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June 24, 2010

Rubashkin Rabbi Pesach Lerner Threatens To "Ruin" Rabbi Over Shul Spat, Seize Shul's Assets

Rabbi Pesach Lerner Fight over woman board president of Young Israel synagogue turns ugly. Shul's rabbi: “I’ve never been threatened before. It stayed with me a long time. There isn’t a day that goes by that this doesn’t bother me."

No female presidents, says Young Israel

By Michael Orbach • The Jewish Star

Young-israel Can a woman be president of an Orthodox shul? Not if it’s a Young Israel, according to the constitution of the National Council of Young Israel, which requires that presidents be “male and Jewish from birth.” A small congregation in upstate New York said excluding women from leadership roles is not an option. Now, a dispute between the shul and National Council is raising questions about the conduct of two of Young Israel’s top leaders.

In 2005, the Young Israel-Shaarei Torah of Syracuse elected Joan Poltenson, a woman, to be shul president. The decision was a practical one, born of necessity, given that at its peak the shul had only 75 members.

“The fact of the matter is there’s a limited number of shomer Shabbos people that are willing to be president and here they’re cutting off half of that population,” said Beverly Marmor, a soft-spoken radiologist who serves as the current president of the shul and the second female president to win election.

The shul operates on a deficit, Marmor says — a third of the rabbi’s salary is covered by the local day school, where he teaches — and the shul has also received little from National Council. The shul was unable to pay its dues to Young Israel since the fee was based on an inflated number of members, she said. The shul’s only request to National Council — financial help to fix the shul’s roof — was rejected, she said.

The shul’s rav, Rabbi Evan Shor, told The Jewish Star that in 2008, during Poltenson’s third term as president, he received a threatening phone call from Rabbi Barry Hammer, National Council’s director of rabbinical service. Rabbi Hammer, who according to Rabbi Shor, “ignored… [the shul’s] woman president for 3 years,” demanded her immediate resignation. If she would not resign, Rabbi Shore said he was told, then National Council would sue the shul and claim its assets. Rabbi Hammer has denied saying that.

The board of the shul convened an emergency meeting in August and resigned from the National Council. They took down the Young Israel sign outside the building and renamed the shul Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse.

Rabbi Pesach Lerner 2 Days later, according to Rabbi Shor, Rabbi Pesach Lerner [pictured above and at right], the executive director of the National Council of Young Israel, called and verbally attacked him, threatening that he would “destroy both Rabbi Shor and the shul” if the resignation was not rescinded.

Rabbi Shor was bewildered. “I’ve never been threatened before,” Rabbi Shor told The Jewish Star. “It stayed with me a long time. There isn’t a day that goes by that this doesn’t bother me. All I want is sholom. We’re the only Orthodox shul in Syracuse and I want to continue our work.”

Two days later, Rabbi Shor recounted, Rabbi Lerner called again and told Rabbi Shor that he would “depose everyone on the board” and that he hoped that the shul had “deep pockets.”

Rabbi Lerner declined to discuss the issue by phone with The Jewish Star but responded via email. “I don’t believe I said such,” Rabbi Lerner said. “And if he thinks I did or misunderstood my words or tone, I heartfully apologize, publicly.”

The entire dispute concerned money and had nothing to do with the female president, Rabbi Lerner said. “They owe us serious money, that is the issue,” he explained. “There are more important things going on in Klal Yisroel,” he added, declining any further comment.

The issue was scheduled to be discussed at a Delegates Meeting of the National Council of Young Israel on June 25. The agenda for the meeting lists both the money owed and the matter of the female president.

Marmor disagreed with Rabbi Lerner’s characterization of the dispute and said that during all the conversations between Rabbi Hammer, Rabbi Shor and her, the subject of dues owed to National Council never came up.

“It was the problem of the woman president,” Marmor explained. “They were quiet about the money for 24 years. Until the woman president there wasn’t a word.”

Both Rabbi Shor and Marmor were reluctant to talk to the press and kept quiet because of a fear of chillul Hashem for two years. Marmor posted information about the controversy on Sunday to provide information to the National Council delegates. Shor and Marmor only agreed to speak to The Jewish Star after the dispute was mentioned on The Jewish Week’s website. Since then, Marmor says, she received positive support from delegates who pledged to support the shul at Thursday’s meeting.

Avi Goldberg, president of the Young Israel of Brookline, a shul that has 200 member families, said he was “bothered by the incident.”

