Aron Boruch Tendler (born January 16, 1955) was the senior rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation in North Hollywood, California. He resigned from his position in January 2006 under pressure (from his board and other Orthodox rabbis).
Aron's January 18, 2006 resignation letter had only one typo and was probably composed by two Shaaray Zedek leaders, Jim Kapenstein and Jack Yellin, who are high-powered lawyers at Disney -- the president of the shul and the chairman of the board of directors.
The letter made no mention of the charges of sexual abuse levelled against Aron by many of his former female students (as well as reports of consensual sexual philandering with adults over the past 20 years).
From a post to New Hempstead by a woman (a student of Aron's at YULA) who had a flirtatious and phone sex relationship with Aron over many years while she was an adult: "Several laywers over the years have asked us to go to the Beit Din as recently as last year but the majority of us are not religious and don't believe in this system and think it's a bit hypocritical to turn to the beit din when clearly Aron is not a religious man and neither are we religious."
I fact-checked the following post with a reliable source (a former female student of Aron's):
He has been cheating on his wife for 20 years. This is no loss to the Jewish world. I personally had an inappropriate relationship with him for 14 years. I have a friend who tried to commit suicide [overdosed in 2003] because he molested her at the age of 16 [and had a sexual relationship with her for more than a decade]. And yes, he told us he was molested as a child. We tried for years to get rid of him and no one would listen to us, not even the then president of the shul. He knows it's ALL true and that's why he is resigning. For no other reason.
Aron Tendler served as teacher, Assistant Principal, and Principal at the (girls) Yeshiva University of Los Angeles High School. He was known as hip and cool by many of his students. His classes were more relaxed. If kids wanted to have a few drinks over a Shabbaton, Aron would only advise "Don't get sick."
Aron was replaced as principal of the girls YULA in 1987 after two underage teenage girls made complaints to Dr. Bruce Powell (the principal of secular studies and a non-Orthodox Jew) who became adamant that Aron had to go.
Dr. Powell told a reporter at the Jewish Journal Jan 26, 2006 (in an unpublished statement) that he left YULA before Tendler left and that the information on my website about him, Dr. Powell, was completely untrue.
I stand behind my story that Dr. Powell was adamant that Aron must go. Dr. Powell and Rav Aron were at each other's throats at the time and their dispute was known around YULA and around the Los Angeles Orthodox community (and would be talked about for years afterwards by, among others, YULA students).
Instead of being called "Rav Aron," Tendler got the nickname "Rub Aron" for his behavior (at YULA boys school, at YULA girls school, at Shaaray Zedek, at NCSY, and elsewhere) with females above and below the California age of consent of 18.
Nineteen eighty seven was a tumultuous year at YULA Girls High School because of Aron's procilivities. There was constant and open conflict between him and Dr. Bruce Powell. Aron was frequently absent. Talk about these problems spread throughout the YULA community and beyond and never ceased over the next 18-years (though LA's Orthodox community did next to nothing to keep Aron out of positions of religious leadership).
In 1987, Aron Tendler was brought before a Beit Din (Jewish law court composed of three rabbis) on the charges of two underage YULA girls (both could be said to come from difficult homes but the girls did not have credibility problems except under the extreme duress of the Beit Din) that he sexually molested them. One girl said that he performed oral sex on her. The girls were broken down by the brutal questioning of the Beit Din (which, included, I believe, Aron's uncle Rabbi Shalom Tendler). Shalom Tendler successfully argued that his nephew Aron should be moved to the YULA boys school. Other than that, all Aron needed, according to Shalom, was "to study more Torah."
The two girls were on the fringe of the Orthodox community. They were worried about where they would go to college. They did not want to do battle with the powers that be at YULA. They chose not to press charges (either in Jewish life or in secular criminal court) after they were humiliated at the Beit Din.
One of the YULA girls Aron messed around with attempted suicide in 2005.
Aron taught at YULA boys highschool until about 1995 when he devoted himself to Shaarey Zedek and deeds of loving kindness in the wider community (particularly with troubled women).
Two of Aron's female former students (both of whom had sexual interactions with him, one while underage) estimate Aron had inappropriate relations with about 20 underage girls at YULA (from writing sexual poetry to inappropriate flirting to phone calls to rubbing himself against them repeatedly to groping, one girl he almost had intercourse with before she went to Dr. Bruce Powell, one girl said he gave her oral sex) and that he had forms of consensual sex (from phone sex to more, in much of it he professed an obsession with not spilling his seed as that is prohibited in the Torah) with 30 or more adult women in the past 20 years.
