New York - Riverdale Jewish Center Votes Out Its Rabbi After NY Times Mikvah Report
New York - Riverdale Jewish Center has asked for the resignation of its rabbi, Jonathan Rosenblatt, following the May 29 New York Times report about the rabbi’s habit of taking young male congregants into the shower, sauna, or hot tub with him as part of his mentoring program.
The rabbi had a well-established practice of inviting the young men to first play squash or racquetball before “showering and schmoozing in the sauna,” The Jewish Week reports (http://bit.ly/1S2GmNM).
In a Board of Directors meeting this past Monday night, members voted 34-8 to reach a financial settlement with the rabbi in exchange for him stepping down after more than three decades of service to the 700-member Modern Orthodox shul in Riverdale.
The Board concluded that because of the controversy, Rabbi Rosenblatt was no longer able to discharge his duties, but did not address the allegations against him. Members were advised that should someone file a civil or criminal lawsuit alleging abuse, they could be held financially liable for damages because they have a “fiduciary responsibility,” and the rabbi’s practice was well known.
Ben Brafman, Rabbi Rosenblatt’s attorney, told The Jewish Week, “We are working diligently and responsibly to address the issues that have been raised since the recent articles about Rabbi Rosenblatt have been published. I remind you, however, that Rabbi Rosenblatt has not been charged with any criminal offense. In my judgment, he will never be charged. Accordingly, I caution everyone involved to take a deep breath so that this matter can be resolved fairly and with the dignity Rabbi Rosenblatt has earned in three decades of service to the community.”
Last week, the rabbi sent a letter to his congregants saying he has sincere “regret if my conduct at any time inadvertently offended anyone during my many years of service. “I want to assure you, however, that it was never my intention to cause any harm, nor did I ever do anything that was unlawful. If any of you feel that my behavior, even if innocent, was inappropriate, I apologize to those affected.”
He added that he and his family feel “anguish” and that his “silence in the face of public accusations and attacks” should not be “construed as my agreeing with my accusers. Nothing could be further from the truth.” He stated that his attorney “counseled silence on all matters of substance.”
Both the rabbi’s supporters and detractors have described the situation as “sad” and avoidable. They hope the matter will soon be resolved.
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