Judge implicitly slams lack of monitoring of sex offenders

Court blocks pedophile’s demand for NIS 200k after rabbi likens him to terrorist

Judge awards plaintiff Yona Weinberg NIS 3,000 over 2 other false claims; but she accepts that Yakov Horowitz’s actions came from ‘honest concern for public’s safety’

Yona (Jason) Weinberg, a convicted US sex offender who moved to Israel and settled in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood. (New York State offender registry)
Yona (Jason) Weinberg, a convicted US sex offender who moved to Israel and settled in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood. (New York State offender registry)

The Jerusalem District Court has rejected a convicted pedophile’s demand of NIS 200,000 ($62,300) in a libel suit against a rabbi who had warned Israelis to treat him like a “terrorist with a machete.”

Judge Michal Hirschfeld ruled that the statement by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, an anti-abuse activist from Monsey, New York, regarding the convicted pedophile, Yona Weinberg — who immigrated to Israel from the United States — included an opinion expressed in good faith. The ruling was issued last month and was made public on Tuesday.

However, the court ordered Horowitz to pay a sum of NIS 3,000 ($935) over two other statements alleging that Weinberg is a fugitive and that he had given kids sweets that don’t have a kosher certificate. Horowitz was also ordered to pay a similar sum for Weinberg’s expenses and half his court costs.

Hirschfeld said she had been convinced that Horowitz “felt he was on a public mission” to warn about Weinberg after being exposed to many cases where children committed suicide after being molested.

The judge said Horowitz “viewed anyone who committed such offenses as someone who murdered the minors’ soul.”

She also offered implicit criticism of the lack of public registration in Israel of sex offenders, and the lack of monitoring of convicted sex offenders who immigrate to the country.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, a founder of Monsey’s Yeshiva Darchei Noam and Director of The Center for Jewish Family Life. (Gold PR/courtesy)

Weinberg moved to Israel in 2014 with his wife and young children.

He spent 13 months in a US prison after a 2009 conviction for abusing two boys in Brooklyn whom he had been preparing for their bar mitzvah. He reportedly notified the NYPD about his change of address when he moved to Israel, but the police did not pass on the information to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, which manages the Sex Offender Registry.

He is currently listed as a level-3 sex offender in New York, the highest level, meaning a “high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists.”

In April 2015, Weinberg filed a libel claim against Horowitz after the activist posted warnings on Twitter about Weinberg’s criminal history and status as a registered sex offender in New York. The tweet compared Weinberg to a machete-wielding terrorist, in reference to the 2014 massacre at a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood that left six worshipers dead.

In Israel, there is no obligation to warn residents about the presence of sex offenders in the community as there is in the United States.

“I didn’t find a reason to believe the defendant was malicious,” Hirschfeld wrote. “My impression is that the motive for his actions was altruistic and that they came out of an honest concern for the public’s safety, in part due to the fact that unlike in the places where they committed their actions, Jewish sex offenders making aliyah under the Law of Return aren’t under any restriction in Israel.”

Police and ZAKA crews outside the synagogue, where two terrorists attacked Jewish congregants during prayer on November 18, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/ flash 90)

The Law of Return enables Jews and anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent to immigrate to Israel.

Horowitz had claimed Weinberg was a fugitive due to a New York Police Department document saying he was wanted in the city for another alleged offense. The court rejected that claim because those charges were not filed at the time Weinberg left for Israel.

Reacting to the ruling, Horowitz vowed to continue warning the ultra-Orthodox community against pedophiles and sex offenders, calling it a “sacred duty.”

He added that “It’s time to create a legal registry in Israel with information about sex offenders, so parents can properly protect their children from them.”

Horowitz’s attorney, Itzhak Bam, said Weinberg “is a despicable and dangerous pedophile who was convicted of sexually abusing minors. The Court nitpicked with Rabbi Horowitz, ruling that some of his posts were imprecise and awarded Weinberg compensation at a minimal sum that reflects the aversion that Weinberg deserves. The verdict that supports advocates like Rabbi Horowitz warning that pedophiles are dangerous is welcome news, for which we are very grateful.”

Weinberg’s lawyer Eytan Lehman commented that “it turns out that my client isn’t as dangerous as a murderer and definitely isn’t a fugitive. Horowitz will be demanded to delete all his dozens of false publications on the matter.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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