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Bronx, NY - “Sauna Rabbi” Says He Will Not Step Down As Rabbi Of Riverdale Jewish Center

Published on: June 25, 2015 03:22 PM
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FILE - Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, the head rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center, in 2010 addresses the seventh and eighth graders for his annual talk between Shabbat Shuva and Yom Kippur. FILE - Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, the head rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center, in 2010 addresses the seventh and eighth graders for his annual talk between Shabbat Shuva and Yom Kippur.

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.”

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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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Read Comments (30)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 25, 2015 at 03:32 PM Anonymous Says:

First, there's a typo. Ben Brafman is his lawyer not his rabbi.
Second, he can always be fired for a morality clause. It's in every rabbinic contract. But no Bet Din will back the shul. And even more so with Ben Brafman handling the negotiations.

He's going to have to leave. This is a negotiating tactic.

2

 Jun 25, 2015 at 03:37 PM bennyt Says:

Looks like he and Sandusky suffer from the same mental illness.

3

 Jun 25, 2015 at 05:13 PM zoifunny Says:

Is something wrong w me if I don't quite get the situation?! Are people implying that he is a pedophile and/or he has abused these kids. Or is the mere fact that he exposed kids to his naked body, & let the kids be exposed to him considered inappropriate and/or abusive?

My personal opinion is that he had no bad intentions nor did he harm in any way any of these kids, however, I do agree that it was inappropriate for today's culture... Also I think he hasn't realized how paranoid people have become & I must say, unfortunately for very good reason.

The reason I think this way is because, I myself as a pubescent & young adult I was considered sort of a therapist to a few boys in my yeshiva. (I guess they confided in me because they felt I understood or I can be trusted.) Some of these boys were a few years younger than me in age. Anyway a lot of these sessions took place while we were sitting in a hot Mikva during the night hours. God is my witness that none of us had any inappropriate intentions. To youngsters especially, being in a spa-like-thingy is very relaxing and has some sort of therapeutic effect to the person seeking chizuk.

Am I missing a piece of the puzzle?

4

 Jun 25, 2015 at 05:27 PM Frish Says:

Aha! Thought these things only happen by chasidim. Guess the yetzer hora has a broader field of customers

5

 Jun 25, 2015 at 05:41 PM utazoy Says:

It is wrong to compare sandusky to the rabbi as not one person has accused the rabbi of anything other then bad judgement and the DA is trying with not a single person coming forward
Although perhaps inappropriate for the rabbi to be naked in front of congregants it is normal in the locker room when preparing to get into shower and wrapping a towel around oneself in the suna

6

 Jun 25, 2015 at 05:41 PM LuckyStrike Says:

I believe, "Where there's smoke there is fire." Nevertheless, doesn't seem like he did anything wrong. He is from a different era when the things he did nobody would have cared about and he is now stuck in a mindless, witch hunt culture.

7

 Jun 25, 2015 at 05:52 PM Micka Says:

Reply to #2  
bennyt Says:

Looks like he and Sandusky suffer from the same mental illness.

Without taking an opinion on a matter that should be settled within the Riverdale community, I would like to point out that there is a huge difference between Sandusky and Rabbi Rosenblatt. Namely, Sandusky was accused of wrong doing, and his reply was that he was "horsing around". While R' Rosenblatt was not accused of any wrong doing (do NOT insert "yet", that is a very low way of dealing with humanity, technically we are all 'not yet' accused of genocide...). Only his own words (in a document) are any sign of worry. Thus, the consequences of his past practices and whether they will trust his leadership in the future, should be left in the hands of his community.

8

 Jun 25, 2015 at 07:23 PM Shlomo-1 Says:

Reply to #4  
Frish Says:

Aha! Thought these things only happen by chasidim. Guess the yetzer hora has a broader field of customers

I've never heard anyone say it "only happens by chasidim."
No community is immune.
However, it is important to note that there has been no accusation of anything more that questionable judgment. Not assault, harassment, nor crime has been alleged.

9

 Jun 25, 2015 at 07:43 PM Anonymous Says:

If he admittedly caused "desecration to the divine name," then he's guilty of something.

