RJC Announces the Sauna Rabbi’s Resignation
March 8, 2016
Last night the Board of the Riverdale Jewish Center met and then sent an email to members announcing the resignation of Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt. This follows a week of uncertainty as reported last week by Gary Rosenblatt (no relation) in the New York Jewish Week (‘Sauna’ Rabbi Stepping Down; Or Is He?/ Riverdale leader’s surprise statement unclear about intentions and timing.)
The Rabbi has been a source of controversy for years because he regularly took underage minors to saunas gawking at their naked bodies while talking to them at length. His conduct finally erupted into public view when the New York Times reported on the controversy.
At first the board voted to seek an end to his employment but the executive committee overrode the board. This led to an exodus of many members some of whom formed a new prayer group. Membership is down and the RJC is suffering financially. The impact was felt by the board when the new dues year started on January 1. I suspect the shortfall, rather than moral considerations drove the board to reverse course and seek Rosenblatt’s resignation.
It is not clear if this measure will be enough to placate disaffected members. While Rosenblatt will not have any official role going forward according to the email message (i.e., he is not being made rabbi emeritus) the letter does not censure him in any way and speaks of him still being welcome.
Moreover, there is seething resentment of the executive committee members who overrode the board’s earlier decision to terminate his employment. While some will doubtlessly return in spite of these feelings, there will be ongoing tensions between the opposing factions of the congregation.
Below is the text of the email:
From: RJC <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, March 7, 2016
Subject: Update from Tonight’s Special Board Meeting
After more than 30 years of devoted service, Rabbi Rosenblatt is planning to retire from the RJC Rabbinic Team.
Rabbi Rosenblatt and his family will always be welcome at the RJC and in the RJC community, though with his retirement, he will have no official or officiating role in the RJC going forward. Rabbi Rosenblatt will, of course, remain accessible to our community, even as he resumes his private life.
Recent discussions with Rabbi Rosenblatt have yielded a retirement agreement that is both respectful of the Rabbi’s tenure and his role in the lives of our members, and also responsible with respect to the institution’s present and future. The proposed agreement was presented to the Board of Trustees this evening. The Board supported bringing the agreement before the membership. It is now subject to ratification by the RJC membership.
At this time, I invite the Riverdale Jewish Center’s membership to a Special Meeting of the congregation on Thursday evening, March 17, 2016 at 7:30 pm in the RJC Social Hall.
The meeting is called for the purpose of:
1) presenting the agreement;
2) a vote to ratify the agreement; and
3) sharing information regarding initial next steps for our congregation.
Please note: only those individuals and/or families who have committed to 2016 RJC Membership and submitted payment in full or begun a payment plan to support that commitment will be entitled to attend the March 17th meeting.
Samson Fine, President