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12/7/06

Getting kicked out of shul

Amy Klein writes in the December 8, 2006 issue of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles:

Biston's public airing of his story and his threat to file suit have brought to light a number of complaints from others who also have been asked to leave Beth Jacob. They claim the rabbi is autocratic and mercurial and bars people who don't fit his image of an appropriate congregant.

...[Weil] spoke to The Journal in the company of synagogue president Dr. Steve Tabak and former synagogue president Marc Rohatiner. Together they openly discussed the half-dozen people who have been banned from their shul.

...The other individuals include someone alleged to have sexually harassed a synagogue member, a man alleged to have behaved inappropriately with children, a woman alleged to have stalked a member with whom she believed she had a relationship and a man who, shortly before being asked to leave the shul, was convicted of pedophilia.

I think I'm the one who sexually harassed the synagogue member and some other women like her. By 1997, I had cleaned up my behavior in this area.

...Despite the recent allegations against him, Weil's vision for the synagogue has proven results. When he came to Beth Jacob from Detroit in 1999, the congregation had between 400 and 500 member families, about 50 of them families with children. Now, some eight years later, Beth Jacob membership has almost doubled, with more than 800 family units -- some 200 of them with children and teenagers -- making it the largest Orthodox congregation on the West Coast.

...As a result of the public airing of the ejection of Biston and others, [former Beth Jacob president Marc] Rohatiner said that one change will be made: The executive board will deal with these cases.

"It's beneath the rabbi's position to ask these people to leave," Rohatiner said. "That's not what we're about."

A source writes: "I can tell you as someone who was a member of the Young Israel of Oak Park during his time at the pulpit, I am unaware of him ever asking any member to leave the Shul. I sat on the board during his tenure here and I cannot recall one instance in which the issue ever came up."

The Jewish Press Reports Rabbi Steven Weil Resigning From Beth Jacob

According to West Coast Editor Jeanne Litvin in the Dec. 8 edition: "Beth Jacob Beverly Hills is another West Coast shul searching for a new rabbi. Rabbi Steven Weil will be heading to New York to take over Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb's position as O.U. executive vice president."

Rabbi Weil discounted this report Saturday morning, Dec. 9.

I'm told: It is true that Weil is a candidate to replace Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the exec. director of the OU who is retiring. The selection process is underway, but no one has been chosen; I think finalists will be interviewed in coming months. Although the OU has a lot of problems organizationally, I think it is still fair to say it would be a big promotion for any Orthodox pulpit rabbi.

Rabbi Weil's ultimate ambition is to succeed Malcolm Hoenlein.

12/10/06

Beth Jacob's Packed For Rabbi Weil's Saturday Morning Speech

According to my sources (I was not there):

Rabbi Weil explained how important it is to keep the shul a safe place, similar to what he told the Jewish Journal. He went on giving examples of anonymous men and one woman who were told, after talking to the police, not to come back. People listened attentively to his descriptions of these cases.

- A single woman is invited to Shul get-together at a private home and finds herself alone with a man. The man touches her... She comes crying to the rabbi to tell. The man keeps calling her and speaks inappropriately to her.

- A single guy was hanging around the little kids during services. Parents complained about him to Rabbi Weiss, who asked him not to attend services anymore. When Rabbi Weil came to town, this guy returned. He continued with his old behavior and was asked to leave and not return. The rabbi notified all the synagogues in the area.

- A person who called himself the Rabbi of the Happy Minyan and was teacher in Jewish school... The rabbi notified his new place of employment. The guy went to jail. His wife needed to be rescued with her kids. She is financially supported each month by the Shul.

Not all the predator are Sexual predators:

- A woman was welcomed to this family from shul. She fell under the influence of the Kabbalah Center who convinced her that she has special powers and to get off her psychiatric medicines... She started to horse around with their daughter...and needed to be removed from shul.

- Un-Kosher business dealing.. The guy was found guilty in court. In the court transcripts he admits baiting his potential victims during Kiddush at BJ.

Evaluation: By the way Rabbi Weil presented each example, his decision to eject the person seemed overwhelmingly right. The question is whether Rabbi Weil presented the cases fairly. Many of the people he ejected went on to other shuls and were not troublesome enough to merit further ejection.

1/15/07

David Suissa writes in the Jewish Journal:

It's sexy and titillating to read about people getting kicked out of synagogues, which was the subject of a cover story in this paper a few weeks ago.

I don't know about you, but I got this frisson of excitement while reading the story, like when you can't take your eyes off a nasty car wreck.

It didn't matter that a handful of "kick outs" over several decades hardly qualified as a big deal. The point is that some of the episodes themselves were so ugly it was hard to focus on anything else.

....It took Rabbi Steven Weil and his team at Beth Jacob Congregation more than a year to put the Mitzvah Pledge program together. But by the time he announced it on the first morning of this past Rosh Hashanah, it was fully perfected, complete with a strategy, a management flowchart, a follow-up and evaluation plan and, for the day of the announcement, user-friendly pledge cards.

The strategy was to balance personal choice with community and individual needs. For the community, you could choose to cook meals for families in need or visit people who are alone -- usually the sick or the elderly -- to keep them company. For the individual, you could pledge to pray at one of the morning minyans or learn Torah in one of the many study groups.