Los Angeles Rabbi Menachem Weiss Charged in 1999 Woodcliff Lake Sexual Assault of Boy

I remember Menachem Weiss (his father was a big rabbi in the San Fernando Valley and Ohio and Miami Beach and has about 15 kids) as a rabbi at Nessah synagogue in Beverly Hills. He seemed a jolly and hands-on rabbi. He was not afraid to get his hands dirty with would-be converts to Judaism. He’d roll up his sleeves and get to work with the most vulnerable. At Succot parties, I’d notice him getting hands on guys (in particular this black guy) who were trying to convert to Judaism and he’d have them sit on his lap and his hands would roam all over them, particularly when everyone was intoxicated. It made me supremely uncomfortable, I didn’t like him trying to hug me, but I never said a word to anyone. I just tried to keep my distance. I didn’t want to tell anyone I thought the rabbi was a molester. It’s such a serious charge. What if I were wrong?

Anyone who tried to convert to Orthodox Judaism with R. Weiss as their sponsoring rabbi probably has some stories to tell. Various people in Los Angeles have held for years that he should not be working as a rabbi because of his inappropriate behavior.

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 29, 2013: Rabbi Menachem Weiss, left, sits on a chair inside Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats March 29 2012 in Los Angeles. Weiss and his rathe, also a Rabbi, have certified all the meats inside the market are kosher. Less than 36 hours before the start of Passover, Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats located in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood has had its kosher certification revoked by the Rabbinical Council of California. Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats had its certification stripped for allegedly selling non-kosher meat that had been repackaged to look like it was Glatt kosher. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

There’s a fundraising campaign for him, perhaps from those whose lives he touched.

The Jewish Journal reports Mar. 28:

Los Angeles Rabbi Menachem Weiss is facing charges of aggravated sexual assault in New Jersey, where prosecutors allege he sexually assaulted a boy during a six-month period in 1999.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officers arrested Weiss on March 22 at the Newark, N.J., airport. Weiss agreed to fly from L.A. to Newark after authorities informed him of an outstanding warrant for his arrest, said Elizabeth Rebein, a spokeswoman for the Bergen County (N.J.) Prosecutor’s Office.

A grand jury on March 20 indicted Weiss on two counts of aggravated sexual assault, Rebein said.

After surrendering to police, Weiss was booked into the Bergen County Jail. He was formally charged on March 23 and released from jail and allowed to return home after a detention hearing on March 26.

Weiss was living in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., at the time of the alleged sexual assault.

The Woodcliff Lake Police Department learned in December 2016 that Weiss allegedly assaulted a boy between January 1999 and June 1999. The department’s investigation, conducted in conjunction with the prosecutor’s office, led to the indictment, Rebein said.

Weiss, 47, who is married and the father of nine children, lives in Pico-Robertson. He moved from New York to Los Angeles with his family in 1999.

Up until his arrest, Weiss had been working as a faculty member and director of the Israel Center at Milken Community Schools and as an associate rabbi at Nessah Congregation. Upon news of his arrest, Milken Community School and Nessah Congregation immediately suspended him.

“We understand that this news is extremely disturbing. Please know that our top priority is always the safety of our students, faculty, staff and community members, and that we are taking every precaution. To that end, Rabbi Weiss has been suspended effectively immediately pending a full investigation,” Milken Head of School Gary Weisserman said in a March 24 email to the Milken community.

In an email to the Journal, Weisserman added: “We are working with authorities to ensure the safety of our community, which is always our first priority, while due process is followed.”

The Nessah Board of Directors on March 25 issued the following statement:

“We understand that this news is alarming. Please know that our top priority is always the best interest of our community members. To that end, Rabbi Weiss has been placed on leave from any further responsibility or activity at Nessah pending a full investigation.”

Weiss also previously served as the executive director of Sephardic Tradition and Recreation, a Sephardic youth organization in the San Fernando Valley.

Representatives of Nessah and Sephardic Tradition and Recreation could not be reached for comment.

Rebein said New Jersey’s statute of limitations on sexual assault varies depending on the nature of the crime.

