Content warning: This article contains descriptive content that is sexual in nature. Reader discretion is advised.
Rabbi Stephen Weiss, the former senior rabbi at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, was suspended by the Rabbinical Assembly April 25, the harshest possible penalty short of expulsion, sources familiar with RA policies told the Cleveland Jewish News April 26.
As a result, Weiss is prohibited from working or seeking employment in any capacity as a rabbi, the sources told the CJN. The RA is the international association of Conservative rabbis.
According to the RA website, “Stephen Weiss has been suspended under Section V(2A) Sexual Misconduct pending the conclusion of a police investigation and the disposition of any potential charges. He is currently ineligible for placement, unable to serve in RA leadership positions or participate in conventions or conferences.”
The major difference between suspension and expulsion is that expulsion is permanent. Expulsion cannot take place until the legal charges are addressed. If convicted, Weiss would be expelled from the RA, the sources told the CJN.
Weiss, 60, who had been a rabbi at B’nai Jeshurun since 2001, was arrested April 18 and charged with one count of attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, one count of importuning and one count of possessing criminal tools, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. Those counts together carry a maximum of 3½ years in prison, Lexi Giering, communications specialist for the prosecutor’s office, told the CJN. She said the prosecutor’s office will “present to the grand jury” these charges and if the grand jury indicts Weiss, then the case will go to arraignment. The timing of the next steps is not yet clear, she said.
Weiss was arrested after allegedly engaging in explicit online conversations with an undercover investigator posing as a 15-year-old boy. According to the criminal complaint, Weiss, traveled to a prearranged location in Newburgh Heights to allegedly engage in sexual activity with the purported child, after communicating on a social networking app. He was arrested on scene by law enforcement officers with the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. According to the prosecutor’s office, the vehicle he was driving was searched and law enforcement officers found a box of condoms, two bottles of lubricant and one bottle of erectile dysfunction medication containing one pill.
Court records show Weiss posted a $50,000 bond April 19. According to the court docket, as a condition of his jail release, he is required to wear a GPS standard monitoring device.
B’nai Jeshurun suspended Weiss April 19 and has been providing congregants with mental health counselors, including confidential counseling in-person and via Zoom through Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland in Pepper Pike and Bellefaire JCB in University Heights.
Weiss resigned his position April 21, his attorney, Michael Goldberg of The Goldberg Law Firm in Cleveland, told the CJN in a statement.
“Rabbi Weiss has submitted his resignation,” Goldberg’s statement read. “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. He will now turn his attention to his legal situation. We look forward to receiving the evidence and moving forward appropriately.”
The congregation has engaged the law firm of Flannery | Georgalis in Cleveland to assist with review of Weiss’ conduct, B’nai Jeshurun said in an email to congregants April 27.
They encouraged any Congregation member “with information regarding this matter or other instances of alleged improper conduct by Rabbi Weiss” to directly contact Flannery | Georgalis attorneys Justin Withrow at 216-302-7573 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Paul Flannery at 216-367-2094 or email@example.com.
This is a developing story.