Clergy Abuse at The Gates of Perdition: An Amalgam – Part 2 of 7

Clergy Abuse at The Gates of Perdition:
An Amalgam – Part 2 of 7
Stephanie Levine and
the Matter of the Framed Torah Montage

Continued from Part 1                                    Continued at Part 3

Meyer Berlinsky had told me that, from his perspective, perhaps the finest moment in Ohaiv Sholom of Paducah (OSP) history was the day that “everyone in the community” came to OSP to help dedicate the final writing of the Shul’s first Torah scroll.  He explained that, somewhere in the building, there was a framed montage of photographs from that memorable day.  I searched the premises, located the framed montage, and had it hung on the wall leading into my office.  Two days later, the framed montage was gone.  I searched for it, found it in the hallway closet, and had it hung again.  Once again, it was taken down — this time fewer than two hours from the time it was hung.  After three such incidents, I learned that Stephanie Levine, without telling me, personally had been taking it down each time it was hung. She had explained her actions by denigrating my predecessor, Rabbi Warshovsky, who appears in several photos within the montage: “His face will never be displayed in this Shul as long as I work here.”  I reported this matter to Meyer Berlinsky and later to the entire Board of Directors.  Meanwhile, when Jimmy, our custodian, searched for the framed picture once again, after its third disappearance from the wall, he reported to me that this time he could not find it anywhere — not in the hall closet, not even in the outdoor storage shed.  I soon discovered that the framed montage had been removed entirely from the Shul campus.  I brought this to Meyer Berlinsky’s attention, and he came to the office to demand that Stephanie Levine give him the framed montage.  Meyer Berlinsky reported to me that she led him to the outdoor shed, where she appeared to search for it frantically and not to find it.  Meyer Berlinsky reported that he told Stephanie Levine he would be leaving for a while and would be returning later in the day, expecting to see the framed montage found by the time he returned.  When he returned later, Stephanie Levine reported that she had found the framed montage in the shed.  It now hangs in the lobby outside the Rabbi’s Office.

Amid the Chaos, Trying Desperately to Get Settled into Our New Home;
Slanders from Herb Levine and Mike Goldstein About Minyan Attendance;
Slanders about My Seeking a “Vacation” in My First Month;
Meyer Berlinsky’s Propensity as Board President
to Make Secret Deals with Me,
but to Not Report Them to the Board

Amid these distressing incidents, Lisa and I desperately were trying to get settled into our new home.  Because, as discussed at the outset, our home was not suitable for any form of occupation until August 1 — the floor tile was still being laid on the last days of July, and ceiling acoustic material was being shaved, the house painted, toilets replaced, etc. — we barely had time to move our belongings into the house, but I started hearing from Mike Goldstein that “the whole congregation is talking about the fact that the new Rabbi does not attend minyan [daily prayer services].”  In fact, my record of more-than-two-years at OSP ultimately amply would reflect my personal practice of attending daily minyan three times daily, ashalakha requires.  The meager daily Minyan quorum at Ohaiv Sholom, which historically had been tottering between 10-11 people daily,[1] grew in one year under my leadership to nearly twenty people most days.  Shattering a myth of impossibility, in November 2006 I launched a Mincha daily afternoon minyan during the winter months, too, so that we could assure a minyan three times daily, even during the months of Kentucky Standard Time, the seasons when OSP never before, in all its history, had succeeded in establishing a Mincha service.

