MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – The mother of an 11-year-old Miami Beach girl who was allegedly molested by a substitute Rabbi is speaking out for the first time, saying she is “shocked and hurt.”READ MORE: COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 53,000 In Florida
The mother and her attorney, Jeff Herman, said members of her synagogue have shunned her since she went to Miami Beach Police and Herman said another rabbi even called her on the telephone and told her to remain silent and not report the allegations.
“This family has been shunned and told to stay silent,” Herman told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “This family has been judged before the investigation is complete. This mother received a telephone call from another rabbi and she was told that according to the Torah, she could receive compensation. She told the rabbi it was too late.”
“That rabbi told the mother it was not too late to stop it and receive the money,” said Herman.
Coincidentally, Herman said the substitute rabbi who is charged in this case, 55-year-old Steve Karro, gave the mother an envelope with cash inside. Herman said neither he nor the mother could comment about the envelope or say how much cash was inside the envelope. Herman refused to say if he thought that cash was “hush money” for the mother to stay silent.
Herman and the victim’s mother spoke out outside Karro’s art store on Arthur Godfrey Road where the girl was allegedly molested in April.
The mother did not want to show all of her face or give her name in order to protect her daughter’s identity.
She told D’Oench, “This whole experience has been a nightmare. It is an ongoing battle walking down the sidewalks and seeing everyone’s reaction. It is so disgusting to me, how part of the community judges us and shuts us out. I am so hurt. My daughter and I want to move forward but we are so scared.”
“As soon as the story came out and I went in the synagogue, the people there started moaning and started saying, ‘you have some nerve to be here. We should pull you out by your hair here at the synagogue,’” she said.
Karro is a substitute rabbi at Shaare Ezra Sephardic Synagogue on Arthur Godfrey Road.
According to a police report, on April 16, Karro intentionally touched and grabbed the buttocks of the 11-year-old girl. The report said he kissed her along her neck after having her sit on his lap. Police say Karro had known the girl for five years. He is charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12 and lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under the age of 16.
“I have to say to the public, close your eyes and think of a child that comes home and is very scared and says ‘Mom, I have something to tell you,’ and I got nervous,” said the mother. “My heart was pounding. I was shocked, hurt, disgusted and betrayed.”
She said, “I was betrayed in so many ways. He was like a family member, a rabbi.”
She rejects some claims that her daughter’s story has been exaggerated.
“I think it is garbage and disgusting,” she said. “People have no idea what my child went through. No child would come up with so many details. If there’s anyone out there who thinks they know anything about any other victims, they should come forward. Thank God through Jewish community services and counseling, my daughter is doing better.”READ MORE: 'Unacceptable,' South Florida Haitian Leaders Outraged Over What Happened In Del Rio, Texas
Herman said “For any victim, they should feel safe to come forward and not suffer privately.”
Herman has not said if he plans to file a lawsuit in this case.
Karro has also been captured on surveillance tape the week before the charges were filed.
Herman said he is seen at a restaurant where the mother works and is also seen embracing another child.
Police said Karro gave the 11-year-old girl candy and told her not to tell her mother about what happened to her. Karro has said that he was actually talking to the child about staying quiet about a present for her mother. He also said he has had past issues with the child’s parents.
At the news conference outside Karro’s art store, Herman said he could not talk about the claim that there were issues with the girl’s family.
When he was released from jail on May 28th, Karro said he treated the girl no differently than anyone else. He also denied the allegations but said he touched the girl’s buttocks for “cleansing” as she was exhibiting negative energy.
He said, “This was something very simple. Love, harmony, cleansing, nothing else. There was nothing inappropriate, nothing that violated anybody’s rights. It was not touching. It was hugging and in the way I hug everybody. I hug all the kids. It is the way I caress them. It is the way I give everbody love.”
Karro’s friends are also speaking out.
Dan Iannettone said, “I think he is an upstanding member of the community. He has been here ever since I have been here. He has been nothing but a gentleman. He has stood for everything the Jewish community has stood for in this area.”
Iannettone’s mother, Sandra Iannettone, said, “I think it is blown out of proportion. I don’t think this is the type of man who would ever do anything like this. I would never think of him that way. He is always so good to everybody.”
When CBS4 contacted the synagogue, a spokesman said there was no comment.
While Karro spoke on May 28th, he was not at his condominium or in his store when we tried to reach him on Wednesday. And he did not return phone calls to him.
Miami Beach Police have asked for the public’s help to see if there are any other victims.MORE NEWS: South Florida Family Encourages Booster Shots After Vaccinated Relative Dies Of COVID-19
They say if anyone knows of anyone else who was victimized, they should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).