In a 2016 interview with the Milken Roar, the Milken school’s newspaper, Weiss discussed his family life, his passion for Israel and what brought him to Milken.

He said his previous experience included helping to build a Hebrew school and a synagogue in New York, and earning his master’s degree in special education from Adelphi University.

Torah Truth emails:

Dear Leaders:

As many of you are aware, Menachem Weiss of Nessah Synagogue was
arrested and indicted over the weekend. He is being charged with two
counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor boy, which New Jersey
specifically requires an allegation of rape through penetration.

As concerning as this particular allegation is, it has come to our
attention that this behavior is far from isolated. There likely are
other victims, including in Los Angeles, who are ashamed or afraid of
coming out.

Here is what we know and what we believe would be prudent at this time:

1) Weiss comes from a family of individuals that historically have
been involved in molestation issues.

2) His brother is a convicted child molester and many other family members have also been put under similar suspicion.

3) Weiss was fired by NJ Chabad for similar conduct and, at a minimum, Nessah should have conducted due diligence and contacted them.

4)…[deleted]

5) There are various organizations out there that have been familiar
with Weiss’s actions, but they have been hampered in the past from
doing anything. Weiss’s reputation is well known in the Lubavitcher
community

6) Perhaps they should conduct due diligence and reach out to Jewish
Community Watch (JCW).

We have done our very best to contact those Nessah leaders we feel
capable of speaking to sensibly and have not yet spoken to someone
receptive. We have instead focused on energy on communicating with
JCW. JCW has, fortunately, been very effective in organizing the
necessary resources to pursue these offenders, and to help victims
come forward and seek help. We encourage each and every single one of
you to communicate your concerns to JCW, especially if you feel
uncomfortable reaching out to members of Nessah leadership.

You may contact the Jewish Community Watch at
info@jewishcommunitywatch.org or on Facebook.

From NorthJersey.com:

A man who served as a rabbi and teacher was arrested and charged in a 1999 sexual assault of a boy in Woodcliff Lake, according to the Bergen County prosecutor’s Office.

Rabbi Menachem M. Weiss, 46, of Los Angeles, was accused of sexually assaulting a boy from January to June 1999 in Woodcliff Lake, the prosecutor’s office stated.

Woodcliff Lake police received information of the sexual assault in December 2016, and Weiss was indicted on Tuesday.

The rabbi was taken into custody by Port Authority police Thursday evening at Newark Airport and taken to Bergen County Jail pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday, according to the prosecutor’s office. He arrived on a flight from Los Angeles and there was a warrant out for his arrest, according to Port Authority spokesman Joseph Pentangelo.

Weiss used to live in Woodcliff Lake and Park Ridge, according to a 1999 article in The Record. In the article he spoke of a menorah outside his house being vandalized. He ran the home-based Pascack Valley Outreach Chabad Center.

He previously served at Milken Community Schools in California and was married for more than 20 years, according to a 2016 article by the student publication at the school Milken Roar.

“The thing that I am most excited about is being able to get to know all of the students at Milken,” he was quoted as saying in the 2016 article. “I am very excited to be able to work with students and the entire Milken family on making Milken a true center for Israel.”

From Milken Roar:

On May 5, it was announced that Rabbi Liat Yardeni Funk will be leaving Milken Community Schools to accept a great opportunity as Dean of the Rabbinical School at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. Rabbi Menachem Weiss will be taking over Rabbi Yardeni Funk’s role, adding being the Head of the Tiferet Israel Fellowship to his list of Milken positions, like Jewish Studies teacher and Israel Center head. Although nobody can replace the mother of Tiferet, the program will be getting a new father! Below is the Roar’s interview with Rabbi Weiss.

What was your initial experience with Israel and how did it impact you?

Growing up I always attended Jewish schools, but I really resented being Jewish, and had many doubts about it. All of that changed when I first visited Israel at the age of 18. What was originally planned as a short trip, turned into a two-year journey of personal and spiritual transformation. I returned as a Rabbi, with a deep desire to have an impact on the course of Jewish education.