Aron's first two accusers to Dr. Powell had a falling out. One girl, even though she knew better, told Dr. Powell once that the other girl was lying about her fling with Aron.
Rabbi Aron Tendler has told people, including women he was sexually intimate with, that he was sexually molested as a boy by a family member.
"We were at an all-girls school," says a female former YULA highschool student from this time. "Our hormones were going nuts. And Aron Tendler was there. He was flirty. He had two or three buttons of his shirt unbuttoned, walking up and down the hallway. He provoked it. Kids bored in school were flirting with him. I can't say he touched people unwillingly. I think they did it and then afterwards asked, ohmigod, what happened?
"He wasn't someone who was going to force himself him on you. Years later the girls woke up later and said, this was wrong.
"Before he'd have an affair, he'd discuss the halacha [Jewish law] about wasting sperm.
"Whenever it gets down to it, Aron gets afraid and removes himself. I heard he removed himself from the RCC. I'm surprised he isn't resigning from Sharei Tzedek. He has to be crazy to want this all to go public.
"He was very careful in the girls that he picked. He always picked girls who came from troubled homes, so that if we went public, he could say that we're crazy.
"I don't judge anyone, but when you stand on a podium and portray yourself as better than everyone else, and you say that we're crazy, that's the issue I have. He's living a double life. He's been cheating on his wife for 20 years.
"When you're in the Jewish world and you look at Aron Tendler, you might think he's sexy, but when you're in the outside secular world, and you look at him again, it's like night and day.
"Aron told one of the girls that he had had an affair while his wife Esther was pregnant and she had a stillborn baby, and he always felt it was punishment for cheating on her.
"He told me stories about a woman in Beverly Hills and when her husband was away, he would go over to her house and they would just lie in bed naked together. He was all into the halacha against spilling your seed.
"He shouldn't be running a shul. If two adults want to have an affair, then have an affair. It's morally incorrect but not worth tattling about.
"[For several years after highschool], I couldn't be at an event where he didn't approach me. There could be 500 people in the room. He would make it straight to me and ask me if I wanted to go outside and talk. I thought, aren't people wondering what we're talking about? I realized he was telling people I had problems and I needed to talk to him. But really, he was flirting with me.
"When he'd walk away, he'd be standing with some single guy and they'd be looking back at me and laughing. I remember saying to him once, 'Were you talking against me?' I was so naive. I thought, he's not going to talk lashon hara [evil speech]. He's a rabbi. I must be imagining it.
"Then [fellow student and friend] would tell me things he would tell her about me, and he would tell me things about her, so finally I realized he was talking against me. When I'd bring this up to him, he'd say, 'You know I love you.'
"SSS was much more damaged by him than me. She confronted him recently. He said to her, 'I'd talk to you about it but I'm still sick.' He admits it.
"If I was him, I'd say, 'I need help.' Play the victim. Just stop telling people that we're crazy and lying. That just forces people to tell their stories.
"The Shaarey Tzedek board was told two years ago these stories and all they did was blame the women.
"A letter was written to his wife Esther two years ago with everybody's story in it. Esther got it and almost had a heart attack.
"The wife had to know that what was in the letter was true because it was filled with intimate details about their marriage that he had told all of us. Even a girl who stayed in their house and the situation she had with him."
A female former student of Aron's at YULA reports about Aron and one of his YULA students: "They would meet, talk and touch [in a parking lot and elsewhere]. The flirtation went on for two years. The sex was planned for a school outing at Brandeis and when they were alone and she was confronted with it, she ran out. At that point when they came back from the trip, she went to Bruce Powell."
The stories about Aron's behavior have gone on for years. Every major Orthodox rabbi in Los Angeles knows about the complaints against Rabbi Aron Tendler, including Rabbi Gershon Bess, Rabbi Nahum Sauer, Rabbi Fassman, Rabbi Avraham Union (though I do not believe that anyone did more to protect Aron's positions of religious leadership than did his uncle Shalom Tendler, who said Aron just needed "to learn more Torah" to overcome his molestation inclinations).
No civil lawsuit has been filed against Aron Tendler in this matter (due to its nature, the women who say that Rabbi Aron Tendler molested them don't want to go public as most of them have familes of their own, and communities tend to rally around their leaders and stigmatize those who accuse the leaders of sexual misconduct).
