Clergy Abuse at The Gates of Perdition: An Amalgam – Part 3 of 7

Clergy Abuse at The Gates of Perdition:
An Amalgam – Part 3 of 7 

Continued from Part 2             Continued at Part 4

When Mr. Shapiro scheduled me for the year, he insisted on remunerating me.  I outright rejected any remuneration.  He said that he needed to pay me something, if only to maintain an understanding that, at IMW, I am subordinate to him, so must submit exams and grades to him timely.  We went back and forth, with him insisting that I take some nominal remuneration for my personal out-of-class grading and testing time, and with me rejecting any compensation.  When Mr. Shapiro made clear that it is standard in the field for a congregational rabbi teaching at a Jewish Upper School to be reimbursed for test-preparation and grading time, and that he otherwise would be unable to give me classes to teach on Friday, we agreed on a nominal sum, something like $1,000 monthly.  I would do all out-of-classroom work — preparing class-materials and tests, grading exams, and turning in grades (collectively, “class administration”) — exclusively on my contractual Ohaiv Sholom weekly day-off: Wednesdays.  As I began teaching the classes, I learned to my chagrin and amazement, as the High Holidays approached in September, that, even after a decade of their studying at IMW, large percentages of my IMW high school senior students were remarkably uneducated in the most basic aspects of Jewish knowledge (e.g., why Rosh Hashanah is celebrated, what “Yom Kippur” means, who “Moshe Rabbeinu” is, what Sh’mini Atzeret is, what happens on Simchat Torah besides “getting drunk on vodka at Chabad”).  So I began teaching an augmented course, trying somehow to fill in the lacunae before the kids would graduate and leave town in a few months.  Many of the students were children of long-time Ohaiv Sholom members.[1]

I had reported outright and explicitly to Meyer Berlinsky, from the outset of my arrangement with Mr. Shapiro, that I was teaching at IMW, that it was a formal arrangement under which I would teach there three hours every Friday morning (thereby reaching all the seniors in the school), and that I was being remunerated for my class-administration time devoted on Wednesdays, my day off.  Meyer Berlinsky orally acknowledged to me his approval of the arrangement and thanked me for letting him know.[2] Yet, at the second or third Executive Committee meeting after I had arrived at OSP, Meyer Berlinsky and Mike Goldstein asked (i) why I was teaching at IMW, (ii) whether I was being paid, and (iii) how much.  Meyer Berlinsky conducted himself as though we never before had discussed the arrangement.  I reported in very straightforward manner, without any hesitancy, that Mr. Shapiro was paying me approximately $1,000 per month — as I explicitly had reported to Meyer Berlinsky from the outset of the arrangement — and that, although I insistently had refused payment, Mr. Shapiro insisted that he needed to establish a formal relationship in that way, that the money was compensating me for the off-campus class-administrative work I was doing on my weekly Wednesday day off, and that Mr. Shapiro insisted that, based on his professional experience as a long-term Jewish Studies educational administrator, it was standard that all congregational rabbis are paid for their time when they participate formally on religious faculty.  Nevertheless, when I advised the OSP Executive Committee of all this, I was told that I must transfer the $1,000 monthly to the Shul.  I did so immediately because I never had been motivated by money to teach at IMW.  When I reported back to Mr. Shapiro about this development, he expressed profound dismay and phoned Meyer Berlinsky to advise him that the OSP Board was acting inconsistently with the accepted practices of all other temples and synagogues in McCracken County and in his prior big-city experiences in Boston.  Mr. Shapiro later told me that he had phoned Meyer Berlinsky at least six separate times over the next two months to have that conversation, but that Meyer Berlinsky never accepted or returned a single one of his calls, even though Meyer Berlinsky is an IMW Board Member.

Having determined that my effort to reach out to Ohaiv Sholom teenagers at IMW merely was fostering yet another opportunity for slander and criticism, I advised Mr. Shapiro that I would have to discontinue my Friday morning teaching at IMW.

A Spate of Secret Board Meetings,as the March 2006 Annual General Meeting Approaches;
Mike Goldstein’s New Effort to Propel My Departure
by Preventing a Contract Extension, This Time with a Scathing
Memorandum of Condemnation Addressed to the Incoming Board

Every March, OSP conducts an Annual General Meeting (“AGM”).  At that meeting, a new Board of Directors is elected.  The newly elected Board subsequently elects its officers internally from among themselves.  By the end of March 2006, the outgoing OSP Board was holding a series of secret meetings, aimed at drafting and adopting a formal extensive memorandum that would urge the incoming Board of Directors to release me as Rabbi upon the conclusion of my initial 25-month contract period.  Under the terms of my Employment Agreement, I was hired for an initial 25-month term beginning August 1, 2005 and expiring September 1, 2007, and would be advised by the end of the first contract year (September 2006) whether I further would be extended an additional year to September 1, 2008.

