A substitute rabbi arrested for domestic violence almost two decades ago was charged Thursday with fondling an 11-year-old girl through her clothes and caressing her buttocks at his Miami Beach art gallery.
Police said Steve Karro, 55, placed the child on his lap last month and kissed her on the neck, then touched her bottom. During questioning by police, Karro said he touched the child’s buttocks for “cleansing” reasons because she was exhibiting “negative energy.”
Police said Karro gave her a bag of candy and asked her not to tell her parents about what had happened as she left the studio, 738 Arthur Godfrey Rd., on April 16. Police said the child and Karro knew each other for five years, but officers couldn’t explain why she was at the studio alone.
Karro, a substitute rabbi at the nearby Shaare Ezra Sephardic Synagogue Congregation, was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct of a child, and molesting a child. Calls to the synagogue and to Karro were not immediately returned Thursday.
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Police said there was no indication that Karro did anything wrong while serving there.
Karro’s only previous brush with the law, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, was for beating up his wife in 1999. His wife was also arrested during that encounter, in what was described then as a “knock-down, drag-out fight.”
Miami Beach police on Thursday couldn’t explain the nature of the relationship between Karro and the 11-year-old girl, and said the child’s parents were informed of the allegations after she returned home the day she was alleged to have been fondled.
Karro, who was born in Russia and raised in Jerusalem, opened KARRO International Fine Art gallery three years ago. Its website says the gallery specializes in Judaic art paintings and that Karro studied art at the Betzalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. His biography says he graduated from Yeshiva College as a rabbi and a scribe in 1979.
Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.