Aron is popular with his peers who are loathe to discipline him. Aron is a "nice guy." He's "humble."
From a Tendler perspective, one could view Rabbi Aron's behavior as bagging trophies of the virgins under his care. He did it out of love. He initiated them and prepared them for a mature relationship with their later husbands.
A Tendler could argue that these girls had emotional problems, and Rabbi Tendler was curing them through bodywork and helping them appreciate the physical dimension of life. This is what God intended in creating the world.
Aron's rabbi-brother Mordecai is also being investigated by the RCA for sexual misconduct.
A male graduate of YULA Boys High School who knew the two girls who brought the initial charges against Aron (he is no longer Orthodox) says: "The good girls who bought the company line and stayed mainstream Orthodox, they don't want to touch this. They want to get on with their Orthodox lives. When hey were 20 or so, they were set up on shidduchim (dates) with Orthodox men. They married Orthodox men and made Orthodox lives. They have children going to Orthodox day schools. They belong to Orthodox synagogues. They don't want to hear anything about the girls who were outside the fringes. They respect people in positions of [power in Orthodoxy]. They don't know anything about the fringe and they don't want to believe that that stuff happened.
"A couple of guys friends and I were friends with these two girls. We knew what was breaking out. We tried to find out more. We talked to our friends. The girls were traumatized. One girl went in there and said, 'How dare you preach morality when you have a rabbi who's making advances at me?'
"That sent Dr. Powell off. He said, 'What the hell are you talking about? You better be serious about this.' That started an investigation which culminated in the Beit Din. He got a slap on the wrist and moved to the boys school. A few years later, he gets hired [as Shaarey Zedek's rabbi] and he's teaching all these courses to women and counseling women.
"In those days , if you were a girl who admitted to sexual activity, you would have a credibility problem [with the Orthodox community]. You were a bad girl. So the girls who brought charges against Aron were regarded as bad girls [by the YULA establishment].
"These girls weren't bad girls. They were exploring life and questioning. They weren't saying this about any other teacher or any other person in authority in their lives.
"Aron would hone in on the girls who were attractive and problematic and have his jollies.
"The stories about Aron were consistent, that he would cross lines.
"I remember one of my friends showing me the poem that he wrote [to a girl]. It was inappropriate.
"Aron is a smooth talker. He's an intelligent man. He's studied philosophy and psychology. Even if you caught him at certain things, he'd say, 'Well, Kant and Freud say it's important to share your meaningful experiences with the youth so that they can identify and appreciate it and grow.' He has an answer for everything.
"Aron crossed lines with girls I knew. Though inappropriate, his actions regarding the girls who came forward at that time could be, and were, covered up and explained away. For example, who can prove the insinuation of poems? And who can prove whether a touch was intimate or not? I believe that the problem with the situation with the girls who came forward was that in their case there was not enough solid evidence (nor enough sexual activity) to make their charges hold up."
Beth Jacob Honors Predator-Rabbi Aron Tendler
Aron Tendler was seated on the bima (elevated pulpit-like area in front of the shul) at Beth Jacob Saturday morning. Rabbi Steven Weil (who's kicked more than 50 people out of his shul since taking over about six years ago to create, he says, a safe haven for his members) said a few laudatory sentences about Aron Tendler. It's an annual thing for Rabbi Aron Tendler to come to Beth Jacob (and perhaps say a few words in honor of his grandfather Rabbi Moshe Feinstein).
Rabbi Aron Tendler delivered a lecture at YOLA entitled, "When was the last time you really said I love you?" It's available on 613.org: "The topic itself is one of my favorite topics. I always wonder when was the last time I really said I love you to my own wife."
He also gave a Purim class at YOLA entitled: "In Search of Adam's Clothes."
Rabbi Aron Tendler reminds me of Humbert Humbert, the protagonist of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. In one scene, Humbert sees Lolita:
sitting in a study hall with a sepia print of Reynolds' 'The Age of Innocence' above the chalkboard, and several rows of clumsy-looking pupil desks. At one of these, my Lolita was reading … and there was another girl with a very naked, porcelain-white neck and wonderful platinum hair, who sat in front reading too, absolutely lost to the world and interminably winding a soft curl around one finger, and I sat beside Dolly [Lolita] just behind that neck and that hair, and unbuttoned my overcoat and for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the school play, had Dolly put her inky, chalky, red-knuckled hand under the desk. Oh, stupid and reckless of me, no doubt, but after the torture I had been subjected to, I simply had to take advantage of a combination that I knew would never occur again.
