Published On: Tue, Jun 2nd, 2015

Riverdale’s ‘Open Secret’ Goes Public

Congregants divided on Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt’s invitations to young men to join him in sauna.

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt Photo by YouTube

Three years ago several prominent members of the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC), the 700-member Modern Orthodox congregation, met privately with their longtime rabbi, Jonathan Rosenblatt, and offered to arrange a generous buyout for him.

They told him that the persistent rumors about his allegedly inappropriate behavior with boys and young men were bound to become public at some point and it would be in his and his family’s best interest, and for the congregation as well, if he accepted an offer to resign quietly.

If he didn’t, he was told, “this could all end badly, ” according to a member of the congregation with knowledge of the meeting.

“It was not meant as a threat, but rather that it would hit the press eventually and no one would see things as he did, ” the person explained this weekend.

“Unfortunately, he refused, and now it’s all out there, ” the person said, referring to The New York Times, May 31 report on Rabbi Rosenblatt’s “unusual” behavior that included inviting young men to discuss personal matters while sitting naked in the sauna with him.

The rabbi insisted, in the meeting, that he had done nothing wrong and had complied with previous requests from shul officials that he limit his gym invitations to young men rather than boys. His wife, Tzipporah, an attorney, who was present at the meeting, was said to have asserted that any action by RJC against the rabbi would result in a lawsuit.

By Gary Rosenblatt


The Jewish Week

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