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California rabbi sentenced to 3 years for molesting child

SANTA ROSA, Calif., April 13 (JTA) — Rabbi Sidney Isaac Goldenberg last week was sentenced to three years in state prison for sexually molesting a 12-year-old student during private Bat Mitzvah tutoring sessions. Judge Mark Tansil of the Superior Court here issued the sentence after an emotional hearing, during which the victim and her family called for a harsh sentence while Goldenberg asked for leniency. “I was very vulnerable,” the girl told the court. “He took advantage of me. I’m going through some very difficult changes. He ruined a lot of people’s lives. My friends are suffering.” The girl also told the court that she delayed telling anyone about the molestation out of the fear that no one would believe her. She cried as she spoke, as did many of her friends and relatives who filled the courtroom. Goldenberg, 58, was hired in August by the 100-family Conservative Congregation B’nai Israel in Petaluma, north of San Francisco. He was arrested in December and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor younger than 14, a felony. The misconduct, which occurred over several months, involved making lewd remarks to the girl, touching her breasts and asking her to put her hands in his pocket. Goldenberg pleaded no contest to the charges in February. A plea of no contest is equivalent to a guilty plea, said Gary Medvigy, Santa Rosa deputy district attorney. The girl’s mother lauded her child’s courage in speaking out. “My daughter is a hero,” she said. “She became the voice for [Goldenberg’s] prior victims.” Several women from New York, who learned of the Petaluma case through news reports, told officials in California that Goldenberg had made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were adolescents. According to Medvigy, the earliest complaint dates back 27 years. Although Goldenberg was charged in connection with one of these incidents, in 1976, Medvigy does not know whether Goldenberg was convicted because the record has been sealed. Before moving to Petaluma, Goldenberg was a public school teacher and then a cantor, lay educator and rabbi at various synagogues in New York. Medvigy said Goldenberg would be eligible for parole in 18 months. When he gets out of prison, he must register as a sex offender wherever he lives.