Rabbi Aron Tendler is famous for speaking out against domestic abuse (like many predators, he loves to portray himself as the protector of women and children):
Bringing Jewish domestic violence out of the closet
Fine, Arlene. The Cleveland Jewish News. Cleveland: Feb 6, 1998.Vol.68, Iss. 20; pg. 32
"The safest place for a woman should be in the arms of her husband," says Rabbi Aaron Tendler of Shaarey Zadek Congregation in North Hollywood, Calif. "If she doesn't feel that way, she must immediately get out of the relationship and seek help. If there is no kindness between a woman and her spouse, the sadness can be overwhelming. No one deserves that."
Rabbi Tendler's comments on domestic abuse and those of several other leading rabbis, plus poignant testimonies from formerly abused Jewish women, are brought into sharp focus in the recently released videotape on domestic violence, "To Save A Life: Ending Domestic Violence in Jewish Families."
The worst advice a rabbi or professional can give a woman in an abusive relationship is to simply return to her husband and forgive and forget, says Rabbi Tendler.
"Certain sins just can't be forgiven. When a woman is being abused, no one should tell her to go home, cook a nice supper and then things will get better. Things do not work that way. Without professional help, there is no way an abusive relationship can suddenly turn into a loving one."
Area rabbis learn about domestic abuse:
Multi-denominational workshop spurs dialogue on a difficult topic.
Rzepka, Susan. The Cleveland Jewish News. Cleveland: Oct 30, 1998.Vol.70, Iss. 6; pg. 18
Last week, a group of rabbis from all denominations gathered at Green Road Synagogue to broaden their knowledge and raise their collective awareness of domestic violence. They listened intently to the remarks of Rabbi Aron Tendler, spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Los Angeles, who has become an expert in the field, and to Marcia Burnam, a survivor of domestic abuse. But many questions remain.
Many Jewish women feel reluctant to come to their rabbis with the problem of domestic abuse, admits Rabbi Tendler. They assume that rabbis, who are usually men, will automatically side with their husbands. They fear rabbis will disapprove of them ending their abusive marriage through separation or divorce.
Women feel the burden of responsibility for shalom bayit, or household harmony, and see the admission of disharmony at home as a public shonda, or shame. The woman's abuser may be an outwardly charming, successful and religious man, and she fears that the community, let alone her rabbi, will not believe or support her.
This, says Rabbi Tendler, is the challenge facing rabbis: To let our congregants and communities know that our doors are open; that we can and will provide "a compassionate and empathetic ear who will listen and say, `I believe you,' when a woman seeks counsel."
"The greater the awareness, the greater the healing," says Rabbi Tendler. The most important thing a rabbi can do for a battered woman, say both speakers, is to listen, confirm, and edge her slowly toward getting the help she needs. Give her the hotline number (216-691-SAFE, for Project Chai, JFSA), a local provider of services for domestic-violence victims, and encourage her to call.
From the Jewish Journal January 30, 1998:
"When I counsel couples, I tell the woman, infront of her intended husband, that if he ever raises a hand to her, she should pick herself up and leave until the problem is resolved," Tendler said. "And if a woman is unsafe, it is incumbent upon every rabbi to pull out all the stops, including saying from the bimah that a man is not welcome in the community, because he abuses his wife."
From the Jewish Journal April 3, 1998:
The close-knit North Hollywood community offers many advantages to Jewish residents
Rabbi Aron Tendler, associate rabbi for Shaarey Zedek, said the primary reason for rebuilding the shul is that thesynagogue can hardly keep up with requests for new classes. Inaddition to his job as an assistant principal at Yeshiva UniversityHigh Schools of Los Angeles, Tendler gives about five community lectures a week.
"There's no question we're benefiting now from the'settled' ba'alei teshuvah movement, those who have [become Orthodox]and are now looking for a community for their kids," he said.
Tendler characterizes Shaarey Zedek's congregation as "eclectic": "Here you'll see black hats, knitted kippot, the newlyobservant and the converted all sitting together. We have a real emphasis on maintaining open lines; we're not into judging people."
From the Jewish Journal March 28, 2003:
Rabbi Mattis Weinberg, who founded Yeshivat Kerem in Santa Clara in the mid-1970s, counts as some of his strongest supporters — and detractors — former Kerem students and faculty members who now live in Los Angeles.
