We are writing to express our frustration and disappointment at the unfair and inflammatory way in which the media and elements of the community have reported and reacted to the issues involving Akiva Roth.
In the Standard’s October 18 article, the headline, “Sex Offender Voluntarily Barred from Englewood Shuls,” implies a legal characterization of a Megan’s Law violator, which Akiva is not. His conviction of “lewdness” was never – and is not – a Megan’s Law violation, and therefore Akiva Roth never was required to register as a sex offender. As such, community protections required by Megan’s Law are inapplicable. With exaggerated reporting and innuendo, the press effectively has made of him a Megan’s Law violator. And now, 17 years after the courts adjudicated his case, segments of the Jewish community have appointed themselves judge and jury, to retry him and impose their own “punishments,” which never were required by law.
This unfair and extreme approach on the part of a community that supposedly embraces the concept of teshuva has led to unwarranted character assassination and a sense of suspicion and fear relating to his communal service and dedication to the synagogues in Englewood and to the greater Jewish community. It is our sense that due process has not taken place. We expect more from our Jewish institutions. At the very least, Akiva should be given an opportunity to clarify information, to reiterate the fact that he understands the problematic nature of his behavior 18 years ago, to explain his activities and involvement with youth in his communities, and to discuss ways in which he might be able to return to these communities, of which he has been an integral part.
Notwithstanding the inappropriateness of “double jeopardy” in this matter, but recognizing community concerns, Akiva has voluntarily agreed to Rabbi Goldin’s suggestion that he meet with an outside professional forensic psychologist specializing in this particular area, even though he had done so many years ago. Akiva’s willingness to cooperate, and his statement that no improper behavior has occurred since his conviction, lead us to believe that now is the time for compassion and understanding for an individual who has been so unfairly maligned.
May reason and fairness prevail in this matter and may we restore our reputation as a safe, caring, and forgiving community.