Rabbinical Group Poised To Investigate Marc Schneier

High-style rabbi declines RCA offer to resign; says bipolar condition to blame for unusual behavior.

08/31/10
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The Rabbinical Council of America, the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis, is likely to initiate an inquiry into alleged moral improprieties of its member, Rabbi Marc Schneier, the high-profile spiritual leader of The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton, L.I., and New York Synagogue in Midtown, whose success in drawing wealthy and loyal supporters and congregants is matched by his widely reported history of personal romances.

Faced with the choice of resignation or the likelihood of being brought before the RCA’s Vaad Hakavod, a committee to deal with the personal conduct of members, Rabbi Schneier this week chose not to step down.

The impetus for the RCA’s involvement in the matter is a spate of recent stories in local tabloids reporting on an alleged affair Rabbi Schneier was conducting this spring while still married to his fourth wife.

At an RCA executive committee meeting Sept. 1, the officers unanimously recommended the highly unusual step of investigating a member’s actions, with the possibility of disciplining or expelling him.

“This would be a call for an inquiry,” the RCA’s first vice president, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, told The Jewish Week on Tuesday. At issue, he said, is whether Rabbi Schneier’s actions represent a chillul hashem, or desecration of God’s name, in terms of “behavior of a public or private nature unbecoming a rabbi,” which the group views as grounds for discipline.

The RCA inquiry, should it go forward, is not expected to harm Rabbi Schneier’s standing at The Hamptons Synagogue, which he founded in 1990 and where Shabbat services regularly attract up to 1,000 worshippers. It includes a full schedule of activities during the summer months, from adult education classes and famous authors to Jewish film festivals.

One prominent supporter of the synagogue said it continues to thrive and that most congregants feel a strong sense of loyalty to the rabbi. “He’s a great guy, and we’ve chosen to forgive him,” he said. “He’s just not good at marriage.”

Rabbi Schneier made headlines in The Daily News — “Rabbi To The Stars Caught Kissing Another Woman In Israel,” Aug. 14 — after his fourth wife, Tobi Rubinstein-Schneier, who is seeking a legal separation after four years of marriage, is alleged to have charged in court papers that he is having an affair with a congregant — and that the woman is pregnant with the rabbi’s child.

Supporters of the rabbi insist that the woman, identified as Gitty Leiner, a speech pathologist, is not a congregant and has never been pregnant, offering a letter to The Jewish Week from a physician as proof. They add that the rabbi and his present wife are separated.

Rabbi Schneier is expected to assert to the RCA that his publicly acknowledged bipolar condition is the cause of what friends describe as his “erratic behavior,” and that he should not be punished as a result.

Asked by The Jewish Week for a comment, the rabbi released a statement, through his public relations representative, Matt Dorf, on Tuesday afternoon, saying:

“Rather than support one of its 25-plus-year members in a time of medical need, the RCA has instead embarrassed itself by listening to tabloid smears and innuendo spread by a soon-to-be ex-wife looking to shake down her third husband.

“Rabbi Schneier looks forward to a vigorous defense against this smear campaign that the RCA itself has regrettably given voice to.”

The Vaad Hakavod, should it be convened, would have the latitude to determine whether Rabbi Schneier should continue to function at his synagogue, take a leave of absence until his condition is improved, be expelled from the RCA or decide on another alternative.

The last time the Vaad Hakavod was called into action was in 2004 when it launched a yearlong investigation into allegations of sexual impropriety against Rabbi Mordechai Tendler of Monsey, who was expelled in 2005.

Rabbi Schneier, who congregants say functions as a combination of spiritual leader, celebrity and impresario, has become a national figure over the years.

The Hampton Synagogue’s website calls it “New York’s Most Celebrated Synagogue,” and Rabbi Schneier was ranked by Newsweek as among the 50 most influential rabbis in America. He is also the founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an organization advocating racial harmony and chaired by hip-hop star Russell Simmons. He has championed the cause of Jewish-Muslim dialogue in recent years.