Kerem, which existed for seven years, employed some well-known rabbis in Los Angeles, including Rabbi Shalom Tendler, now rosh yeshiva at YULA; Rabbi Aron Tendler of Shaarei Tzedek Congregation; Rabbi Daniel Lapin, formerly of the Pacific Jewish Center in Venice; and Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, now director of development at Emek Hebrew Academy.
From the website of his shul Shaarey Zedek:
Rabbi Aron Tendler has been teaching high school since 1976. His first position was in Phoenix AZ. as Dorm Supervisor for Ohr Hamidbar. From 1977 to 1980 Rabbi Tendler taught in Kerem Yeshiva, Santa Clara, California. He moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and has been a teacher, Assistant Principal, and Principal at Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles. This past June, Rabbi Tendler retied from YULA to assume the position of Senior Rabbi at Shaarey Zedek Congregation.
This past December, Rabbi Tendler was awarded the coveted Miliken Foundation's Distinguished Educators Award.
In 1985, Rabbi Tendler became the Associate Rabbi at Shaarey Zedek Congregation in North Hollywood, California, the oldest and largest Orthodox congregation In the San Fernando Valley.
In 1996, Rabbi Tendler's position was advanced to Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek, and this past July he became the Senior Rabbi.
For the past nine years, Rabbi Tendler has been the Chairman of the Yeshiva Principals Council.
For the past six years, he has been a member of the Executive Board of the Rabbinical Council of California and currently holds the position of Chairman of the Vaad Hakashrus of the RCC.
Rabbi Tendler is author of the very popular Rabbi's Notebook and Parsha Summary, a weekly essay and review of the Parsha that is posted on the Project Genesis website. More than 11,000 subscribers receive his weekly presentations via e-mail.
Rabbi Tendler was featured in eight segments of Mysteries of the BibIe, a program that is produced by Roos Films and aired on the A&E cable station.
More recently, Rabbi Tendler has received national recognition as a champion and voice combating domestic violence. He is a member of the Jewish Family Services Domestic Violence Task Force. The nationally distributed video, "To Save A Life" produced by the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence features Rabbi Tendler's passionate and encouraging views.
Rabbi Tendler was married to Esther Shapiro in 1976, and has raised their five children here in Valley Village.
1976 - Smicha - Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
1976 - BS Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
1976 - BA Talmudic Law - Ner Israel Rabbinical College
1986 - MA Guidance and Counseling - Loyola
Such Shaaray Zedek leaders as four-year president Irving Steinberg (2001-2005) as well as (Vice-President for Facilities) Robert Schacht and his wife Joni (nee Hofstedter) Schacht have been aware of the specific and credible allegations against Rabbi Aron Tendler for at least two years. A letter detailing Aron's philandering was sent to his wife Esther near the beginning of 2004. Rav Aron called Joni Hofstedder and asked her to tell his wife Esther that the accusers were crazy. Joni agreed and did that (even though at least one of the accusers was a longtime friend, and Joni's actions ended that friendship).
No fan of Aron, Joni later explained she wanted to protect the shiduchim (marriage) possibilies of Aron's children.
A Former Female YULA Student Of Aron Tendler's Faxes His Shul Shaaray Zedek 1/24/06:
Please tell Esther [Aron's wife] that perhaps she should finally apologize for all the horrific things she has been saying about the victims of Aron all these years. And she knows who we are speaking of.
Just so you know, Joni Schacht has been aware that your husband has been cheating on you for 20 years and never said a word to you. She is some friend to you.
This has already made it to the internet but in case you haven't heard, Esther, your husband contacted Joni after you received the letter from his victims and asked Joni to lie and tell you that a certain someone wrote the letter who "didn't" write the letter and to say that this person is nuts. She then went to this victim's home uninvited to admit to what she has done and said she lied to you in order to protect your children.
This victim that your husband claims is nuts, had phone sex with Aron many times while he was at shul. And was propositioned by him for over 10 years to have sex.
Phone messages have been saved that can validate this.
Do you have any idea what he was doing to your 16 year-old house guest in the 1980's when you were sleeping at night? Maybe you should ask your husband.
I think it's YOUR husband that is nuts. NOT the victims.
Lashon Harah! I guess something you didn't learn Esther when you decided to put on a tichel and pretend to be religious…just like your husband.
We hope Aron leaves earlier than the yom tovim. To have to listen to a child molester speak every Shabbos will be a bit nauseating.
