The Israel National Council for the Child has urged government ministries to take steps to prevent convicted sex offenders from immigrating to Israel.
Following recent media reports revealing that a “high-risk” convicted pedophile has emigrated from the US to Israel, council director Yitzhak Kadman called on Interior Minister Silvan Shalom to stop Israel from becoming a “safe haven” for sex offenders, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday.
Advocacy groups and local residents were outraged to find out that former bar mitzvah instructor and convicted pedophile Jonah (Jason) Weinberg, 36, had moved to Israel and was living with his wife and children in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. Weinberg and his family have made aliyah and are in the process of becoming naturalized Israeli citizens.
In 2009, Weinberg was convicted of sexually abusing two 13-year-old children at his New York synagogue and served 13 months in prison.
The US sex offender registry lists Weinberg as a level-3 offender, meaning that he is considered to be at high risk of re-offending and remains a danger to the public. Israel does not have a public registry of sex offenders.
Weinberg was again accused of abusing a minor in 2014. However, when police came to his home to arrest him on charges that he had assaulted an 11-year-old boy in a Brooklyn synagogue, they discovered he had skipped the country for Israel.
US child welfare organizations alerted Israeli police of Weinberg’s history, but were told he could not be extradited for the 2014 offense as he was only charged with a misdemeanor. His 2009 offenses do not preclude him from making aliyah to Israel since he served his sentence.
“This incident again raises our concerns (which we have already brought to the attention of your predecessor) regarding the question of pre-screening before awarding citizenship or residency status,” Kadman wrote to Shalom.
He noted that the Law of Return, under which people of Jewish origin are granted Israeli citizenship, allows the Interior Ministry to deny visas to anyone who is considered a danger to the public.
“Israel cannot and must not be a safe haven for sex offenders,” he said
Weinberg declined to comment for the Yedioth report.
In response to Kadman’s letter, the Interior Ministry confirmed that Israel’s open-door immigration policy did not extend to dangerous individuals and that each case involving convicted criminals would be examined.
According to Yedioth, Weinberg last week filed a lawsuit against Jerusalem rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who sent out notifications to Har Nof residents warning them of his prior convictions.
Weinberg isn’t the first American citizen convicted of sex crimes to set off alarm bells after seeking sanctuary in Israel under the Law of Return.
In 1984, Avrohom Mondrowitz, who was accused of molesting as many as 300 young boys in a Brooklyn youth center, fled to the Jewish state just before police broke in to his home and discovered a stash of child pornography and lists bearing the names of hundreds of local children.
Mondrowitz was indicted on 14 counts in absentia by a Brooklyn grand jury in 1985, including five counts of sodomy in the first degree and eight charges of first-degree sexual assault.
Extradition attempts failed that year because, according to the existing treaty between Israel and the United States, sodomy was not an extraditable offense. Efforts to extradite Mondrowitz were dropped in 1993.
In 1996, Mondrowitz was given Israeli citizenship, and has been seen in the Jerusalem area.