“I would like the leadership to focus its efforts on promoting the good causes of the organization rather than spend time, money, and resources going after a shul that doesn’t want to be a part of the organization,” he explained.

“We felt we have to protect our shul,” said Marmor. “We’re very small. We’re the only Orthodox shul around. If you’re in New York and you don’t like your shul you can go to another shul. We don’t have that choice.”

Rabbi Pesach Lerner has been a major supporter of Sholom Rubashkin. You can read more about him in these posts.


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I was told that prohibition of women president is a recent addition to Young Israel constitution.

In my town, one shul's past president was a woman, the other a ger. But then again, I don't live in a freakin' time warp.

We wonder what is wrong with Judiasm today!! Rabbi Lerner, perhgaps hashem is sending you a message also through Shalom's sentence? It's all about money!!!

Cheskel: Is this an example of a Jewish heart? I am still waiting for my answer

This has nothing to do with Rubashkin.
Why can't you publish the post on it's own merits?

What do you expect from an organization that tries to hide the significant involvement of R. Mordachai Kaplan in its founding? The shul should ditch YI and never look back.

Rubashkin Rabbi

Just what is a "Rubashkin Rabbi"? If a rabbi is a big supporter of Chai Lifeline does he then become a "Chai Lifeline Rabbi"? How absolutely absurd and childish and oh so transparent!

Neo Conservaguy -

What do you expect from an organization that tries to hide the significant involvement of R. Mordachai Kaplan in its founding?

What who was he? Why do they try to hide that he was involved in it's founding?

How do they understand all the prohibitions and admonitions about not mistreating the ger?

Lerner was a wacko when he supported Rubashkin (against the advise of the constituents) and his deeds reflect on his warped sense of obligation.

He has taken the YI movement away from their purpose and transformed it into a wannabe Aguda. Now that he has profited personally by wiping out the resourses, one wonders what is left for him to rape and pillar from the movement?

Ask about Lerner and wife Greenwald and in-laws . . . Laniado Hospital anyone

Although addition of specific exlusion of women and gerim from the office of a president in YI seems to be of recent origin, it is not their invention. It is basic Halacha that excludes them from any positions of communal authority.

YI could have avoided appearing misogynistic and racist by simply stating "YI follows Halacha" in selecting shul presidents. I am sure this exclusion is not spelled out in any Haredi shul constitution, but you'll never see a woman or ger shul president there. They would not even entertain a thought about it so basic the undersatnding of limited rights of these 2 groups is for them.

Abra: Mordecai Kaplan was a Conservative rabbi who went on to found the Reconstructionist movement. He was involved in Modern Orthodoxy too, back in the day when the two movements were very similar. Reconstruction is apikorsut, by Orthodox lights.

Lerner is all about money. How he survives is simple. The National Young Israel does not exist. There are a YI Synagogues, which have become very right wing. The National organization specializes in press releases. No one cares about it. People become president and stay forever, because no one cares.
Lerner is an SOB and has been one since he took over the organization. Besides press releases, can anyone tell me anything that they have accomplished? They had a big scandal with nursing homes they were involved in, and they were investigated by the State when they wanted to sell their buliding. They drove out their member shul that was in the building. I believe they now have money, which pays Lerner very well, but they still do nothing but Press releases.

They should change their name to Old Israel.

who knows is wrong. the ban dates back decades.

A few months ago I was in New York and visited seperately with Rabbi Lerner and with Rabbi Shafran. I can tell you that while I do appreciate that Rabbi Lerner gave me some of his time, he did not appear to me to be a particularly "warm and fuzzy" guy. I could envision him being a bully at times. Also, he does not even go to a Young Israel shul, which I found odd. He did say that if he went to a YI Shul, the people would nag him constantly and it would be a distraction. Perhaps so, I don't know. It was just a first impression on my part regarding Rabbi Lerner, so it is possible I misread him. As for Rabbi Shafran, I met with him for about 30 minutes in his office, and I came away impressed with him. We had frank discussions about issues on which we disagree such as Rubashkin. However, he was very cordial, open, and seems to be a genuinely nice person. I would not call Rabbi Lerner "Rubashkin Rabbi", as it is misleading.

I would not call Rabbi Lerner "Rubashkin Rabbi", as it is misleading.