What previous/present positions did you have before working at Milken?

I got married to Baila, my wife of 23 years, when I was 21, and G-d has blessed us with nine children (Mashalah). Right after marriage we moved to NY so that I could continue my education. We stayed for 8 years and helped to build a Hebrew school, a synagogue and a vibrant Jewish community. Having completed my Masters in Special Education from Adelphi University in 1996, we decided in 1999 that it was time to move back closer to our families in Los Angeles, where I could focus solely on my true passion: Jewish education. Since then I have been blessed to serve as a teacher, headmaster and executive director at several Jewish schools and non-for-profit organizations, most recently at S.T.A.R. (Sephardic Tradition And Recreation), a Jewish youth organization located in Van Nuys. I also currently serve as a Rabbi at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills.

What initially brought you to working at Milken Community Schools?

What brought me to Milken is not a what, but a who. It all started when Metuka Benjamin contacted me and asked me to come in for a meeting. After speaking with her and Mr. Weisserman, I was reminded about how much I loved working in a school setting, and my passion for Jewish education was reignited. Hearing from Metuka and Mr. Weisserman about all of the innovative and forward thinking things happening at Milken gave me hope that I had finally found a Jewish school that shared my vision for creating a one-of-a-kind Jewish education. Now, having been here for the past two school years, I can say with certainty that I was correct. Milken truly is the best educational institution I have ever worked for, and I am excited about all of the possibilities that exist here.

What are you most looking forward to as being the head of the Tiferet Israel Program?

A great example of Milken’s uniqueness is the Tiferet Israel program, and I am so honored to be given the chance to continue the great work of Rabbi Funk and the others who have built such an amazing program. I am privileged to help facilitate an authentic Israel experience for others. This is such a blessing for me! The thing that I am most excited about is being able to get to know all of the students at Milken. I am very excited to be able to work with students and the entire Milken family on making Milken a true center for Israel. In that I mean that I wish to bring the values and spirit of ingenuity that so embody Israel, into everything we do here at Milken.

What changes do you want to make to the Tiferet program?

We will be working in collaboration with all of the other educational departments at Milken in order to create new and meaningful programs for our school. For instance, I have been working closely with Mr. Roger Kassebaum on some exciting new projects that will involve bringing Israeli technology here to Milken to be used in scientific research and in the development of some very innovative educational opportunities for all of our students.

What new qualities do you want to bring to the Tiferet process as a whole?

Of course I recognize the great responsibility that I have been given in being made responsible for the continued growth and development of Tiferet. In this regard I am of the opinion that we must be very careful to maintain the high standards that have already been set, while we strive to continually improve and reach for higher levels of achievement and impact. I welcome input from all of the Milken family, so if anyone has any ideas or advice for me, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Orthodox rabbi Marc B. Shapiro blogs April 15, 2010:

There is another theory as to why the sectarian hasidic world in particular has had so many cases of covering up and defending child sex abusers. It is that they simply do not regard these people as so terrible. The evidence for this appears obvious, in that in case of after case we see that they continue to allow sex abusers to teach and refuse to turn them over to the authorities and warn the parent body. Had they caught the rebbe eating at McDonald’s, you can be sure he would have been fired, but not so when it comes to fooling around with kids. The question is why do they have this outlook, and how come they don’t regard child sex abusers as so terrible? Here is a possible answer (which a wise person suggested). Look at where these societies get their information about human nature, the information that they regard as authentic and true. It does not come from modern psychology, but from Torah sources and folk beliefs. If you look only at traditional rabbinic literature, you won’t conclude that child sex abuse is as terrible as modern society views it. Yes, it is a sin and the person who commits it must repent as he must do with all sins, but there is nothing in the traditional literature that speaks to the great trauma suffered by the victim. How do we know about this trauma? Only from modern psychology and the testimony of the victims. Yet this type of evidence does not have much significance in the insular hasidic world (unless it is your own child who has been abused). Certainly modern psychology, which is often attacked by figures in that community, is not given much credence, especially not when they are confronted with an issur of mesirah.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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