Since The Jewish Week began making inquiries last week about what, if any, response there was among rabbinic groups regarding Rabbi Schneier’s behavior, the newspaper has received calls from a variety of advocates for the rabbi, including his friends, supporters, public relations spokesmen and medical experts.

Two of the rabbinical groups with which Rabbi Schneier was involved seemed inclined to stay out of the fray.

Asked for comment, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, which Rabbi Schneier has led as president, demurred, saying, “It’s a private matter.”

Similarly, initial inquiries to the RCA, whose policy guidelines insist that “rabbis must conduct themselves in ways that are exemplary in their religious, moral and interpersonal conduct,” went unanswered for several days.

This was followed up by an e-mail message from the RCA’s executive vice president, Rabbi Basil Herring, who wrote:

“We are saddened to see a member of the RCA in this situation. We will have no further comment at this time.”

The muted response was noteworthy, given the RCA’s swift and outspoken criticism of other members over the years for issues of halachic adherence.

In recent months, the rabbinical group reprimanded Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale for giving a woman associate the title of “rabba,” and at the time of the Obama inauguration, it criticized Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan for participating in a prayer service in a Washington church honoring the president.

One RCA official acknowledged that the group felt goaded to take action in the case of Rabbi Schneier, because “how would it look if we ignored this kind of behavior” that has received so much attention. “If left unaddressed, it might cause many to question the high moral standards the RCA expects from its members,” he said.

Another RCA member said the group sought to be sensitive to Rabbi Schneier and his medical issues, but did not want to give the impression that a medical condition provides a rabbi an excuse to act improperly.

“If [Rabbi Schneier) said to us, ‘I have a problem and I can’t serve my congregation until I’m better,’ I’m sure we wouldn’t take action. But he seems to want to continue as if everything is fine.”

 

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Far more deplorable than the reported and reputed misconduct of Schneier in re his concupiscence with random ladies is his association with muslims and his inexcusable support for radicals who seek to disintermediate the Jews from their necks and heads, as well as the United States from its Constitutional mooring. His affiliation and boosterism with thinly veiled haters of Jews and Israel is far more damaging than one Jewish pregnancy or broken marriage, yea or nay. Condemning him for this betrayal of his own people and decency is in order. Those who display their moral squalor by admiring his 'good guyism' in the face of his untoward and inexcusable indiscipline owe it to the Jewish polity to oust this Benedict Arnold as we all fight for our very lives under the infiltration of radical islam into every corner of our home.

