Orthodox Rabbi Sued by Former Congregant

By Rukhl Schaechter

Published December 30, 2005, issue of December 30, 2005.
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A former congregant has filed a lawsuit against Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, the religious leader of an Orthodox congregation in Monsey, N.Y., accusing him of giving her “sex therapy” when she went to him for counseling.

In the lawsuit, which was filed December 20 in Manhattan and reported December 25 in the New York Post, Adina Marmelstein, 43, claims that Tendler, a father of eight, promised her that he would help her find a husband with whom to raise a family if she slept with him. She is also alleging that Tendler threatened to “have her placed in a straitjacket” if she told anyone about the sessions. The sexual liaisons were allegedly conducted in his rabbinical study in the years 2001 to 2005.

“He had a tremendous amount of power over her,” said Marmelstein’s lawyer, Lenore Kramer.

Tendler, the scion of a prominent rabbinical family, was expelled from the Rabbinical Council of America in March, after a months-long investigation of allegations that he sexually harassed women who came to him for spiritual guidance. When asked by the Forward whether Marmelstein was one of the women interviewed during the RCA investigation, Rabbi Dale Polakoff, president of the organization, declined to comment, citing the advice of counsel.

Last week the Brooklyn-based Jewish Press published an open letter from Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz announcing his resignation from the RCA in connection to the Tendler controversy. Faskowitz quit the RCA after a Jerusalem regional rabbinical court characterized the organization as being in violation of its rulings.

Tendler had filed a complaint with the Jerusalem court in July, claiming that the RCA had violated rabbinic law by expelling him without bringing the charges to an independent rabbinical court. The RCA has responded that according to rabbinic law, a summons is not to be sent from one city to another if both litigants live in one city, and that therefore the Jerusalem court has no jurisdiction in the matter.

Polakoff said that his office had received no notice of an official resignation from Faskowitz or anybody else.

RCA sources say that Faskowitz is actually a cousin of Mordecai Tendler’s wife, Michelle. Faskowitz could not be reached for comment.

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