Rabbinic Coup Rocks Upper East Side Synagogue

An Upper East Side Manhattan synagogue is in turmoil as an outside foundation seeks to oust its longtime rabbi.

The New York Jewish Week reported last week that the philanthropic foundation that controls the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue is feuding with Rabbi Elie Abadie, a prominent Sephardic figure who has led the congregation since its founding, and trying to remove him from his post.

Located in a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the Safra Synagogue is the central institution of Manhattan’s growing Sephardic Jewish community. Abadie, a physician and Sephardic community leader, is closely identified with the congregation and with the community that surrounds it.

According to the Jewish Week’s report, the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, the main financial backer of the synagogue, sent a letter to synagogue members in late December outlining a financial falling out between Abadie and the congregation.

The foundation claimed that it paid Abadie $700,000 per year, including his housing allowance, and that he had rejected a buyout. It claimed that Abadie had asked for $20 million to leave his post.

In the letter, the foundation laid out an unusual series of steps it planned to take to dislodge Abadie: Cutting off funding to the synagogue, and funding a new religious organization to take over the synagogue building.

Abadie, in his own letter to the community, denied the foundation’s charges, according to the Jewish Week.

“I completely dispute all of the malicious, false, baseless and self-serving allegations contained in the foundation’s letter,” Abadie wrote, according to the paper.

Abadie charged that the foundation’s board was seeking to take control of the Safra Synagogue. The foundation “has worked tirelessly to maintain dictatorial control over the congregation,” Abadie wrote, according to the paper.

The outcome of the dispute is unclear. The foundation plans to transfer support from the current synagogue to the new religious organization at the end of January. Abadie is still listed as rabbi on the synagogue’s current website.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or follow him on Twitter, @joshnathankazis.

Author

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Rabbinic Coup Rocks Upper East Side Synagogue

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close