It often occurs to me of how, with the fact that M. Schneier has admitted he has a condition that disallows him from making ethical decisions that people of his congregation do not feel that they are being misguided.....not only misguided in a spiritual ethical sense, but what about the cash they put in. Lets look at the details. Michael Weisbrod who acts in the capacity of President of both the Hampton Synagogue and the defunct New York Synagogue is a convicted felon who spent time in a state pen for tax evasion, then again got indicted and was arrested other times including knowingly purchasing stolen artwork. He is know in the art world as a theif....who according to one Hong Kong dealer, steals from one side of Hollywood Blvd one year, and the other side the next. Immerse yourself in the art world and you will here many others not to mention the many he has sold frauds to and the other many he owes money too. (He did step down last year for a short time when he was yet again indicted for another felony). Surely these issues, a corrupt man who claims to be an orthodox Rabbi and a an con man would make me worry where my money is placed...why not these people? Did they not see the contractors pulling the actual frames out of the house Weisbrod upgraded to when he could not fund the building. How during these horrible economic times, how when he owes so much money, does he do these things? How does the Jewish Week not until recently, discuss the real issues with M. Schneier, and how do they not bring the relative issue of Weisbrod into the light?
i myself a yeshiva student have seen much worse than this even from his own father, was very involved in fundraising till i saw where the money actually went! It is a shame that people who wear a certain hat, like a rabbi, priest, doctor, lawyer,police or even president, do not act or live the role. This has hurt me over the years since being an ex yeshivah girl i do kniw the difference between right and wrong or moral and immoral. I hope there is more policing for people like this who are supposed to be role moderl to society.
But seriously, a Rabbi married FOUR times! Seriously, the Torah permits divorce. What? Are you going to "out frum" the Torah?
BIPOLAR?? Does he also rob banks or exhibit other social dysfunctions? Paaleeze. Also, graduates of Chovevei ought to get a real smicha and avoid their colleagues’ snickers.
I am amazed that a publication like the Jewish Week would print speculation without any concrete facts - and so close to Rosh Hashannah as well. I know you want the "scoop" but in any of these cases, wait until there are some facts out there before you jump the gun. Mr. Rosenblatt, you wouldn't like it if there were accusations against one of your children printed in a rival paper - especially if they may not be true... The RCA has sadly become a bunch of aging rabbis looking for notoriety and extra income. They issue statements when they think something may be in the news and their communities have told them to. I am not defending Rabbi Schneier, but when rumors abound, who is next? Maybe you?
I don't think it is correct to malign "Jewish Leadership" in the context of Schneir's inappropriate behavior. Rabbis are not leaders and have very little say in the policies that Jewish leaders--generally, the moneyed class who support the various institutions--follow. The rabbi is no more than a "figurehead" who is called upon--if he wants to keep his salary--to approve the decisions of his board.
The Hampton Synagogue congregants who continue to attend services led by Marc Schneier are publicly disgracing themselves and the jewish community. Jewish leaders who spoke at the synagogue this summer (including the Chief Rabbi of Israel) shamed themselves by tacitly providing official approval for the behavior of Schneier. If Schneier is so sick that he cannot control his behavior then he should not be leading a congregation and should resign; if his depression is a clever ruse to explain his outrageous behavior then he should be fired. In the meantime the synagogue is moving forward with its plans for an eruv which the local community vehemently opposses. How can the Hampton Synagogue community expect its religious concerns to be respected when it so brazenly flouts its most basic values? The article is correct - the synagogue continues to thrive. Unbelievable.
It is interesting that the RCA is actually going against a Rabbi for a real infraction of morality. They have cut off all graduate Rabbis from Chovevei yeshiva from joining the RCA for no reason other than politics. Maybe the other Orthodox Rabbis out there as well as the Chovevei graduates should form their own Moral rabbinic association and forsake the RCA. We coul sonly hope that Rabbis would give us some clear mral leadership.
this is a very sad story, a big name rabbi that comes from a line of reputble family and act as if he is above it all, if this rabbi blames bipolar disorder as a reason for his unusual acts... he needs to own up to it!! a congregation that support that kind of acts is shameless and it shows how this synagogue is conducting they business and keeping this rabbi only for his ability to bring money in and closing eyes to this chillul hashem... shame on this rabbi, shame on his congregation and more so.. SHAME ON THIS SYNAGOGUE for alowing and standing by this wrong and awfull acts. this is not the first time... it's the fourth divorce and the last wife still dos not know why she was cheeted on and treated with total disrespect from her "husband" and from some strange reason.. somehow, all 4 wifes are victems to this rabbi and he is always looking like the good rabbi... now comes the best part, BIPOLAR!! are you kidding me??? wake up people!! you are being fooled by this rabbi and his greedy synagogue.. if he gets away with this the 4th time... him and his synagogue buddies will continue to do this for a long time.. I HOPE WHEN THEY STAND BEFOR GOD THIS COMING YOM KIPPUR THEY WILL GET WHAT THEY DESERVE!!! is this what leadership in the jewish
It could always be worse.....
Was it really necessary to identify the alleged 'other woman' by name without more than an unnamed source? Shame on you.
This sort of behavior characterized Shlomo Carlebach, and no rabbinical group took action then. Now, finally, perhaps the rabbis will be made to behave in accordance with Torah norms.
It's about time. At least look into it. If he's innocent, then there's nothing to worry about. But seriously, a Rabbi married FOUR times! So much for setting a moral standard for his congregants. No wonder they love him in the Hamptons, his poor behavior helps them justify their own.

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