10

 Jun 25, 2015 at 07:44 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Micka Says:

Without taking an opinion on a matter that should be settled within the Riverdale community, I would like to point out that there is a huge difference between Sandusky and Rabbi Rosenblatt. Namely, Sandusky was accused of wrong doing, and his reply was that he was "horsing around". While R' Rosenblatt was not accused of any wrong doing (do NOT insert "yet", that is a very low way of dealing with humanity, technically we are all 'not yet' accused of genocide...). Only his own words (in a document) are any sign of worry. Thus, the consequences of his past practices and whether they will trust his leadership in the future, should be left in the hands of his community.

Wear a bathing Suit. For crying out loud,

11

 Jun 25, 2015 at 08:34 PM Anonymous Says:

I wonder about the following: Isn't it conventional wisdom that someone who is a true pedophile can't be rehabilitated and continues doing predatory things to children? If Rabbi Rosenblatt stops taking young people to the sauna, and is able to do so, wouldn't it stand to reason that what he did definitely showed terrible judgement but that he really meant no harm?

12

 Jun 25, 2015 at 08:44 PM Sam Says:

How about we leave it to the Rabbi and his congregation to make their own decisions. Did he break the law? No. So it's a matter, assuming it's true, of his community. Poor judgement? Certainly. But let's ruin a mans career whom otherwise seems to be beloved by his community? I don't know. They'll have to make that decision. To compare him to a convicted evil child rapist pedophile is a gross misrepresentation of this situation. If you do there is something wrong with you. Has anyone come forward with accusations of molestation? No. So until then let's quit the hyperbole.

13

 Jun 25, 2015 at 08:58 PM Lakewood Yungerman Says:

I live in Lakewood and have known Rabbi Rosenblatt for many years. He is an upstanding MO Rabbi and although I myself am not MO, I wish there were more MO Rabbis like him. He is a G-d fearing and caring man with exemplary middos. I believe he innocently and mistakenly acted in line with a culture from a previous generation where the culture and mindset were less corrupt and perverted than they are today and should have known better - that's all. If our society would be more pure he would not be newsworthy. Unfortunately and fortunately we are more aware of pedophiles than we ever were and that is what has caused this stir. I truly believe it's nothing more than tabloid material to rile up readers and get people excited about getting close to "nailing another rabbi" for inappropriate behavior... Enough unnecessary bad press has been directed at this seemingly and probably innocent man so let's end it here l'maan Hashem.

14

 Jun 25, 2015 at 10:16 PM qazxc Says:

Reply to #13  
Lakewood Yungerman Says:

I live in Lakewood and have known Rabbi Rosenblatt for many years. He is an upstanding MO Rabbi and although I myself am not MO, I wish there were more MO Rabbis like him. He is a G-d fearing and caring man with exemplary middos. I believe he innocently and mistakenly acted in line with a culture from a previous generation where the culture and mindset were less corrupt and perverted than they are today and should have known better - that's all. If our society would be more pure he would not be newsworthy. Unfortunately and fortunately we are more aware of pedophiles than we ever were and that is what has caused this stir. I truly believe it's nothing more than tabloid material to rile up readers and get people excited about getting close to "nailing another rabbi" for inappropriate behavior... Enough unnecessary bad press has been directed at this seemingly and probably innocent man so let's end it here l'maan Hashem.

Would your Rosh Yeshiva do what Rabbi Rosenblatt was so fond of doing?

Didn't think so. Mine either. His either.

15

 Jun 25, 2015 at 10:19 PM Anonymous Says:

At worst the Ruv has only three years left on his contract, you can be sure that under no circumstances will his contract be renewed after that. If he decides to stay for those three years his effectiveness will be compromised. As for his naked sauna shindigs, there apparently was something missing from his youth that he was trying to compensate for. Trying to show a very misplaced attempt at being cool with a captive audience.

16

 Jun 25, 2015 at 10:23 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
zoifunny Says:

Is something wrong w me if I don't quite get the situation?! Are people implying that he is a pedophile and/or he has abused these kids. Or is the mere fact that he exposed kids to his naked body, & let the kids be exposed to him considered inappropriate and/or abusive?