I first published about the allegations of Aron Tendler molesting underage girls in late 2004. If I hadn't done that, I believe he would've continued in his position of religious leadership with the acquiescence of Los Angeles's Orthodox leadership (who, while they had no direct power over Shaaray Zedek and Aron Tendler, could've made an effort to remove him and shun him but chose to do next to nothing).
The most powerful group of Los Angeles Orthodox rabbis is the Rabbinical Council of California.
On this page, Rabbi Aron Tendler is listed as the chairman of the Kashrut Committee of the RCC.
The RCC's administrator is Rabbi Avraham Union.
Rob Eshman writes in the Jewish Journal February 14, 1997:
During Passover 1992, Union, the Rabbinic administrator of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of California, telefaxed some colleagues a letter circulated by Toronto rabbis criticizing the KLC. In his fax, Union suggested the RCC send the letter out to all Southern California rabbis. When Union arrived at the RCC offices at 1230 S. Bedford the following day, he found a severed sheep's head at his doorstep. Several young men appeared at his home that evening and asked, in Hebrew, "Did you get our message?"
Union said that he was certain the men were from the center. He filed a police report, and detectives visited the KLC. They found no evidence of wrongdoing. Union interpreted the incident as a threat to his life. "Of course, [Rabbi Philip] Berg didn't put it there," he said. "There's no proof anybody from the Kabbalah Center put it there. But we never sent out the letter."
LA's Orthodox rabbinate tends to have little moral backbone, be it fighting cults or getting sexual predators out of the pulpit.
It's time to develop the definitive list of those people who enabled Rabbi Aron Tendler to keep access to vulnerable women for more than two decades. And let's also draw up a list of those who tried to do something about it. The first name on that last list is Dr. Bruce Powell, who got Rabbi Tendler fired about 15-years ago from his position as principal of the YULA (Yeshiva University Los Angeles) girls highschool.
Listing Those Who Honor Predator-Rabbi Aron Tendler
Yaakov Menken's Torah.org publishes his Torah essays.
613.org plays his lectures.
The Orthodox Union (a group of Modern Orthodox synagogues throughout North America) had Aron Tendler as a speaker on February 27, 28, 2004. The topic? "Strengthening the Jewish Family"
And what was the title of Aron Tendler's talk? "Ethics in Marriage: How it Enhances Your Marriage"
The OU writes: "Rabbi Aron Tendler...is a recognized champion against domestic violence. He is a member of the Jewish Family Services Domestic Violence Task Force."
Aron Tendler is listed as a faculty member of Netivot: "Netivot, Hebrew for Paths, is an independent center of Torah dedicated to enhancing women's intellectual and spiritual growth through intensive textual study in an inclusive and nurturing atmosphere."
What could be more enhancing to a woman's intellectual and spiritual growth than a good grope from a holy rabbi?
Aron Tendler endorses: "Oorah, which means "Awaken," was founded in 1980 with the goal of awakening Jewish children and their families to their heritage."
After the murder of Yaakov Aminov, 46, on July 4, 2002 at LAX, Aron appeared all over the news media as the dead man's rabbi: "How can it be," said Rabbi Aron Tendler, "that this righteous man was taken, that a mother of five sits alone, that he will no longer make kiddush on Friday night?"
A former YULA (Yeshiva University of Los Angeles) high school student writes:
Mr. Ford, Your information is consistent with the information I received while attending YULA. I was a senior in High School when the information regarding his behavior towards underage female students first came to light. Two of my friends were affected by Aron's actions. Your depictions are perfect with respect to his behavior, his modus operandi, and the women who he molested. At the time, they were quasi-willing participants. I use the term "quasi-willing" because adolescence, hormones, desires, and rational decisions don't quite walk hand-in-hand. The women who he molested possessed attractiveness and were not mainstream. Often, they were experiencing trouble at home and struggling with organized religion. Often, these struggles led them to experiment with behavior that was considered rebellious in the eyes of the orthodox Jew. Thus, the stage was set: An attractive woman whose credibility is labeled 'suspect' based on her innate struggles between her desires to explore and discover things that are natural for adolescents to explore (marijuana, sexual activity, non-mainstream thought and actions) and the doctrine of Orthodox Judaism being spoon-fed to her daily. A young attractive teacher/rabbi/psychologist/youth leader(he held all of these positions) approaches them with compassion and answers based upon Religion, Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology. He gains their trust, manipulates and fosters their desires, and engages in a sexually taboo experience.