However, back during that first week we had arrived in Paducah, I did not attend minyan services my first three days, as I hurriedly struggled with my wife to start moving in, to unpack the basics.  Lisa and I were inundated in hundreds of movers’ boxes, having moved the contents of our 4-bedroom Greenville house, along with my personal rabbinic and Judaic library of some 4,000 (four thousand) bound volumes.  Rapidly, I learned, to my shock, that I would not be permitted any time — not even two or three days’ time — to unpack books and furniture and to set up a rudimentary home.  As a result, because we desperately needed to get settled, I approached Meyer Berlinsky and volunteered to trade in a full week’s vacation if he kindly would allow me a week to unpack and set up.  That is — because Lisa, Moshe, and I desperately needed three days to unpack essentials — I offered to give up one full week of my four weeks’ annual vacation in my first contract year if only I would be given a chance to unpack.  Meyer Berlinsky agreed.  However, the very next day, Mike Goldstein called to say that “the Board is in an uproar that you just got here, have not done anything yet, and already you are taking a week’s vacation.” I was stupefied. As a result, I called Meyer Berlinsky and immediately withdrew my request.  I did not need the aggravation with a new Board.  Rather, Lisa and I realized that I would have to work at Ohaiv Sholom without unpacking, and we would have to bide our time, living out of suitcases, unpacking during the course of two or three months — whenever the first week’s vacation could be taken without prompting another “uproar” in the Board.

Because Lisa and I own some 4,000 books and a full four-bedroom household, that meant we had — literally — hundreds upon hundreds of cartons of goods that were sealed and stacked all over our home for several months.  For example, I could not find my carton of neckties and necessarily wore the same red tie every day for weeks. I could not find my alarm clock.  Because Mike Goldstein had reported that the Board was in such strong opposition to my taking time to unpack, I began doing the best I could to unpack in hours after work.  But because the work day they were demanding of me was long already, I was compelled to devote most of my first three months trying to do some unpacking each night between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.  My average workday was 5:30 wake-up for minyan, then a full day without lunch break, typically until 10:00 p.m.  Then unpack between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.  As a result, I lived on an average of 2-3 hours of sleep per night throughout my first three months here, and I lost more than ten pounds.  On several occasions during the first three months — perhaps ten occasions, perhaps a few more, perhaps a few less — I accidentally and atypically slept past the morning alarm after working 24 hours straight, between 16-hour Shul days, followed by 8-hour nights of unpacking.  Indeed, on the Sh’mini Atzeret holiday in October 2005 at the end of the Jewish Holiday season, I went into my Shul office ten minutes before the Mincha afternoon service merely to look up a halakhic primary source for a class I was going to teach, and I fell asleep at my desk.  That had never before happened to me in my career and has not happened since.

Initial Logistical Difficulties with Home Kitchen Appliance and Cellphone Vendors
Compound First-Month Difficulties and Prompt Intensified Slander;
Meyer Berlinsky’s Secrecy Fuels New Slanders
As He Continues Failing to Advise the Board
of Allowing Me to Unpack Boxes and Finally to Move Into My Home

Similarly, in having to “gut” our new house at the time of our move-in, Lisa and I also needed to replace non-kosher built-in appliances that had been damaged by the prior homeowners or otherwise had been rendered impracticable to make kosher.  Unexpectedly, we encountered a series of difficulties with the vendor, Best Buy, in purchasing our new kosher-kitchen appliances.  Because my contract allowed me one day free each week, on Wednesdays, we arranged for Best Buy to conduct their deliveries and installations on Wednesdays.  However, Best Buy failed several times to arrive as scheduled.  Furthermore, they delivered wrong items certain times when they did come; and when they delivered the right items on the right days, certain items arrived damaged.  These repeated problems continued with Best Buy for over a month, and we did not have an operational kitchen through that period and could not host guests.  On one evening, when I was scheduled to meet Hebrew School parents at the house of Bill and Margie Josephson, Best Buy arrived four hours late for a delivery and installation, and I was compelled to call Margie twice to inquire whether she would mind if I would arrive later than the time set for starting the meeting.  Margie continued assuring me at each call that a later arrival would be fine because she intended to conduct the first part of her meeting with agenda items that did not include the Rabbi.  The appliances arrived late but in time for Margie’s schedule.  I then rushed to the meeting, where we had a very successful evening, and I stayed with parents past 11:00 p.m.  The next day, Mike Goldstein lambasted me for being “late to the Josephson meeting.”

