Newsdesk March 10, 2006

L.A. Rabbi Resigns

Rabbi Aron Tendler has resigned from the pulpit of Shaarey Zedek, an Orthodox synagogue in Valley Village, Calif., under a cloud of sexual allegations relating to his previous tenure at an Orthodox high school.

The controversy makes Tendler, 51, the second member of his prominent rabbinic family to fall under scrutiny for alleged sexual improprieties. His brother, Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, was recently suspended by the lay leaders of Kehillat New Hempstead, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Monsey, N.Y., after a former congregant filed suit against him last December. She alleged that Mordecai Tendler claimed to be the “messiah” and that he gave her “sex therapy” during counseling, according to court documents. Allegations from several women led to Mordecai Tendler’s expulsion from the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox group.

Aron Tendler first announced his resignation from Shaarey Zedek in January. At the time, he said he would continue to serve through the High Holy Days. But in a March 6 letter to congregants, lay leaders announced that Tendler would resign immediately, due to “new matters which had recently been brought to our attention,” according to the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

The Jewish Journal has reported that a source at the synagogue has said there have been no “firsthand allegations about improper conduct,” but that unnamed officials at Yeshiva of Los Angeles — where Aron Tendler worked as a teacher and principal from 1980 through 1999 — acknowledged that a student charged him with “inappropriate behavior” in 1987, and that after an investigation he was only allowed to worked on the boys’ campus.

Allegations against Aron Tendler have swirled on the Internet for months, seemingly prompted by the investigation into the controversy surrounding his brother. The brothers are the sons of Yeshiva University Professor Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a leading Orthodox expert on bioethical issues, and grandsons of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the Orthodox world’s most respected religious arbiter for much of the 20th century.

Fracas Over British Play

A media circus continues to rage over a New York theater’s controversial decision to delay its production of the British play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.” One question remains: Are “the Jews” to blame?

James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, put the brakes on the drama — a one-woman show about a 23-year-old pro-Palestinian American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003 — because of concerns raised by “local Jewish religious and community leaders,” according to a report in The New York Times. But when the Forward asked theater officials to specify the person with whom they had spoken, they did not name a single Jewish communal official.

“Jim Nicola went to people who are staff members” and “asked them to speak to people about the issues” raised by the play, said Richard Kornberg, a publicist hired by the theater. “It wasn’t Jewish leaders, it was community leaders.”

On February 28, The New York Times quoted Nicola as saying that he had canvassed local Jewish leaders about the play, and “the uniform answer we got was that the fantasy that we could present the work of this writer simply as a work of art without appearing to take a position was just that, a fantasy.”

“This community is very defensive and very edgy,” Nicola reportedly told the paper.

When asked whether Nicola had misspoken to The Times reporter or had his statements mischaracterized, Kornberg said he did not know. Jesse McKinley, the writer covering the controversy, told the Forward that he stands by his reporting.

“In speaking to him, I asked if he had spoken to people in synagogues, and he said yes,” McKinley told the Forward. “It didn’t feel overly vague at the time, but I did call him back” that afternoon “to get an answer on who exactly he was speaking to, but I didn’t get an answer.”

In a follow-up story that appeared in The Times on March 7, McKinley repeated the assertion that “Mr. Nicola said… that he had decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish leaders.”

“My Name Is Rachel Corrie” was a hit at London’s Royal Court Theatre last year, and it had been tentatively scheduled to open in Manhattan’s East Village on March 22, at the New York Theatre Workshop. The play was written by actor Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, an editor at the Guardian newspaper. Viner wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, accusing Nicola of “exercising prior censorship.”

Donors To Host P.A. Aide

Stepping up its engagement with Israeli politics, the Jewish Funders Network is hosting an event with the lead negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat. The P.A. negotiator will speak next month during a session at the annual conference of the funder’s network, an organization open to any philanthropist who has been inspired by Jewish values to give more than $25,000 a year. The larger focus for the conference will be the rash of new outlets for Jewish identity, and the title of the weekend parley, held in Denver, will be “Plug and Play Judaism.” Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer will be the keynote speaker.

Audit Blasts Gaza Pullout

Israel’s state comptroller censured the government for its handling of settlers evacuated from Gaza. In a report released Wednesday, Micha Lindenstrauss criticized the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the government-run Disengagement Authority for foot-dragging on efforts to relocate and compensate some 8,000 settlers removed from Gaza last summer. According to the audit, 250 evacuee families still live in temporary housing. Government officials responded by vowing to find satisfactory arrangements by the spring for all former settlers. They noted that the relocation was hindered by the refusal of many settlers to go along with the withdrawal.

NATO Planes Fly in Israel

NATO spy planes conducted an exercise in Israel, apparently as a signal to Iran. “We’ve had NATO AWACS deployed to do some demonstrations in Israel, and we do have an active dialogue with the Israeli defense force in terms of interoperability, and particularly as it regards the security of the Mediterranean basin at sea,” James Jones, the American general who is the supreme allied commander in Europe, said in Senate testimony.

Irgun Plotted British Hit

Jewish militants in pre-state Palestine plotted to assassinate Britain’s foreign secretary in 1946, according to newly declassified documents. The plan to assassinate Ernest Bevin, who was opposed to the creation of a Jewish state, was devised by Menachem Begin, The Sunday Times reported. Begin, who at that time was a member of the underground group known as the Irgun, later became Israel’s prime minister.


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Newsdesk March 10, 2006

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