If caught, Aron would use the student's status of outcast against her. He would pit his reputation as rabbi against their reputation of outcast. In other words, the very reason they sought his counsel (their manifest troubles) were used to discredit the veracity of the experience. In other words, he's not dumb, he's just sick, and twisted.
I heard the stories as they happened. I heard the girls cry. I read the poems he wrote, laden with sexual undertones. Their experiences were forwarded to the administration at YULA. The girls were angry and felt exploited. The administration pressured them with the consequences of what would happen to them if they went public. They were told that they could lose their acceptance into college, and were reminded of the shame that this would bring to their families. In the face of public humiliation and for fear for their academic and professional futures being taken from them, the young women acquiesced, and withdrew their accusations. That was highly irresponsible of the administration. Their intimidation enabled his behavior. Aron was relegated to teach strictly at the boys’ school. Nothing meaningful was done. Aron was told he has to learn more Torah, and it would all magically go away. It wasn't long before other stories began to surface of Aron’s sexual advances and machinations. Lo and behold, Aron became the head of a congregation and, I am told, was particularly adept at assisting women in troubled marriages.
Aron does not deserve to be called a Rabbi; He is a sick predator, preying on the trust and insecurities of women. The basis for these acts are of little significance. If he was molested as a child, then let him seek therapy through conventional channels, as opposed to infecting innocent and trusting people with his illness. I am told that the Orthodox community has been made aware of his actions on many occasions, and has failed to act upon it. It is comforting that Dr. Powell, the one non-orthodox Jew in the administration at YULA at the time, has the decency to leave and distance himself from the cess-pool of orthodox politics which included the pacifying of a molester.
Aron is resigning, but not until the High Holidays. I am certain that this is a tactical maneuver to buy him more time to save his job. He should leave immediately. He should be banned from the rabbanut. He should write personal letters of apology to each of the families he has harmed. He should do Kapparah in the form of true atonement to the women whose faith he has shaken and whose psychology he has permanently damaged. And, he should issue a public statement of Kapparah to the community. Aron is resigning, and expects a pat on the back for "stepping down." Aron seems to have a lot of options for someone who sexually preys on the fragility of his students and congregants. Having been placed on “Notice” of Aron’s behavior, the congregation allowed him to stay on for an additional eight months. Let’s see, 30 incidents in about 18 years. That averages out to one every 7.2 months. That congregation’s Board better pray REALLY hard that his lawless intimate familiarities don’t follow the law of averages, or they may find themselves becoming intimately more familiar with a law suit. I guess after all this time the sage approach remains ignoring reality and just learning torah. Worked for Aron, didn’t it?
If G-d’s sense of justice is as poetic as Aron, Aron will be faced with the same credibility problems that his victims faced years ago, as he seeks to utilize his charlatan services elsewhere. He has caused more people than he knows to turn away from Judaism. Aron is a blight on the spirituality of Judaism, whose actions were never dealt with properly. Though quite charming and, to be sure, quite a glib speaker, it is difficult to imagine how the rabbinic community has done nothing to inhibit his actions, aside of course from having him learn more Torah. Though hardly a scholar, it would seem to me that he still seems to be having trouble with commandments 6-10.
The Orthodox entities that were aware of his actions and did nothing to correct it should be ashamed of themselves. Standing idly by while knowing that a diseased person is in the position of power to carry out his manipulations and crimes against innocent minors and women, is itself criminal. Perhaps one day they will value Jewish wives and daughters as much as they value whatever it is Aron represents.
I don't care who his grandfather was. My ancestry goes back to a different Aron--the high Priest. Please inform me if this entitles me to carry out unconscionable acts against my fellow human beings. They must have skipped that chapter in school. "Thou CAN commit adultery and molestation if thy ancestry is impressive."
Please help me understand why the Orthodox Jewish community has continued to pay this molester 100s of thousands of dollars a year to spread his sickness? As Churches and Priests are charged and paying dearly for their horrific molestations and acquiescence, I wonder if this is what my rabbis had in mind when preaching Or L'Goyim---be a light onto the nations. You need not be an Orthodox Jew to recognize the illegal and depraved behavior of Aron. But, apparently you need to be an Orthodox Jew to condone it. Aron Tendler and his supporters make me proud to not consider myself an Orthodox Jew. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. Unlike Aron, I am ashamed I haven't done more earlier.