Because of the extraordinary difficulties with Best Buy, which ultimately prompted the company to rebate me hundreds of dollars as compensation for their mistakes, we could not get our new home’s kitchen set up to host regular congregational visitors for more than a month. Within small pockets of the congregation, a new slander emerged: “The Rabbi and the Rebbetzin do not host people for meals at their home. Rather, they are free-loaders who just take advantage of their position in the community to get invited to free meals at other people’s homes. They have been doing that ever since they were first hired, driving to Paducah for free meals on Wednesday nights.” Jerry Miller told my wife, Lisa, that she should start inviting guests and preparing lavish multi-course Shabbat meals on a hot plate.[2]

Similarly, in making the transition to Paducah, I encountered a surprising difficulty with cell phone reception.  My ATT-Cingular phone had worked well in Greenville but turned out not to have reception in much of Canarsie Hills, Paducah — including my new home.  Meyer Berlinsky would call me by cell phone, and I would not receive the messages or even hear a phone ring.  I would explain to Meyer Berlinsky that, until the cell-reception matter was cleared, I would appreciate his calling me not only by cell phone but (i) during work hours, calling me also at the Shul phone, or (ii) during non-work hours, calling me also on my home land-line.  That way, I could be certain to receive his calls, and I promptly would return any calls missed.  Meyer Berlinsky told me that Verizon subscribers have better success in obtaining reception in Canarsie Hills, so, at a great personal financial penalty, I canceled my cellular contract with ATT-Cingular and transferred to Verizon in January 2006.  I was charged a $500 penalty for early termination of my ATT-Cingular contract.  The cost was never reimbursed by OSP. With dramatically improved reception within Canarsie Hills, I could receive and return cell calls.

Because of the ongoing difficulty in obtaining time to unpack and set up home, balanced against the Board’s opposition to my ceding to them a week’s vacation time to unpack in August 2005, I proposed an alternative plan to Meyer Berlinsky in October 2005.  Instead of my taking a week’s time to unpack, I asked Meyer Berlinsky whether the Board would be as agitated if I were to take only one day a week for five weeks to unpack.  That is, could I have five consecutive Mondays to unpack?  If that would be acceptable, I offered to cede a full week of seven days’ vacation in return for those five days.  Thus, I offered to donate to the Shul an extra weekend of my services if I just could get five Mondays to unpack.  Meyer Berlinsky agreed.  Accordingly, with Meyer Berlinsky’s approval, I took off the Mondays in November and December.  I also benefited from my contractual National Holidays Mondays of Christmas break and New Year’s, too.  As a result, I finally was enabled to unpack and move in during that period — we also used all of Thanksgiving 2005 for that purpose.  Lisa, Moshe, and I finally had reached a level of personal-life normalcy by January 2006 — five months after arriving — as our home finally could accommodate Shabbat sleep-over guests and regular Shabbat meal visitors.  I later would learn that a new slander circulated intensely among the Board members that “Rabbi Weiss never works on Mondays.”  Contrary to his assurances to me, Meyer Berlinsky had not conveyed our agreement to the rest of the Board members — just as he had failed previously to convey context for my proposal to cede a week’s vacation in return for time to unpack.

Stephanie Levine Resigns as “Office Manager,” and Herb Levine Resigns as Gabbai;
Mike Goldstein Intensifies Efforts to Destroy My Reputation;
New Requirement That I Must  Document My Daily Rabbinic Time
With Exactitude Like an Attorney’s Timesheet of Billable Hours.

