey Zedek
- Rabbinical Assembly