JERUSALEM -- A once-prominent Orthodox rabbi accused of molesting male students was convicted Wednesday by a Jerusalem court of performing indecent acts against a minor.
Mordechai Elon, former dean of a prestigious Old City religious school, faces up to seven years in prison when sentencing is handed down later this year.
Elon was indicted in 2011 after former students came forward with allegations of kissing, fondling and touching. Graver allegations of sexual misconduct were not prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out or victims refused to testify, Israeli media reported.
The two main witnesses in the case testified that Elon kissed and stroked them in private meetings between 2003 and 2005 in which they were seeking his guidance on personal issues. He was convicted in one of those cases.
Elon publicly denied the allegations. His supporters said students misinterpreted the rabbi’s affectionate manner and attempts to console them.
But others, including one leading rabbi and a private religious group created to investigate sex-abuse cases, said Elon privately admitted to them to having a problem and said he was attempting to control his behavior.
Officials at Takana, the private religous organization, said Elon had initially agreed to stop teaching under a confidential settlement. When Elon resumed teaching and new reports of abuse arose, the group publicly disclosed the matter.
The criminal case roiled Israel’s national-religious Zionist community, where public sex scandals are rare.
Elon is part of a well-known political family. His father was a Supreme Court vice president, and his brother served in the Knesset.