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Reform Temple in Turmoil Over Rabbi’s Departure

One of the world’s best-known Reform temples reportedly is in turmoil over the unexpected departure of its rabbi.

Some members of Toronto’s renowned Holy Blossom Temple are “incensed” at a recently negotiated deal that will see Rabbi John Moscowitz step down next month, the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper reported in its May 26 edition.

“Under the accord, Rabbi Moscowitz, 60, will take an unusual, fully paid, three-year sabbatical, effective July 1, although he will return to officiate at High Holiday services this fall,” the report said. His retirement would begin in 2015, but he will continue on staff as rabbi emeritus at an “undisclosed salary.”

The settlement, “said to be worth more than a million dollars, was hammered out in protracted legal negotiations,” according to the Globe.

Members of Holy Blossom, which was founded in 1856 as a stalwart of Reform Judaism, include some of Toronto’s wealthiest and most philanthropic Jewish community members. The paper reported that “many” congregants are “outraged” by the decision, and by how the temple’s board of directors handled the issue.

“This has been a tremendous act of board mismanagement,” the Globe quoted member Linda Frum, a Canadian senator, as saying. “I am so upset about the way he has been treated. I feel so poisoned by the atmosphere created that it’s not a place that I could continue to feel comfortable. I know others who are leaving and others who are considering it.”

Bound by confidentiality agreements, neither Moscowitz nor members of the temple’s board spoke to the Globe, “but it is clear that his departure culminates a long and acrimonious backstage battle that divided the congregation,” the paper said.

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