“The Rabbinical Council of America Executive Committee reviewed the facts presented to it regarding the conduct of Rabbi Marc Schneier and voted to expel him from his membership,” said the statement form Rabbi Mark Dratch, the RCA’s executive vice president. “This decision has been communicated to Rabbi Schneier. Rabbi Schneier’s status as rabbi of his synagogue is determined by the synagogue’s leadership and any questions about his status should be directed to them. The RCA will have no further comment about this matter.” But the RCA expelled Schneier in January. It did not make that expulsion public, and Schneier says he didn't know about the expulsion until this week, when he heard about it from a reporter.
Above: Rabbi Marc Schneier
Rabbi Marc Schneier told the JTA today that he made a deal with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) last year regarding his 2010 affair (had while still married to his fourth wife) with the woman who in now his fifth wife.
After learning from Schneier that he has serious bipolar disorder (and seeing the medical evidence to back that claim up), the RCA's Va'ad HaKovod (ethics committee) allegedly agreed to drop its investigation of Schneier. But Schneier was told that for to happen, he had to write a letter of apology to the RCA for shaming it.
Schneier says he agreed. He wrote the letter and sent it last October, almost immediately after being asked by the Va'ad HaKavod to do so.
Schneier says he heard nothing more from the RCA about the issue until this week, after learning from a Forward reporter that the RCA had expelled him in January.
The RCA claims it repeatedly tried to contact Schneier in various ways, including by mail, but was unable to do so – despite the fact Schneier is one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in New York City (where the RCA is based) and in the Hamptons. Schneier says he didn't receive the letters from the RCA and had no idea he had been expelled, and the RCA did not make Schneier's expulsion public.
The formal statement given the JTA by the RCA is considerably more terse than all that. It eliminates things like all dates and any mention of the deal with Schneier:
“The Rabbinical Council of America Executive Committee reviewed the facts presented to it regarding the conduct of Rabbi Marc Schneier and voted to expel him from his membership,” said the statement form Rabbi Mark Dratch, the RCA’s executive vice president. “This decision has been communicated to Rabbi Schneier. Rabbi Schneier’s status as rabbi of his synagogue is determined by the synagogue’s leadership and any questions about his status should be directed to them. The RCA will have no further comment about this matter.”
A top RCA rabbi who sat on the Va'ad HaKavod and heard Schneier's case says Schneier would likely have been booted even if the RCA had received his letter, because the deal Schneier made with the RCA's Va'ad HaKovod wasn't binding on the RCA as a whole:
…Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, a past president of the RCA and chairman of the ethics committee that met with Schneier, said that even if the RCA had received Schneier’s letter, he likely would have been expelled anyway given his behavior. The ethics committee’s decision last October to endorse Schneier’s continued membership in the RCA in light of the medical explanations for his behavior constituted only a recommendation to the RCA’s 47-member executive committee; that body retained final say over Schneier’s status in the association.
This week, after the Forward story appeared, the RCA executive committee held a conference call in which the decision to expel Schneier was upheld, Goldin said.
“The underlying problem is that his behavior was unacceptable for a rabbi,” Goldin told JTA. “In the estimation of the executive committee, this behavior” — the extramarital affair — “negatively affected the nature and the name of the rabbinate.”
But if the RCA accepted Schneier's medical excuse for the behavior, and that medical problem is being adequately treated and controlled, why expel him? Does the RCA mean to say that all rabbis with psychological problems can no longer be members? Because if it is, there are likely a few other rabbis with bipolar disorder and psychological issues who need to expelled. And there is certainly a much larger group of rabbis who demonstrate clear signs of mental instability or who make racist and homophobic statements (one in Teaneck comes to mind). Do those racist, extreme, hard right-wing statements not bring shame on the RCA? If they do not, if demagoguing ethnic and racial minorities does not embarrass the rabbis of the RCA, why does bipolar disorder and the affair that apparently came from it do so?
The answer, I think, is twofold. First, no one involved in the Schneier case is likely telling the whole truth. Secondly, as years of unpunished outbursts from the Teaneck rabbi have made clear, you can never be too right-wing to get booted out of the RCA, even if you question the US President's citizenship, belittle his race, attack this country's poor for burdening the 'rest' of us, and endorse genocide against Palestinians.
It is this dichotomy that should embarrass the RCA. That it does not speaks volumes about what is wrong with the RCA and with Orthodox Judaism as a whole.