He's been shilling for Rubashkin for years and has taken money from him for pro-Rubashkin activity.

I also had dinner with Rabbi Greenwald in Monsey. An exceptionally interesting and very nice man, with incredible stories to tell. I only mention this because of the Greenwald reference I just noticed from earlier in the thread. I don't know what anyone might have against him, perhaps he might have supported Mordechai Tendler. Ok, so he would have been wrong on that one. However, I am convinced this is a man of deep conviction who cares about right and wrong. He isn't perfect, but he is one heck of a guy. I hope I have another opportunity to spend time with him.

Rubashkin Rabbi would be the 7th Grand Rabbi of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, shlita.

Rubashkin Rabbi would be the 7th Grand Rabbi of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, shlita.

No, that would be his rebbe.

His Rebbe, shlita....

Rabbi Greenwald gave Aharon Weider from the Ramapo School Board some tips on menschlichkeit after Weider came across so poorly at school board meetings.

Since I'm name dropping, did I tell you I went out with Bar Rafaeli....ok, just kidding.

I am a member of YI in the midwest. I can't possibly conceive why a woman can not be president, it is a ceremonial post, nothing to do with Halacha. And if a Ger converts halachikally, why can't they be president? What does this say about their confidence in thier own conversion process?

Unfortunately, the only other choices in my area are mostly black hat shuls, not exactly my cup of tea.

This needs to be changed.

The (possible) halachik issue with having a woman or convert shul president relates to the concept of "serarah," which can be loosely translated as "authority." Googling that term will result in a number of hits explaining the concept. In the YI shul I attend, the president is the functional chief excutive of the shul, so I can understand why that would be considered serarah.

"Rabbi Greenwald gave Aharon Weider from the Ramapo School Board some tips on menschlichkeit after Weider came across so poorly at school board meetings."

Posted by: itchiemayer

If that's the case, Greenwald failed because Aharon is still an idiot. Aharon voted for the budget and then stood at the poles passing out flyers to his people to vote it down!

Women and gerim are not allowed to have authority. It is halacha. Is it in tune with our times - NO, but it is an unchangable "word of G-d" for the haredi.

Pesach Lerner is not a Modern Orthodox he is haredi , he went to Ner Israel and he is buddy of Avi Shafan. How he became the head of Old Israel is a mystery to me.

They worry about women in authority position but it does not prevent them from going to a professional dominatrix.

As Melissa Melissa Febos writes in her memoir , the majority of her clients are Ultra Orthodox and hassidim


Bassy - funny you should say that. I did a search of that book, and that is a misrepresntation of what she says. She says that "Orthodox Jews were amongs our most frequent clients," and recounts one encounter with a Hasid. That is the only time the the words "Orthodox" or "Hasid" appear in her book.
Why do you feel the need to misrepresent/exagerate to make your point?

I was told that prohibition of women president is a recent addition to Young Israel constitution.

As was the prohibition against "righteous converts" -- snort! -- but few people give a crap about them. The hate is strong with this organization.

In my town, one shul's past president was a woman, the other a ger. But then again, I don't live in a freakin' time warp.

Nor do you live in bizzaro world.

What is the reasoning, then, behind 'serarah'? IF we say a convert has all the merit, and even stands in a place before HaShem where a FFB cannot stand, why would his (or her) authority be at issue?

Regarding women in general, is the authority issue the same as why women can't be Jewish judges?

Pesach Lerner is neither Modern nor Chareidi. He is a liar and a forger. He looks the other way that a large Young Israel in Westchester has a women's minyan and through forgery he covered up the cherem of the young israel rabbi in Las Vegas who arrested a widow for trespassing after she stopped paying dues to them

It is clearly a halachick issue. I would say it is clear that those who allow a woman president will allow woman rabbis. At the core they are the same issue. The halachic issue is called serarah. And it goes back to biblical times. The bible tells us when we enter the land to take a king. The sages tell us the biblical verse is telling us a king and not a queen. Maimonidies rules as do many others that women are not allowed to have positions of authority over the community.

See an overview of the historical and halachick discussion by Professor Frimer who is at the forefront of giving greater roles to women in Orthodox Judaism. http://text.rcarabbis.org/?p=931

Joseph - thanks for the link. It was fascinating and Rabbi Dr. Frimer treated the issue with absolute integrity and fairness.

Orthodoxy as a whole is self-destructing. It can't come quickly enough to suit me.

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