In the aftermath of Stephanie Levine’s several office outbursts at me, and in the added light of the Framed Torah Montage Incident, Stephanie Levine came under pressure from the Board to treat the Rabbi more courteously.  As a result, rather than consent to treat me respectfully, she resigned her position approximately in January 2006.  With Stephanie Levine having resigned and with her husband, Herb Levine, having withdrawn from his Gabbai role, I encountered substantially intensified hostility and viciousness from Mike Goldstein, their champion.  I also became increasingly aware that I was being targeted with deep suspicion by Louis Minsky, the Treasurer, who somehow suspected I was not working sufficiently hard to earn my income.  Initially, I did not know of his suspicions because everything had been approved by the President, Meyer Berlinsky.

Mike Goldstein was Board Vice President at the time, and he was part of an “Executive Committee” with Jerry Miller and Meyer Berlinsky that met with me once-monthly.  By October 2005, the Executive Committee had begun requiring me to document my day’s work activities with excruciating exactitude, much in the style of an attorney recording billable hours by the tenth of the hour.  At one Executive Committee meeting in December 2005 or January 2006, held in Jerry Miller’s office, Mike Goldstein asked me to hand him my time sheets and spent ten minutes reading through pages of them, line-by-line, as Meyer Berlinsky and Jerry Miller watched.

Against the Backdrop of Abuse:  
Building Momentum, Reviving a Moribund Congregation,
Expanding Programming Across the Board, Reviving Membership

All the while, I had come to Paducah with an enormous repository of energy and idealism, hoping to energize the community.  Before we even had arrived, I was driving from Greenville once-weekly to teach a women’s class in Paducah, and Lisa and I were coming down a second time each week to attend the Wednesday night dinners. (Again, each trip was two hours’ driving each way.) From the outset upon arriving, I introduced new ideas and programs, and I worked vigorously, night and day, to implement the agenda.  I saw the synagogue virtually barren of teens, so I established a “Young People’s Minyan” for pre-teens and teens to worship as their own group on Shabbat mornings, endeavoring to create an infrastructure and culture for youth programming that would halt the Shul’s history of losing teens at bar mitzvah.  I recruited back to OSP a group of fifteen Sephardic families who had departed from the Shul during the period of no Rabbi, and I helped them create a new Sephardic Minyan.

Having heard complaints that my predecessor did not teach regular formal weekly Torah classes for the membership, I introduced a series of such classes and holiday workshops, teaching Chumash and Halakhah, Navi, Talmud, Mishneh Torah, Tefillah, and Chovot Ha-L’vavot (the last two for women only).  On Sunday mornings, I created and ran a weekly program for 12- and 13-year-olds.  I started teaching a special Chumash-and-Rashi class on Tuesday afternoons at the local Jewish community school, “IMW,” for children of Ohaiv Sholom families in grades 6-8.  With Lisa, we began inviting families of all backgrounds for Shabbat meals.  We invited young people — girls in the middle-school grades, boys in 8th and 9th grades, for Shabbat dinners.  On Sunday mornings, we launched a monthly “Father-Son Tefillin-and-Chillin’” prayer service to attract boys and their dads to shul.  We also launched a weekly Saturday Night Parent-Child Torah Learning Hour, replete with pizza for the kids, that brought children and their parents together in study and bonding.  To increase awareness of all these new activities for young people and their parents, and to encourage excitement and attendance, we conducted a highly publicized “Torah Points” contest that drew more children and their parents to the activities, and that culminated with Lisa, Moshe, and I bringing the young winners in three age groups to Disneyland for a “Day with the Rav, the Rebbetzin, and the Rabbi’s Son” — and the winners then were hosted at our home that evening, finishing the day with Lisa’s homemade French Fries and home-baked chocolate-chip cookies.

