Bronx, NY - “Sauna Rabbi” Says He Will Not Step Down As Rabbi Of Riverdale Jewish Center
Bronx, NY - The so-called “Sauna Rabbi” is refusing to leave his post as rabbi and spiritual leader of the Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx, the New York Times reports (http://nyti.ms/1QS0LIe).
Despite what many believed to be an earlier agreement reached by the board on June 9 (http://bit.ly/1KdrCZR) with Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt to buy out the last three years of his contract in exchange for his leaving quietly, the rabbi has remained adamant about staying, telling his supporters,
“This is a crisis created by my own lapses of judgment,” Rosenblatt, 58, said. “I have brought pain to people, shame to my family, and I have caused a desecration of the Divine Name.” Even so, according to one member, the rabbi said, “Calls for him to no longer be the rabbi are disproportionate to what he did, and he looks forward to serving his community.”
Riverdale Jewish Center’s board had voted 34 to 8 to buy out the rabbi’s contract after the New York Times broke the story that Rosenblatt regularly took boys ages 12 and up to the sauna and showers after playing squash or racquetball as part of his spiritual mentoring program. Both he and the young men he brought with him were usually naked during these “spiritual sessions.”
Rosenblatt’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, said the rabbi is determined to stay because, “this is the rabbi’s life and he didn’t want to leave the pulpit.” Brafman added, “And after reflection and careful thought he realized that he did nothing that warranted his dismissal, nor his retirement.”
Synagogue members have been split on the issue, with some 200 people signing a petition for Rosenblatt to stay, and only 45 signatures demanding he should go. “He is a caring, loving, and brilliant rabbi,” said supporter Sherell Najman. “He deserves to continue his great work.”
The board does not have the power to remove Rosenblatt from his post, the rabbi’s lawyer, Brafman, told the New York Times. Neither the president, nor the chairman of the board responded to requests for comment.
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