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September 30, 2015 7:00 am

Shame on the Riverdale Jewish Center for Backing Immoral Rabbi Who Mentored Young Boys in the Nude

avatar by Ronn Torossian

Email a copy of "Shame on the Riverdale Jewish Center for Backing Immoral Rabbi Who Mentored Young Boys in the Nude" to a friend
RJC Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, who admits to having been naked with boys in his congregation. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

RJC Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, who admits to having taken steam baths with boys in his congregation. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

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 admittedly has taken steam baths naked with young male congregants for many years.

On Yom Kippur, Jews explore the Biblical story of Jonah, and aim to understand our lives and consider our purpose in this world. Curiously, right before we read Jonah, we read the Torah portion advising us to avoid immoral relationships.

Yet, the board that employs Rosenblatt – and the people who remain members of the congregation – are endorsing his immoral relationships and behavior. Could anyone have kept a straight face when he lectured on ethics and morality on Yom Kippur?

It has been reported that a large 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 still remain and support Rosenblatt should re-read and reflect on the prayers they uttered on Yom Kippur. The New York Times has stated that Rosenblatt “showered beside [the young men] 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.”

Naked conversations about faith?

As far as I’m aware, Rosenblatt does not deny the charges or proclaim his innocence in this matter, which involves many children, some allegedly as young as 12. Members of the board say the situation has been “overblown;” undoubtedly, none of their own children participated in the sessions. And how many would allow their kids to be mentored by this rabbi?

That he was not asked to resign is both shameful and a sin. Its criminality is a different matter. Indeed, after a thorough investigation, the district attorney concluded that Rosenblatt did not violate the law. But this does not mean that he is morally or ethically innocent — something we all expect from our rabbis.

No matter how much Torah is being taught or learned at the RJC these days, there is no holiness in a place that determines that a rabbi whose guidance to boys includes being naked with them was not engaged in any “misconduct.”

In the court of public opinion, and in the eyes of those who once looked to him for inspiration and leadership, he is guilty of severe misconduct.

The RJC board and its president, Samson Fine, bear the brunt of responsibility for continuing to employ such a desecrater of God’s name.

“For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality; For the sin which we have committed before You by using coercion; And for the sin which we have committed before You with impudence…,” Rosenblatt must goEvery sane member of the synagogue must walk out every time its rabbi opens his mouth.


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  • renee

    why are you posting only negative responses, why you taking down the positive ones?

  • renee

    Ronn Torossian talking about morality is like an atheist preaching about religion. A guy like this publishing an article about morality is a joke. But if the client is paying, what does Torossian care?

    So it’s worth asking: Who hired this guy? Who would stoop to the level of hiring Ronn Torossian? Could it be the same group that got the NY Times to publish a full-page article filled with inuedo and light on facts?

    David Sable, an executive of advertising group Young & Rubicam, had a hand in orchestrating both of these shameful pieces! (He clearly has a relationship with Torossian. In March, for example, he spoke at a conference orchestrated by Torossian.) Sable is also the one feeding Gary Rosenblatt at the Jewish Week. He sits on the Jewish Week board.

    Mr. Sable – do you think spearheading these efforts will win you favor in the eyes of Jack Bendheim and Lou Bravmann (a group you’ve always wanted to be a part of)? Or is it that because your father Rabbi Jack Sable left the RJC in disgrace you think bringing down Rabbi Rosenblatt will help your father’s legacy? Everyone should see you for the snake you are.

  • David Golds

    Rabbi Rosenblatt takes naked baths with kids – does anything more need to be said. And Riverdale Jewish Center thinks he should stay. Unreal. That shul will not remain.

  • Chaim

    How laughable. Torossian, having gone on a publicized vulgarity laced e-mail tirade against a female employee in which he used several degrading profanities, is writing about morality and ethics?

    Anyone who wants to know about Torossian being hired by Rosenblatt’s opponents and Torossian’s embarrassing history should visit the rosenblatt news blog.

  • Josh G
  • Ashamed at RJC

    The shame is for all members of RJC who will not stand up and demand that RJR step down.

  • Ben

    Hiring? Any evidence?

  • Ben

    “That he was not asked to resign is both shameful and a sin.”

    This shows a lack of understanding of the situation. This was discussed with him before the NY Times article, and he refused to resign. The board overwhelmingly voted to buyout his contract, and he refused to negotiate. The only way then to get rid of the Rabbi os to have a membership-wide vote, which was avoided to prevent a toxic environment in the community. The toxic environment was the result anyway with his putting his steak in the Rabbi’s chair. The Executive Board was too ineffective & weak to push him out of a sweetheart contract that was given to him years ago.

    • Richard T

      The executive board – Samson Fine – and others prefer to keep him in place. Why not buy him out?

  • Rabbi Rosenblatt must leave. He is not caring for his congregation when he has destroyed it and so many cannot bear this immoral behavior.

    • renee

      Annette c. immoral behavior?, you should not talk about immoral behavior.

  • mike

    The “rabbi” and his supporters are sick. It sounds like a matter that should be looked into by the police.

    • Josh G

      Been there, done that Mike. Nothing there beyond some 30 years olds who felt “uncomfortable” with the rabbi when they were in their early twenties. It’s time to move on.

      • David Golds

        Josh G: Why don’t you have your children take naked steam baths with a random man.
        and they were 12 years old. Shame on you.

        • Josh G

          Could it be that those inside the community know their Rabbi better than you do?

          You should spend time with Torossian. You would guys would enjoy each other’s company.

  • David A

    Michael Chenkin should be aware I spoke to Mr. Torossian today – he is not being paid for any campaign nor in touch with the “detractors.”

    • Isaac R

      Torossian’s a PR guy simply working for the good of the community? BS. He was hired to further humiliate Rabbi Rosenblatt and those remaining at the RJC.

  • David A

    Rosenblatt synagogue runs bar mitzvahs. Love to hear this guy speak about becoming a man LOL.

    • Ben

      One of the primary reasons I left the RJC is that my son is going to be a Bar Mitzvah, and he is currently scared of the Rabbi.

      • Josh G

        L. Benj. – Whatever your 12 year old son thinks of Rabbi Rosenblatt is a direct result of your preaching. Your wife (may she rest in peace) would be ashamed on how you’ve turned on RJR.

  • Richard T

    This article is so needed and so right. Why has there been silence for so long. Thank you – and Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt must go.