May 20, 2024
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RJC’s Rabbi Rosenblatt To Remain at Pulpit

(Combined Sources) Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt isn’t going anywhere.

On the contrary, the Riverdale Jewish Center’s spiritual leader is very much returning to his pulpit.

Rosenblatt was the subject of a late May New York Times article reporting of his years of discussions in the sauna after games of squash or racquetball with RJC male youth and young adults and rabbinic interns.

But the rabbi steadfastly denied any criminal act. He has since apologized to the congregation and retained the support of the congregation including many of the young men he took to the sauna.

RJC congregants received an August 13 letter from its leadership explaining its intention to follow Rosenblatt’s own plan for moving forward.

“Rabbi Rosenblatt shared his vision and commitment to continue serving our membership and partnering with the RJC’s lay leaders, staff and community,” said the letter. The letter was signed by RJC president Samson Fine and chairman Donald Liss. Rosenblatt has been the rabbi at RJC for 30 years. He was on a six-month sabbatical when the New York Times story was published.

“The last two months have presented the opportunity for our shul to debate and discuss many different points of view, while considering various paths forward,” continued the letter. “After carefully considering various scenarios over the last several weeks, we firmly believe that the approach laid out by Rabbi Rosenblatt is an effective and appropriate way forward for the RJC.”

Yehuda Kurtzer, a source quoted by name in the Times article as a man who was asked by Rosenblatt to join him in the sauna, expressed outrage on a Facebook posting.

“Rabbi Rosenblatt has shrewdly managed his way out of this crisis with the advice of counsel, clearly managing his communications along the way, demonizing his opponents and avoiding any significant fallout.”

The RJC board, in the days following the media firestorm, voted overwhelmingly, 34-8, to find a financial settlement with the rabbi, releasing him from his contract. Rosenblatt called the effort to remove him from the pulpit a “disproportionate” response.

There was a petition, as reported in the Jewish Link, from former RJC interns countering his removal and instead backing the rabbi. Also, a petition which included hundreds of congregation members’ signatures favoring the rabbi’s return also came out of the controversy.

An article in the New York Jewish Week reported that as many as 100 families of the 700-member congregation were looking to possibly leave and form a new congregation, also in the Bronx.

 

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