Published On: Wed, Sep 30th, 2015

Samson Fine & Riverdale Jewish Center: Rabbis Who Take Naked Steam Baths With Boys Must Be Fired

Illustration- Haredi Orthodox-jews- jewish A group of Orthodox Jews. Photo Wiki Commons.

 

Imagine being a congregant at the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) during the High Holidays and listening to a sermon from the synagogue’s senior rabbi, Jonathan Rosenblatt, a man who admits to have taken naked-steam baths with pre-pubescent boys who are members of his congregation for many years.

The Board which employs Rosenblatt – and people who remain members of this congregation – are endorsing this man’s behavior and it is terrible that they allow him to remain in place.

As the New York Times has reported Rosenblatt acknowledged heshowered beside them and took them into the sauna, where — often naked, and with them often naked — he engaged the boys in searching conversations about their lives, problems and faith.” 

Rosenblatt does not deny the charges or proclaim his innocence in this matter which includes countless children, some as young as 12. After Rosenblatt hired the brilliant criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, the Bronx District Attorney concluded that there was no criminal behavior by Rosenblatt.

 

The DA investigates crimes of the law – not morals or ethics.  The board says the situation has been “overblown” – yet, undoubtedly none of their children were involved.  I’d venture Rosenblatt is not permitted at SAR Academy in Riverdale, nor is he conducting bar mitzvahs these days.

The cover-story in this week’s edition of The Jewish Week reports that “In Riverdale, Split Deepens Over Rabbi”, a number of congregants of the 600-family Modern Orthodox synagogue have broken off to form a new service a few blocks away in protest of Rosenblatt remaining in place.

Those who support the Rabbi should prove their support and encourage their children and grand-children to sit in the sauna naked with the Rabbi. I’d take their leadership more seriously. Those who still support Rosenblatt should re-read the prayers uttered on Yom Kippur as they seek forgiveness and life for another year, and reflect on those actions deemed appropriate.

No matter how much Torah is being taught or learned at the Riverdale Jewish Center, there is no holiness in a building, no sanctity at a venue where the RJC’s board claimed its Rabbi was not engaged in any “misconduct.”   It is “misconduct” and wholly inappropriate for a Rabbi to be naked with boys as young as 12, and young men seeking rabbinical guidance.

In the court of public opinion, and in the eyes of those who once looked to him for inspiration and leadership he is very guilty.  The Riverdale Jewish Center board, Donald Liss the Chairman of the Board, and Samson Fine, MD, the President of RJC, bear the weight of this shame for allowing this man to remain in place.

Riverdale Jewish Center is wrong to allow Rosenblatt to remain in his position.

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