For more than half a century, Rabbi Jacob A. Max was a dominant figure in Baltimore’s Jewish community, founder of one of its most important synagogues, an influential leader who officiated at countless cycle-of-life rituals of the faith. A man, it seemed from afar, above reproach. • But Max’s reputation disintegrated earlier this year after he was convicted of sexually molesting a woman half his age in a funeral home.
It marked the only time a woman had sought a legal remedy against the rabbi, even though murmurs had long rippled through Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation that his behavior toward some of the females in his flock was anything but appropriate.
The hushed accusations of Max’s penchant for groping and fondling – which some women say he accompanied with a smirk and an excuse about his being a "bad rabbi" – appear to have been tolerated without inquiry for decades because of his standing and authority in the tightly knit religious community. Girls who complained to their mothers about his conduct say they were ignored.