A defamation lawsuit filed against 15 area Orthodox synagogues and 22 area Orthodox rabbis as defendants on behalf of Akiva Meir Hersh of Cleveland Heights was dismissed.
The complaint, which was filed July 11, 2018, in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court alleged the rabbis and synagogues intended to ruin Hersh’s reputation in the community by reading an announcement during their respective services.
Naming Hersh and his home address, the announcement, which was written by the Vaad Harabonim of Cleveland, the Orthodox rabbinical council, said Hersh “is alleged to have engaged in inappropriate behavior with young men under the age of 13.”
It also brought attention to two police reports filed against Hersh “detailing his activities.”
Both police reports were filed on June 15, 2018. The first was made by a woman claiming Hersh invited one of her children on a trip to Texas. She also said Hersh showed the child his gun collection.
The second report was made by a father who received a telephone call from a friend saying they had spotted Hersh holding his child’s hand in a “way that seemed suspicious.” The father also discovered the child had a secret cell phone.
He said he believed Hersh had given the child the phone in an attempt to communicate secretly.
Hersh was not charged in either incident.
“We understand that he is attempting to create a Boy Scout troop,” the announcement also said. “We are concerned that this is a potentially unhealthy and dangerous situation.”
As a result of the announcement, Hersh requested punitive damages in excess of $25,000.
According to a Jan. 9 email to the Cleveland Jewish News from Hersh’s lawyer, Joseph J. Triscaro of Joseph J. Triscaro & Associates in Solon, the trial court has entered an order dismissing the lawsuit.
“Mr. Hersh is currently considering appeal,” Triscaro added.