The outgoing OSP Board by now had coalesced behind a decision to release me at the end of the initial twenty-five months – with no extension.  That alliance was led by the five in Mike Goldstein’s circle of social friends,[3] and Louis Minsky and Dave Bodinsky.  Meyer Berlinsky and Jerry Miller had decided to go along with that group because they comprised the majority of the thirteen Board members. Judah Nadel and Jeffrey Eisenberg, my supporters, opposed them.  Benny Belcher, who had headed the search committee that selected me, ostensibly projected mixed feelings regarding my tenure.  Jesse Turkel decided that he would move his family to Baltimore, so opted to back away from the politics.

Notwithstanding the outgoing Board members’ respective preferences, the decision on whether to extend my contract to the third year was not theirs to make.  Rather, that decision devolved onto the incoming Board newly elected at the April 3, 2006 AGM. Therefore, in an effort to influence the new Board’s thinking, the outgoing Board undertook to draft a memorandum to the incoming Board, as a report-and-recommendation urging a terminating decision.  The memorandum contained a wide-ranging series of ad hominem attacks and finger-pointing at matters that either were non-issues, or falsely attributed to me without my being heard on the matter.  For example, I was falsely accused of not regularly attending prayer services, an outright mendacity that readily was apparent every day.  As two examples of the tenor of the mendacity, one considers (i) the unsuccessful experience with Rabbi Stuart Kramer, the briefly employed Youth Director; and (ii) the dismal OSP Purim celebration of March 2006.

The Youth Director Debacle:  Alienating and Scaring off a Fine Candidate;
Settling on Rabbi Kramer; Blaming the Debacle on Me

While I still was Rabbi in Greenville in Spring and early Summer 2005, I not only was traveling weekly back-and-forth — for months — to Paducahon Wednesdays to meet with families, and again to Paducah on Thursdays to teach a women’s class, but I also worked intensively to help OSP retain a suitable full-time Youth Director.  In July, virtually on the eve of my becoming OSP Rabbi, the prior OSP Youth Director resigned his position to accept a high-school principalship at the Moses Montefiore School in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Thus, I was about to arrive in Paducah with no Youth Director, only two months before Rosh Hashanah.  From Greenville, I worked actively with Rabbi Don Fleigenbaum, the Kentucky Director of NCSY, the national youth organization of the Orthodox Union, to find a suitable Youth Director for Ohaiv Sholom.  I was referred to a fine young couple, he an American college graduate now living in Israel and married to an Israeli, and I spoke several times at great length (and at personal unreimbursed expense) with him in Israel.  He sounded like an excellent possibility, and he had been warmly recommended by Rabbi Fleigenbaum. Unknown to me, after all the work I had done from Greenville building a personal relationship with the young man, the inside directors of OSP arranged — without telling me — to bring him and his wife to Paducah for a weekend try-out only weeks before I arrived, and they interviewed him in Meyer Berlinsky’s office.  I was excluded from the process.  By the time that Shabbat visit had ended, the young couple had decided not to come to Paducah.  This result was a shame, and it was particularly disappointing that all this had been done behind my back.  The people who had met with his wife and him inadvertently had failed to take advantage of the excellent relationship I had forged and to recognize that the matter should have been conducted through me or at least with my participation.

By the time I had arrived in Paducah, Ohaiv Sholom still was stuck without a Youth Director.  I e-mailed and made calls to all my networks of contacts and asked that any viable candidate be referred to me.  In late August or early September 2005, Mr. Shapiro of IMW referred to us Rabbi Kramer. Rabbi Kramer. had applied for a teaching job at IMW, and Mr. Shapiro felt he was not up to the challenge.  With that clear and unmistakable warning, I met with Rabbi Kramer.  He was not the candidate who would impress the Board, not like the young man we just had lost.  But he was there, applying for the job, and we were only three or four weeks from Rosh Hashanah, still with no one to handle our youth.  Moreover, we realized that other candidates would not emerge for many months because quality Youth candidates apply to synagogues and get hired by the previous May for positions that run from September through June, paralleling the normative school year.  This was September, so any available candidate would be suspect simply for being available.  I interviewed Rabbi Kramer., learned that he once had played on a professional sports team, had been certified or ordained at a respectable yeshiva in Israel the previous year as a “Rabbi for Youth Programming,” and therefore he seemed passable.  But I had misgivings and opted to expand the process maximally.  I arranged for Mike Goldstein and Martin Chait, both of them Board members, to interview Rabbi Kramer. in my office.  Then I arranged for six or so parents, among them the most demanding of our parents, to interview him.  The parents unanimously said we should hire Rabbi Kramer. So did Martin Chait.  And Goldstein said we should hire Rabbi Kramer immediately.  So Rabbi Kramer. was hired.

