April 13, 2009
Court Convicts Rabbi Jacob A. Max Of MolestationBaltimore
Rabbi Jacob Aaron Max, was found guilty Monday of sex offense in the fourth degree and second degree assault for the molestation of a former Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Home female employee in December 2008.
The verdict given by Baltimore County District Court Judge Nancy Purpura resulted in one year of incarceration suspended and one year of court-ordered unsupervised probation.
Rabbi Max’s attorney said the long-time spiritual leader will appeal the verdict, for which he entered a not-guilty plea.
Rabbi Max, 85, is the rabbi emeritus of the Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation, better known as Pikesville’s Liberty Jewish Center. A polished stone in the congregation’s parking lot designates it the Rabbi Jacob A. Max campus. He is a well-known figure in Baltimore Jewish circles, where he has been active for more than six decades.
“We are very sad about all of this,” Robert Meyerson, president of the synagogue, said on Tuesday, April 14. “I guess we just have to wait and see how the appeal process progresses. Even though he’s our rabbi emeritus, we just hear from him from time to time, and we were as surprised about all of this as everyone else.”
The fourth degree sex offense means that the “defendant had sexual contact with the victim and that the sexual contact was made against the will and consent of the victim,” according to County Assistant State’s Attorney Jared Green, who prosecuted the case.
The victim, 44, was molested at the Levinson’s Funeral Home in Pikesville in a kitchen at the facility.
Rabbi Max, according to a Baltimore County Police report obtained by the BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES, approached the victim from behind and “proceeded to press his body up against the victim’s body pinning her between the defendant and the counter.”
The report stated that he then took his hands and grabbed the victim’s hips on the outside of her clothing. He “then removed his hands from [the victim’s] hips and placed them directly on the victim’s upper torso on the outside of her sweater directly beneath her breasts.”
The police then report that the victim heard Rabbi Max “mumble something about `being bad’” and that she then felt Rabbi Max’s hands “so close that the web of his hand at the pointer finger and thumb was actually on her bra and the bra’s under wire.”
The victim then protested by pulling her arms inwards tightly to her torso, according to the report. Rabbi Max reportedly stepped away. Between 10 to 20 seconds later, the report said that he returned to the kitchen and repeated the same behavior on her.
“Defendant Max then took his left hand and cupped [the victim’s] left breast and with his thumb and finger pinched [the victim’s] nipple through her sweater. Defendant Max then stated, `bad rabbi.’
“It ended when the victim yelled `No,’ and pushed the defendant’s hands down and away,” the report continued.
The report stated that Rabbi Max left the room and Levinson’s for the day. The victim was so “visibly upset” that her co-workers asked her what was wrong. She left work early, according to the report, sick for the rest of the day, “and she has been out sick since.”
The police report noted that the victim told co-workers what had happened. One colleague told police that the victim and the suspect had an “open relationship, which included greeting one another with kisses as well as the victim receiving massages from the suspect while she was sitting at her desk.”
Her co-workers also reported that they were unaware of any similar prior incidences involving Rabbi Max. They also were unaware of the victim making similar complaints about others on the premises.
Defense Counsel David Irwin said on Monday, April 13, “We’re disappointed with the outcome. We respect the judge’s decision, and we’re going to appeal.”
If that occurs, the case could be heard in County Circuit Court, and the trial would start from scratch and could involve a jury.
Ira Levinson, president of Levinson’s called the issue “a personal matter between Rabbi Max and the former employee, and we’re not involved.”
Rabbi Max is not an employee of Levinson’s. However, like any other rabbi performing funeral services there, he is seen as an independent contractor.
Kathleen Cahill, the victim’s attorney, said that her client could not yet comment.
However, in her victim impact statement read into the court transcripts, the victim said, “I feel helpless, I am worried about finding another job… I have a lack of trust in others, depression, anxiety, isolation, fears about future employment, fears about financial stability, lack of focus. I feel emotionally hurt, depleted and violated.
“You violated the trust that I had in you by physically violating me that day and by lying about what you did to save your reputation,” she continued. “You are a disgrace to all clergy, co-workers, your community and to your family and friends… You are supposed to be a man of God and I hope that one day you will apologize for what you have done.”
This was not the first such allegation against Rabbi Max brought to the BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES. Two years ago, two women called and shared their stories of alleged molestation while the newspaper was reporting on allegations involving other rabbis here. One woman sat with her psychologist as she told the story; the other called from out of state.
Neither, however, pressed charges against Rabbi Max and the newspaper at that time chose not to go forward in printing the allegations without any on-the-record comments.
One of those alleged victims visited Rabbi Max at his home for grief counseling after the death of her father in the mid-1980s. There, she alleged that the rabbi put his arm around her and fondled her breasts. The woman was a college student at the time of the alleged incident.
The second woman, now in her 40s and living out of state, was 15 and attending a relative’s bar mitzvah in which Rabbi Max officiated and then allegedly asked her into his office. As a teenager, she said she didn’t feel she could say no to the rabbi. Once in the office, she alleged he forcibly kissed her, placing his tongue in her mouth.
When reached by telephone at his home for comment in November 2007 regarding these claims, Rabbi Max said, “In my lifetime I have never molested. I’ve been married for 22 years. No way, no way at all. I fondled? This is way out of my line. I tried to touch her? If you print this it is stupid from stupidland.”
This week, the woman who lives out of state said, “True justice for me would be to see him voluntarily surrender his license to perform religious rites in all venues of society including the conduct of High Holiday services and funerals and visiting patients as a rabbi at local nursing homes. Rabbi Max is fortunate not to have to spend his last days in jail with the other criminals… If he won’t repent, then I hope he will just retire and be a private citizen.”