I launched an Adult Singles program that saw several unprecedented, successful activities that drew into the Shul people who never before had entered an Orthodox synagogue.  I completely overhauled and dramatically upgraded the conversion program, moving it from private conversions to formal conversions under the auspices of the Rabbinical Council of Kentucky.[3]  I introduced two public Sedarim for Passover, both wonderfully successful and over-subscribed (to the point that the caterer told us that he would not accept any more reservations), and I personally conducted both Sedarim with great success.  All these were self-directed initiatives, beyond anything that anyone had sought, because I had come with energy and idealistic enthusiasm to revive a moribund Shul with a fast-receding membership and bring back — and retain — its kids.  I started taking college students to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream, forging bonds with children of Ohaiv Sholom families, reaching out to traditional college students at nearby campuses, reaching out to seniors while also counseling people with intense personal issues ranging from marital crises to substance abuse issues. And the efforts paid off. Between my arrival on August 1, 2005 and the date of March 18, 2007, a Shul that had lost some 30-40 membership households during the period prior to my arrival now experienced a sudden membership surge as approximately 30-40 new households joined OSP.

And Yet the Slanders Continue: 
The Myth Within the Board That the
“Rabbi Does Not Put in the Hours or Work for His Salary”;
The Tradition of Secretly Reading
from the Rabbi’s Private Daily Planner

But, among my detractors, a myth emerged and grew — a myth never spoken of me before in my professional career — that I was not working hard, nor the hours expected.  Meyer Berlinsky, in his capacity as Board President, had approved my request for five consecutive Monday vacation days, in lieu of my taking one full week’s vacation of my contractually allotted four weeks, but the myth spread among my detractors within the Board that the Rabbi “never works on Mondays.”  There had been a Thursday when I conducted thirteen pastoral-care sessions — 14 hours, non-stop, of meetings (not even taking a lunch break) with thirteen Ohaiv Sholom families and individuals needing private rabbinic counseling and pastoral care— and the Board’s reaction was: “Rabbi Weiss only counsels people on Thursdays and does not counsel people on any other day.

It was reported to me by an authoritative eyewitness source that at least certain Ohaiv Sholom inside officers maintained a tradition of looking into the Rabbi’s Private Daily Planner.  That source reported, for example, seeing Stephanie Levine reading aloud from Rabbi Warshovsky’s Private Planner to Meyer Berlinsky over her office phone, as they both monitored Rabbi Warshovsky’s comings and goings.[4]  Similarly, according to that authoritative eyewitness source, Meyer Berlinsky started gaining access to my Private Planner.  On occasions, after Stephanie resigned, Paula Kaganowitz was instructed to read from my Private Planner to Meyer Berlinsky. Once, in a casual conversation with me, Meyer Berlinsky inadvertently revealed that he had been accessing my Private Planner when, in the course of friendly chit-chat, he asked me how a certain rabbinic meeting had transpired.  I had never mentioned to anyone that I had scheduled myself to attend that meeting, and Meyer Berlinsky was unaware that the meeting had been canceled days before it was to take place. However, because I never had bothered to erase the scheduled meeting from my Daily Planner, it still appeared.  And he asked about it.

Eventually, Louis Minsky, the Board Treasurer, instructed Paula Kaganowitz to get her hands surreptitiously on my personal calendar – i.e., without the Rabbi finding out – as part of one of several efforts to investigate me, my work hours, what I do with my time, and whether I am taking vacation days without reporting them.

A Rupturing Appendix, More Slanders, and
Efforts to Access My Personal Calendar:
“The Rabbi Is Taking Off More Time Than He Needs.”

In early February 2006, I was hit medically with appendicitis that degraded into a rupturing appendix.  The irony is that the appendix burst because I was working so many long hours and had not paused to attend to the sharply intensifying pain.  Despite suffering a terrible stomach pain on Monday, February 6, I worked a full day in the Rabbi’s Office that day, was awake all night with terrible pain, and then worked another 18 hours straight the next day, past midnight, with intense and intensifying stomach pain.[5]  That Tuesday night at home, as I started regurgitating uncontrollably around 4:00 a.m., my wife rushed me to Sanders Hospital, where we learned that my appendix not only had flared into full-blown appendicitis but that I had been working so many hours with that appendicitis that it had begun rupturing.  I was rushed into emergency surgery. During the four days I was in the hospital and thereafter recovering at home, both Dave Bodinsky (then a Board member) and Louis Minsky (the Board Treasurer) respectively came to the office, telling a front-office staffer who is subordinate to me that the Rabbi had been exaggerating the severity of his health situation and had “taken off more time than he needed.”[6]

And Dave Bodinsky, still on the Board, started pressing Paula Kaganowitz to give him my Rabbi’s Daily Planner for his inspection.  Soon, as noted above, Louis Minsky also would instruct Paula Kaganowitz to procure for Minsky my daily calendar.

