Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt voluntarily steps down as community rabbi

Times of Israel     Following a tumultuous year of sexual misconduct allegations and a community effort to bring about his ouster, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt told his New York synagogue Wednesday that he would step down as community rabbi. 

The decision was announced in a letter sent to the members of the Riverdale Jewish Center by its president, Samson Fine. 

“Rabbi Rosenblatt has today informed RJC’s leadership that he intends to step aside from the Senior Rabbinate of the RJC,” the email read. “The Shul’s Board of Trustees was informed at this evening Board meeting and we anticipate discussing transition details the Board in the next two weeks.”

The Riverdale Jewish Center had decided to keep Rosenblatt in place despite protests over reports of sauna chats with naked boys revealed in an exposé in The New York Times in May 2014.

Rosenblatt, who denied any criminal wrongdoing but apologized for inappropriate behavior, had been fighting efforts by some in his Orthodox congregation to buy out the remaining three years on his contract.

Despite the controversy stirred by the article about Rosenblatt’s practice for years of inviting teenage boys and young men for naked heart-to-hearts in the sauna after racquetball games, he retained the support of community leaders. [...]

Rosenblatt’s determination to stay was bolstered by the warm reception he received after a dramatic public apology in front of hundreds of congregants at a synagogue gathering in late June 2015.

“This is a crisis created by my own lapses of judgment,” Rosenblatt said, according to a recording of the speech transcribed by a synagogue member and cited in the Times. “I have brought pain to people, shame to my family and I have caused a desecration of the divine name.” [...]

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