Thursday, October 21, 2021

Park East Synagogue pushes out Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt the assistant rabbi, sparking protest


Park East Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, fired its popular assistant rabbi after the longtime head rabbi rebuffed a congregant-led push to “revitalize the synagogue.”

Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, 34, had been working for the synagogue for a decade and was known for his outreach to Russian-speaking families. He began at Park East as a rabbinic intern and congregants told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that many hoped he would lead the synagogue one day.

But his tenure there abruptly ended with an email from Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier that went out to community members on Monday. Schneier wrote, “Assistant Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt is no longer employed by our Synagogue,” but did not elaborate on the decision.

The firing is making waves in the venerable 133-year-old congregation, which is linked to a day school named for Schneier. More than 200 people have signed a petition protesting Goldschmidt’s termination, but their identities have been hidden after a note said the first 70 signatories “were receiving harassment for speaking up.” The synagogue claims a membership of 700 households.

Neither the synagogue nor Goldschmidt responded to requests for comment. Goldschmidt’s biography on the synagogue website, which was active as of the beginning of the week, has been deleted.

Reached by phone Wednesday, the synagogue board president, Herman Hochberg, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he was not at liberty to discuss why Goldschmidt was fired, but said it was not “because we don’t like him.

Goldschmidt is the son of Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt and has written in a number of publications about his work as well as Israeli politics. His 2014 wedding to the journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt was the subject of a feature in the New York Times’ “Vows” section.


Anonymous said...

Don't trust anyone over 90!

Joselito said...

Very sad story when the Rabbi's act as a Rebbe and does not retired. The Covid gave a pig patch to all the shuls all around the world even in Jerusalem where in a place like sztyblech katamon who had around 2000 people in the morning 500 maximum. Good luck

Anonymous said...

Something very off going on

Julia Shaine said...

Here is a letter from the synagogue. While there are many things that were done wrong by this young Rabbi, and while this Rabbi does not have the pedigree including a University Degree, the fact is he was not trustworthy is the true issue.

Dear Park East Community,

As President of Park East Synagogue, I am writing to you  today about the recent events that have transpired over the last two weeks.
On Sunday October 10th, a meeting was held in the Synagogue with Assistant Rabbi Goldschmidt, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, myself and a respected leader of the congregation. At this meeting, Assistant Rabbi Goldschmidt unequivocally admitted to taking and disseminating, the full, non-public contact list of all synagogue members as well as parents of the Day School to two individuals that he has aligned himself with.  Assistant Rabbi Goldschmidt did this without first discussing it with and getting the approval from Rabbi Schneier or myself.  Moreover, he did this without asking the permission of the individuals and families who were contacted – an obligation that the Synagogue takes seriously.  After his admission, Assistant Rabbi Goldschmidt refused to apologize for his rogue actions.  In fact, he further enflamed the concerns of Rabbi Schneier and myself by additionally stating that he would continue to use and disseminate the list at his discretion. 

Divulging the personal information in this manner likely carries significant concerns for those involved. To date, and though he has been asked to do so, Assistant Rabbi Goldschmidt has also refused to return this confidential information and instead, has hired an attorney to threaten our institution in connection to his dismissal.Rather than discussing his concerns with Rabbi Arthur Schneier and myself, Assistant Rabbi Goldschmidt deliberately circumvented us, and permitted two other members, Brad Colman and Brian Kaufman, to communicate with the entire congregation.  Messrs. Colman and Kaufman are neither trustees, nor actively involved in the Synagogue or the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School.  It is therefore not clear what led them to take such drastic action now, without first raising their concerns with Rabbi Schneier or myself.
All of us have come to love Rabbi Schneier – a Holocaust survivor and beacon for humanity- and we are fortunate to have been guided by his wisdom for the past 60 years.  For all these years, Rabbi Schneier has always conducted himself strictly and solely with the best intentions of each and every member of this congregation.  Please be assured that the termination of Assistant Rabbi Goldschmidt was done with much thought and consideration for all involved.  As such, the professional relationship between Assistant Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt and Park East Synagogue has been permanently severed.   

The motto of our Synagogue, L’dor V’dor, from generation to generation, is not challenged, compromised or stymied as a result of recent events.  I am pleased to inform you that an executive search committee has been established to find prospective leading rabbis with a view toward choosing one who has the intellectual heft, dynamism, and experience in leading a congregation, someone with wisdom and a demonstrated ability to inspire Jews of all ages and levels of observance. Our motto speaks as loudly today as ever before, and we will continue to strengthen our Synagogue for future generations.
Herman Hochberg

Anonymous said...

He may be untrustworthy enough to throw him out, I would have thought that the Assistant Rabbi had the right to communicate with the members of the community, but to suggest that a greater fault than that is that he doesn't have a University degree just shows how far from Yiddishkeit Rabbi Schneier has dragged this community.