After Several Highly Improper Outbursts of Hostility,
Mike Goldstein Is Asked to Step Down from the  Executive Committee;
Goldstein Intensifies Mobilizing His Social Circles Against Me;
Personal Abuse at  Board Meetings

By now, still less than six months into my Ohaiv Sholom experience, Mike Goldstein — having become so unremittingly hostile to me and having written me two or three profoundly and personally insulting, hostile, and overheated e-mails — was actually asked to step down from the Executive Committee of the Board.  People in the Shul were starting to tell me that “[t]hey [the Board insiders] are doing to you what they did to Rabbi Warshovsky and to Rabbi Lowenberg.  We warned you not to come here, but you didn’t listen.”[7]  Insiders on the Board, with the exception of Jeffrey Eisenberg and Judah Nadel, were becoming increasingly insulting and overtly hostile.  At Board meetings, for example, Dave Bodinsky painstakingly would complain about how poorly I sing and would insist that the Board allocate funds to send the Rabbi for singing lessons.  Bill Josephson — a very close friend of Mike Goldstein, who vacationed with him and their respective wives at a resort over Christmas Week 2005 — sat me down in my Rabbi’s Office one Sunday, as I was departing shul, en route home after morning services, and spent half an hour telling me all the reasons that “it just isn’t working out” and advising me that I soon would be getting terminated by the Board “if things [did] not change.”  Mike Goldstein continued leaving me voice mails that “It isn’t working out.” In one such voice message:

The wheels are falling off.  Nobody respects you.  Everyone in the Shul wants a change of rabbis. I can’t begin to tell you how many calls I get every night from people demanding that I do something to replace the rabbi. (Emphasis in original.)

In this context, Mike Goldstein’s social circles within the Congregation are noteworthy:

Mike Goldstein’s carpool included at that time:

Zev Pilson’s children
Simon & Bella Burstein’s children
Martin Chait’s children
Regina & Tobias Schwartz’s daughter

Mike Goldstein vacations with Bill & Margie Josephson.

Mike Goldstein plays poker with Simon Burstein and Martin Chait.

Mike Goldstein and his wife were maintaining close personal friendships for several years with Ohaiv Sholom insiders, including Herb & Stephanie Levine, Dina & Len Wegman, Julie & Bob Levitz, and Bessy & Isaac Mendelson.  The wife’s friendships with Julie Levitz and Dina Wegman extended to years of working together on Ohaiv Sholom projects.

At the center of my opposition among the 13-person Board[8] during my first nine months were the five Board members in Mike Goldstein’s circles:  (i) Mike Goldstein, (ii) Bill Josephson, the vacation partner; (iii) Martin Chait; (iv) Julie Levitz, the wife’s close friend; and (v) Isaac Mendelson.[9]  In that vigorous hostility, they were joined by Dave Bodinsky and Louis Minsky, the two who had questioned the time I had needed to recuperate from the rupturing appendix.  On the other side, the softer-spoken Jeffrey Eisenberg and Judah Nadel were supportive.  During that first half year, Benny Belcher and Meyer Berlinsky were neutral, inclining to see which way the weight of the Board shifted.[10]  Jerry Miller initially was supportive, in his role as buffer to Mike Goldstein.

