Riverdale Jewish Center members call on rabbi to resign

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Story updated on June 9 at 10:25 p.m.

Hundreds of Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) members came to prayer services at the Independence Avenue synagogue on Saturday. Men wearing prayer shawls over their suits and women in their finest greeted one another with upbeat salutations of “Good shabbos” as they walked between rooms packed with people worshipping and chanting over copies of the Torah.

There was little mention of a May 29 article in The New York Times saying the Modern Orthodox synagogue’s longtime leader, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, took boys into a sauna naked over a period of years.

“In light of the recent events, I just think that being that the [RJC 61st anniversary] dinner is coming up next week, on Sunday, it would be very nice if we all came together as a community and supported and attended the dinner,” RJC’s Financial Secretary Jonathan Strauss said as a morning prayer service in a basement sanctuary wound down.

“Additionally, echoing [RJC’s President] Samson Fine’s statement from last night, if anyone is interested in talking about the situation with him, they can feel free to go over to him or myself at any time. Good shabbos,” Mr. Strauss concluded.

Despite Mr. Strauss’ call for unity, at least 44 RJC members e-mailed Rabbi Rosenblatt a petition on Sunday calling on him to step down over the allegations in the Times article. The report said the rabbi, who did not attend Saturday prayer services, habitually played racquetball with boys at local gyms and led them nude into a sauna in the 1980s and 1990s.

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