Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt reportedly told synagogue members at a members only event last night that the calls for him to no longer be the Modern Orthodox synagogue’s rabbi are disproportionate to what he did wrong. And Rosenblatt said that despite indicating through his attorney early this month that he would accept a buyout of his contract, he would not do so now and will remain rabbi.
Above: Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt
“Sauna Rabbi” Won’t Resign, Despite Decades Of Inappropriate Behavior With Boys And Young Men
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
He won’t resign after all.
Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx took boys as young as 12-years-old to sit naked with him in a gym’s sauna and alleged ogled them, the New York Times reported in an exposé last month.
The odd behavior went on for decades as Rosenblatt, under pressure from his synagogue’s board and from colleagues at Yeshiva University and the Rabbinical Council of America, moved his attention from boys to young adult men just above the age of majority.
After the Times exposé was published, Rosenblatt agreed to negotiate with the Riverdale Jewish Center’s board to arrange a buyout for the last three years of his current contract.
But then Rosenblatt reneged.
Wednesday night Rosenblatt told the packed synagogue that he would not resign, the Times reported.
“This is a crisis created by my own lapses of judgment. I have brought pain to people, shame to my family and I have caused a desecration of the divine name,” Rosenblatt allegedly said at the members only event.
But Rosenblatt also reportedly told synagogue members that the calls for him to no longer be the Modern Orthodox synagogue’s rabbi are disproportionate to what he did wrong.
In a letter to members early this month, the board said it would try to “achieve an amicable resolution with Rabbi Rosenblatt” and buy out his contract. The vote of the board to do so was reportedly 34 to 8 in favor, and Rosenblatt’s attorney, Ben Brafman, said after the board’s letter was released that he expected Rosenblatt would reach an agreement to step down.
But yesterday, Brafman said Rosenblatt had now decided to stay. “This is the rabbi’s life and he didn’t want to leave the pulpit. And after reflection and careful thought he realized that he did nothing that warranted his dismissal, nor his retirement,” Brafman told the Times. He also asserted that the synagogue board does not have the power to remove Rosenblatt.
Two members told the Times that after the Rosenblatt’s speech last night, the congregation applauded and some even gave Rosenblatt a standing ovation – despite three decades of inappropriate behavior by Rosenblatt, multiple warnings to stop that behavior from the synagogue’s board and from rabbinic colleagues, and the men who say Rosenblatt used those sauna visits to ogle their naked bodies.