New Slanders and the Effort to Detour
My Efforts to Reach Ohaiv Sholom Youth
by My Teaching Them at the Local Community School

During this period, into early 2006, I began teaching a weekly Tuesday afternoon extracurricular class at the local Jewish community school, “IMW,” for children of OSP parents.  The class began at the initiative of several of the OSP parents, and with my urging and encouragement.  Meyer Berlinsky personally had blessed my initiative to establish an afternoon Torah-enrichment class at the Shul for IMW and public school students. Meyer Berlinsky and I jointly envisioned such a class as a first step towards creating an Orthodox elementary day school in Paducah.  However, a parents’ committee, headed by Howard Falk, Ed Haimowitz, and Bob Levitz, insisted that the class be held at the IMW campus instead.  I explained to the parents that I would face untenable OSP Board scrutiny and criticism if I were to leave the Shul grounds during the work day to teach a class at the IMW campus, twelve minutes away.  As a result, the group decided to retain the services of Ike Kamen to teach the class.  For reasons not pertinent to this discussion, the parents soon determined that Ike Kamen was the very incorrect choice, and they appealed to me to teach the class.  Because I had determined, from the outset, that Ohaiv Sholom had a severe absence of teens, I decided that it was imperative that someone teach this class before the initiative died.  With no class in Chumash and Rashi being taught throughout all of IMW’s 12-grade curriculum, and a faculty virtually bereft of any Orthodox faculty,[11] it devolved on me to save the initiative and to reach the junior high students.  To demonstrate that I was teaching the after-school class as Rav of Ohaiv Sholom, and not as a IMW instructor, the parents and I agreed that even non-IMW students could attend, as could IMW students whose families were unaffiliated with OSP.

Nevertheless, during monthly OSP Executive Committee meetings, I came under increasing scrutiny and attack, as I was asked whether I was being paid to teach the class.  “No,” I explained.  “It is my voluntary initiative to reach out to these families, to teach Torah to their kids because they otherwise receive no Torah training, and to foster longer-term pastoral relationships with families.”  But Meyer Berlinsky and Jerry Miller continued pressing, meeting after meeting, asking (i) how much I was being paid (nothing); (ii) whether I was being paid “indirectly” or otherwise (no); (iii) whether OSP parents privately were collecting money and paying me (not); etc.  At yet another Executive Committee meeting, I was asked to justify the after-school class by submitting lists of children who attended, for Meyer Berlinsky to review and approve.  As a result of this untoward scrutiny and the allegations that I clandestinely was pocketing money, I finally stopped teaching the class.  Soon, the parents returned to me, complaining that I had “flaked” on them.  They asked me to return to teaching the class.  I was caught in a vise.

Something similar had happened in my second month at OSP, around October 2005.  Robust as I was with energy and wanting to reach out to the many teens who had abandoned OSP after their bar and bat mitzvahs, I met with the IMW Upper School heads, Mr. Fred Shapiro and Anthony Jenner, and arranged to teach 12th graders at IMW each and every Friday morning.  The initiative stemmed from an idea that had been proposed to me by an Ohaiv Sholom insider at one of the Wednesday night dinners with OSP members that Lisa and I had attended during the period when I was still Rav of Young Israel of Greenville.  I would teach all three sections of the IMW 12th grade, thereby assuring that I could meet every one of these young people before they were completely gone from the community. The class arose exclusively from my effort to reach teens who had stopped coming to Ohaiv Sholom after their Bar Mitzvahs, despite their being in families with OSP connections.

Continued from Part 1                                    Continued at Part 3


[1] It had been a common practice at OSP Shabbat services for years to appeal from the platform (bimah) for volunteers to help man the struggling minyan.  Within my first year, my leadership at the minyan and in recruiting new attendees brought those announcements to an end.

[2] In time, once the kitchen appliances were delivered and installed, Lisa and I began hosting families and young people for Shabbat meals on an intensive and continual basis throughout our time in Paducah.  In our first two years, we hosted more than 500 dinner and lunch guests at our home.