My personal opinion is that he had no bad intentions nor did he harm in any way any of these kids, however, I do agree that it was inappropriate for today's culture... Also I think he hasn't realized how paranoid people have become & I must say, unfortunately for very good reason.

The reason I think this way is because, I myself as a pubescent & young adult I was considered sort of a therapist to a few boys in my yeshiva. (I guess they confided in me because they felt I understood or I can be trusted.) Some of these boys were a few years younger than me in age. Anyway a lot of these sessions took place while we were sitting in a hot Mikva during the night hours. God is my witness that none of us had any inappropriate intentions. To youngsters especially, being in a spa-like-thingy is very relaxing and has some sort of therapeutic effect to the person seeking chizuk.

Am I missing a piece of the puzzle?

No offense but your story sounds very weird.

17

 Jun 25, 2015 at 10:31 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Lakewood Yungerman Says:

I live in Lakewood and have known Rabbi Rosenblatt for many years. He is an upstanding MO Rabbi and although I myself am not MO, I wish there were more MO Rabbis like him. He is a G-d fearing and caring man with exemplary middos. I believe he innocently and mistakenly acted in line with a culture from a previous generation where the culture and mindset were less corrupt and perverted than they are today and should have known better - that's all. If our society would be more pure he would not be newsworthy. Unfortunately and fortunately we are more aware of pedophiles than we ever were and that is what has caused this stir. I truly believe it's nothing more than tabloid material to rile up readers and get people excited about getting close to "nailing another rabbi" for inappropriate behavior... Enough unnecessary bad press has been directed at this seemingly and probably innocent man so let's end it here l'maan Hashem.

You are mostly correct. However, at no time in past three decades would it have been considered in good taste for any grown man let alone a rabbi take boys 12 and up naked into steam baths or whatever else he did. Es postnisht.

18

 Jun 25, 2015 at 11:18 PM common sense Says:

Reply to #3  
zoifunny Says:

Is something wrong w me if I don't quite get the situation?! Are people implying that he is a pedophile and/or he has abused these kids. Or is the mere fact that he exposed kids to his naked body, & let the kids be exposed to him considered inappropriate and/or abusive?

My personal opinion is that he had no bad intentions nor did he harm in any way any of these kids, however, I do agree that it was inappropriate for today's culture... Also I think he hasn't realized how paranoid people have become & I must say, unfortunately for very good reason.

The reason I think this way is because, I myself as a pubescent & young adult I was considered sort of a therapist to a few boys in my yeshiva. (I guess they confided in me because they felt I understood or I can be trusted.) Some of these boys were a few years younger than me in age. Anyway a lot of these sessions took place while we were sitting in a hot Mikva during the night hours. God is my witness that none of us had any inappropriate intentions. To youngsters especially, being in a spa-like-thingy is very relaxing and has some sort of therapeutic effect to the person seeking chizuk.

Am I missing a piece of the puzzle?

yes you are missing a very important part !! You need to re-read the original article ......there was one very significant word that was used... "ogling" ....The Rabbi wasn't just naked with the boys. He was staring them down. Besides making the boys very uncomfortable (as was mentioned in the article), its a very dangerous situation. The Rabbi is obviously obsessed with their nudity. History has proven time and time again, that eventually one thing leads to another. Chazal teach us to watch where we look. Staring at theses things brings to desire which leads further. These teachings are obvious. Yet so many people on here ignore them, let alone his own congregation. Just imagine if the Rabbi would always stare down womens blouses to the point that it became obvious. Would we also say its ok as long as he doesnt touch ??

19

 Jun 25, 2015 at 11:25 PM Micka Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Wear a bathing Suit. For crying out loud,

Whaaaaat? (in a slow bewildered tone).

20

 Jun 26, 2015 at 12:04 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
zoifunny Says:

Is something wrong w me if I don't quite get the situation?! Are people implying that he is a pedophile and/or he has abused these kids. Or is the mere fact that he exposed kids to his naked body, & let the kids be exposed to him considered inappropriate and/or abusive?