The granddaughters of rabbi Moshe Feinstein appeared in Penthouse circa 1983. Their mother is the sister of Mordechai and Aron's mom. They posed after their father (Reb Shisgal) died.
Orthodox tourists claim police prejudice
From The Jerusalem Post:
A group of Orthodox Jews visiting Israel from Los Angeles said Israeli police discriminated against them on religious grounds by preventing them from entering the Temple Mount Sunday.
But police said the group failed to produce identification and were, therefore, not authorized to enter the Temple Mount area until they produced it.
A group of eight, all congregants of the Sha'arey Zedek Synagogue, San Fernando Valley's largest orthodox synagogue, who were in Israel for a Bar Mitzva, blamed the police for discrimination.
"About 30 seconds after we were detained a group of about 50 non-Jews were allowed to enter without ID," said Rabbi Aron Tendler, the rabbi of the synagogue.
Tendler, grandson of the famous halachic authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, said that he and his congregants did not bring ID or other valuables with them because they had been at the mikveh [ritual bath] and were afraid that while they were immersing themselves their valuables would be left unguarded.
Tendler Resigns Under Cloud
Amy Klein, Religion Editor, writes March 7, 2006
Rabbi Aron Tendler has stepped down six months early from the pulpit of Shaarey Zedek, an Orthodox synagogue in Valley Village, because “it was no longer appropriate for Rabbi Tendler to continue,” shul officials said.
Tendler, 51, first announced his resignation in a January letter to congregants. At the time, he said he planned to remain leader of the synagogue until the High Holidays in September. But in a March 6 letter to congregants, shul president Jim Kapenstein and board chair Yacov Yellin wrote that Tendler would be stepping down immediately in light of “new matters which had recently been brought to our attention.”
The letter offers no specifics and shul officials declined to elaborate.
Separately, The Journal has learned that Tendler was once accused of inappropriate conduct at the Yeshiva of Los Angeles (YULA), an Orthodox high school in Pico-Roberston where he had worked from 1980 through June 1999, first as a teacher and then also as a principal. The 1987 investigation was inconclusive, but Tendler transferred from the girls school to the boys school, which is located on a separate campus.
Allegations against Rabbi Tendler surfaced on Jewish blogs — web logs — more than a year ago, citing anonymous sources who alleged the rabbi had behaved inappropriately toward women and girls. These rumors were alluded to briefly in articles published in two East Coast newspapers about problems facing the rabbi’s brother, Mordechai Tendler, who is currently defending himself against accusations of sexual misconduct.
Tendler is regarded as a charismatic leader and an inspiring teacher and speaker — someone who could turn around troubled youths, leading them to more religious, more successful lives. In 1999, he received an educator’s award from the Milken Family Foundation.
“We intend to uphold appropriate conduct not only in sexual abuse but other types of conduct,” said Rabbi Avrohom Union, the rabbinic administrator of the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC).
July 10, 2006
Aron Tendler sent out a single-page letter (which hit mailboxes July 10, 2006) to all the members of Shaarey Zedek, where he served as a rabbi for about eight years until he resigned earlier this year over charges of sexual misconduct, announcing that he was no longer a rabbi in any capacity and should not be asked to decide halakhic questions or to do marital therapy.
Aron has numerous supporters at Shaarey Zedek who've continued to treat him as a rabbi over the past few months.
Full disclosure by Luke Ford:
I had dealings (the RCC has the most prestigious conversion program in town) with Rabbi Avrohom Union in 2001, which ended after three months in my ejection (as though as they heard about lukeford.com, which I then sold in August 2001). It was reported back to me at the time by a friend that Rabbi Union told him I was the most evil person he'd ever met.
As many rabbis regard me as the most evil person they have ever met, I don't believe that any of this has affected my coverage of Rabbi Aron Tendler or Rabbi Union or the RCC (though I understand many people would disagree).
I've had no dealings with the other rabbis I've mentioned in this article (aside from attending their lectures a few times).
I was ejected from three Pico-Robertson Orthodox synagogues in 2001 (Young Israel of Century City, Beth Jacob and Chabad's Bais Bazalel, in that order) (related article on my Young Israel expulsion) and one (Aish HaTorah) in 1998. Many in the Orthodox community (and elsewhere) say that my writing on rabbi-predators is motivated by my hatred for rabbis. I don't agree. I believe I try to follow the truth wherever it leads.