A New York Orthodox rabbi announced last night that he’s refusing to leave his post—despite his synagogue board’s requests to the contrary in response to the revelation of his habit of taking naked sauna dips with young male congregants in the 1980s and 90s, some of whom were as young as 12 years old.
The shvitz enthusiast, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, had previously promised to work out a deal in which the board would buy out his remaining contract. But it appears that the pants-less patriarch of the Riverdale Jewish Center had a change of heart. From The New York Times:
“This is a crisis created by my own lapses of judgment,” said Rabbi Rosenblatt, 58, on a recording of the speech transcribed by a synagogue member. “I have brought pain to people, shame to my family and I have caused a desecration of the divine name.”
Still, according to another member, he said “that the calls for him to no longer be the rabbi are disproportionate to what he did. And he said he looks forward to serving his community.”
Over 200 members of the 700-member synagogue had signed a petition urging Rosenblatt to keep his post, and the rabbi maintains that he didn’t do anything warranting dismissal. Some of his old students, however, seem to disagree.
Speaking to the the Times, several of the (now grown) men said the naked sauna discussions made them understandably uncomfortable, and that the rabbi would even “gawk” at them. When the synagogue found out about the rabbi’s questionable practices back when they were still going on, the temple’s leadership “urged him to stop.” And did absolutely nothing else.