My personal opinion is that he had no bad intentions nor did he harm in any way any of these kids, however, I do agree that it was inappropriate for today's culture... Also I think he hasn't realized how paranoid people have become & I must say, unfortunately for very good reason.

The reason I think this way is because, I myself as a pubescent & young adult I was considered sort of a therapist to a few boys in my yeshiva. (I guess they confided in me because they felt I understood or I can be trusted.) Some of these boys were a few years younger than me in age. Anyway a lot of these sessions took place while we were sitting in a hot Mikva during the night hours. God is my witness that none of us had any inappropriate intentions. To youngsters especially, being in a spa-like-thingy is very relaxing and has some sort of therapeutic effect to the person seeking chizuk.

Am I missing a piece of the puzzle?

I fully support the rabbi. He should not leave his job. On the other hand, You're surely not missing anything from the puzzle. But you are surely missing a part of your brain. Nothing more to say to you.

21

 Jun 26, 2015 at 12:27 AM lazerx Says:

but he did no wrong! he never touched anyone!

ok, maybe sitting naked with kids isn't today accepted in straight places, but still, perhaps it was his means of removing the external block to being an internal seeking Jew...

22

 Jun 26, 2015 at 02:45 AM zoifunny Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

I fully support the rabbi. He should not leave his job. On the other hand, You're surely not missing anything from the puzzle. But you are surely missing a part of your brain. Nothing more to say to you.

And you're saying what?

23

 Jun 26, 2015 at 04:53 AM Anonymous Says:

The Weberman of Riverdale. The DA will find a kid to discuss what really happened.

24

 Jun 26, 2015 at 10:22 AM ramyif Says:

What do you expect from a member of the RCA. Its the association of modern Orthodoxy. Modern Ortho is the weakest link in the Orthodox chain, some contend is already a Missing Link ipso facto good riddance. Watch every Wednesday EXPOSE on Judaism of both gentile and Jewish anti Semitism etc., 10:00AM & 6:00PM New York time, go to bcat.tv scroll down to and click on Brooklyn Public Network then click on arrow in channel 2

25

 Jun 26, 2015 at 10:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
lazerx Says:

but he did no wrong! he never touched anyone!

ok, maybe sitting naked with kids isn't today accepted in straight places, but still, perhaps it was his means of removing the external block to being an internal seeking Jew...

How do you know? Where you there? And even if not, its immoral. Some Chassidic men have told me that stay away from Mikvahs due to bi-sexual men there, on the make!

26

 Jun 26, 2015 at 12:22 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
utazoy Says:

It is wrong to compare sandusky to the rabbi as not one person has accused the rabbi of anything other then bad judgement and the DA is trying with not a single person coming forward
Although perhaps inappropriate for the rabbi to be naked in front of congregants it is normal in the locker room when preparing to get into shower and wrapping a towel around oneself in the suna

I agree- seforim say the Congational Rabbi should use a different mikvah than his flock or go at a time when the mokvah is not used much. Poor judgment on his part and lack of tznius for a rabbi.

27

 Jun 26, 2015 at 12:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
Anonymous Says:

You are mostly correct. However, at no time in past three decades would it have been considered in good taste for any grown man let alone a rabbi take boys 12 and up naked into steam baths or whatever else he did. Es postnisht.

I agree! Times were not different in that respect.

28

 Jun 26, 2015 at 12:25 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
lazerx Says:

but he did no wrong! he never touched anyone!

ok, maybe sitting naked with kids isn't today accepted in straight places, but still, perhaps it was his means of removing the external block to being an internal seeking Jew...

What gibberish!

29

 Jun 26, 2015 at 02:39 PM bubii Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

I fully support the rabbi. He should not leave his job. On the other hand, You're surely not missing anything from the puzzle. But you are surely missing a part of your brain. Nothing more to say to you.

You must also be weirdo just like the rabbi,you are the one who is missing a big part of your brain.

30

 Jun 26, 2015 at 04:55 PM ProminantLawyer Says:

so fire him and pay out the contract. they are rich.

31

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