[3] Unknown to the greater congregation, certain individuals who had converted to Judaism or had executed Jewish divorces under a prior rabbi have had those events questioned by certain rabbinic authorities in Israel.  I revamped the system to assure that this problem stops.  No one converted through my RCK program would be challenged.  Such an upgrade was particularly important for a congregation like OSP, where there only are some 35 Orthodox-practicing households amid the congregation, and half of them became Orthodox-practicing only after a spouse converted to Judaism.

[4]  Shortly after I arrived, Meyer Berlinsky had explained to me that Stephanie Levine regularly reported to him on the whereabouts of Rabbi Warshovsky and his assistant rabbi, Rabbi Joshua Davis.  He stated that Stephanie would phone Rabbi Davis at his home during the day and, if he answered the phone, thereupon would call Meyer Berlinsky to report that she had “caught” Rabbi Davis “lounging at home” during his work hours.  Meyer Berlinsky stated that Rabbi Warshovsky often spent entire days at the office, from half an hour or more before morning services at 6:00 a.m. through close-to-midnight.  He stated that Rabbi Warshovsky would do his personal bills and mail in the office during those hours.  Rabbi Davis told me, too, about the efforts to monitor his whereabouts, expressing with dismay his sense that it was more highly valued to have a Rabbi sitting in his office doing his personal mail and bills than it was to have a rabbi out of the building, counseling and coordinating, preparing classes and teaching.

[5] That day’s schedule, which was representative of many work days at OSP, began with conducting the 6:30 a.m. worship service, continued with an 8:00 a.m. office meeting, then meeting and counseling a conversion candidate, meeting with a mother to set a Bar Mitzvah study plan for their child, meeting with the Upper School director of Judaic Studies for IMW, meeting with a mother to plan an agenda of activities for teens, teaching an after-school supplementary Chumash class for junior high students on the IMW campus, studying with a boy preparing for Bar Mitzvah, conducting the afternoon-evening Mincha-Maariv service, meeting with the Board’s three-man Executive Committee, teaching a two-hour Adult Education Torah class to 9:30 p.m., then returning phone calls, followed by attending to the day’s e-mails.  By 12 midnight, I had been working 18 hours straight without even having had time to eat food all day.

[6] Under the terms of my contract, I am afforded five sick days.  Because I needed more than five sick days during the contract year, the days away from work pertaining to the bursting appendix were charged against my vacation time.  Because vacation days were charged, I did not receive any employment benefit (e.g., extra uncharged sick days) from my time out.  It was all taken from my vacation time. Contractually, I was entitled to that time.  Besides, my appendix had begun rupturing.

Furthermore, in two years since coming to Ohaiv Sholom — although I am allowed five sick days, four weeks’ annual vacation, plus another five days’ attendance annually at rabbinical conferences and conventions as continuing professional education — I missed only two or three Sabbath services.  By the end of my second year, I was “owed” more than two weeks of unused vacation time.  When I had surgery on my meniscus in July 2006, I never missed a Shabbat service, arranging to be wheeled each weekend to and from Shul, and speaking from the standing position despite the pain from a knee just operated on.

[8] Although the congregation’s Board size was set at nine members under the OSP by-laws, the actual size fluctuated based on the political exigencies set by insiders.  There was minimal enforcement of the rules.

[9] During the first year, Isaac Mendelson would apologize to me several times, telling me privately that he liked me, liked my classes, liked my sermons, and liked my style, but he felt compelled by long-time personal friendships to vote against my contract being extended.

[10] Meyer Berlinsky, in trying to decipher the Board’s evolving impression of me, composed a multi-question written survey that each Board member was instructed to complete without consulting anyone else.  Board members were instructed to grade me, on a sliding numerical scale, assessing everything from my sermons and my singing voice to the way I dress.

[11] There was only one Orthodox faculty member in the 600-student, 12-grade school.