The Board did not agree to pay Rabbi Kramer. enough for him to work full-time as Ohaiv Sholom’s Youth Director, so he needed to obtain supplemental remunerative work.  He obtained morning employment at “McCracken County Kosher,” a kosher butcher store in nearby Massac.  He began his work promptly.

Rabbi Kramer’s employment there was not fortuitous.  He made some human mistakes.  Goldstein, Chait, and others on the Board who increasingly sought to damage me made him a target and surrogate for attacking me, and they began to portray him as “Rabbi Weiss’s choice for Youth Director.” Stephanie Levine, when she was office manager, refused to give him stationery supplies for his office.  He was second-guessed on everything he did, and Martin Chait started micro-managing him.  I was compelled to conduct at least five separate urgent peacemaking meetings in my office, trying to persuade Martin Chait to stop hurting Rabbi Kramer’s feelings, insulting him, and just-plain pestering.  In time, Rabbi Kramer could not take it anymore and understandably resigned, departing by February 2006.  It was very sad seeing him abused, too.

In the outgoing Board’s report against me to the incoming Board, I was blamed completely for the failure of Rabbi Kramer.  There was no acknowledgment that he had been hired by the very people who blamed me for his engagement nor recognition of how he had been abused and obstructed at every turn from accomplishing anything.

The Purim 2006 Debacle

As for the Purim 2006 debacle, Mike Goldstein, Jerry Miller, and Meyer Berlinsky — during an Executive Committee session with me — ambushed me with the declarative question: “Tell us what you are going to do for Purim at Ohaiv Sholom.”[4]  It was asked months before Purim amid a long meeting with no prior agenda presented. The meeting, like all Executive Committee sessions that Mike Goldstein, Jerry Miller, and Meyer Berlinsky conducted with me, consisted of several hostile and unexpected subjects, and vituperative accusations. I barely knew the community’s culture well enough to answer effectively without first speaking to some people about past Purim celebrations.  Pressed by Goldstein, Miller, and Berlinsky to present a formal and complete Purim proposal right then-and-there, with no advance notice, I responded that, at the very least, there should be (i) a costume contest, (ii) a Purim Seudah (festive meal on Purim day), and (iii) a children’s carnival.  The three Executive Committee interrogators thereupon tasked me, with specificity, to accomplish those three things for Purim — that package of three programs would comprise the totality of Ohaiv Sholom 2006 Purim . . . and nothing more  As a result of this directive, I supervised Yossi Grunstein, the new Youth Director who had succeeded Rabbi Kramer, as he put together a Sunday Carnival. The Carnival was small and unremarkable, but it was all that Yossi could do on the severely restricted shoestring budget allocated.  Martin Chait, the Shul Board’s liaison for Youth Activities, who regularly had criticized and berated Rabbi Kramer, missed the carnival that Sunday afternoon and instead attended a ball game. Meanwhile, for the Purim Seudah, I wanted to conduct a festive catered meal, but Meyer Berlinsky overruled me, insisting that the meal be limited to a sparse-budget plain-spaghetti buffet.  Because the weekday meal had to begin by sunset, I wanted the meal to be conducted as late in the afternoon as possible, starting approximately 5:00 or 5:30 pm, to enable maximal attendance including people returning from their weekday places of employment.  However, Meyer Berlinsky maintained that Ohaiv Sholom conducts the meal every year at mid-afternoon, approximately at 3:00 p.m., averring that it is successful.  So, we did it Meyer Berlinsky’s way, not mine. As I had feared, it proved to be a dismal failure.  The attendance was sparse, the menu unremarkable, no ambiance.  After Purim, Meyer Berlinsky told me that “this was the worst Purim in Ohaiv Sholom’s history,” and he made clear that it was all my fault and that I was a rabbi who did not have a vision of what a Purim party could be.[5]  Completely unexpected, he further accused me of bearing complete fault that a young Orthodox family was planning to move to Baltimore – because, in Meyer Berlinsky’s words, I had been in Paducah eight months and still had not opened a yeshiva day school, nor had presented plans to open one by the end of my first year.

New Board Arrives in April 2006, Disregards Outgoing Board’s Memorandum,
and Craftts a Tedious, Multi-Page Mail Survey to the Membership
to Gauge Community Attitudes Towards the Rabbi’s Tenure;
After Survey Ends, Overwhelmingly Positive Results Are Concealed from Me

A new Board entered office in April 2006.  Jerry Miller was elected to succeed Meyer Berlinsky as President, while Berlinsky would continue equally active in an unspecified role.  Jeffrey Eisenberg, my strongest supporter on the prior Board, succeeded Mike Goldstein as Vice President.  While the prior Board was top-heavy with my opponents, the new Board was relatively balanced.  They immediately chose to disregard the report-and-recommendation of the prior Board, which had recommended to them that my 25-month contract not be extended, and instead they adopted a decision to mail a multi-page survey to the entire OSP community in the summer of 2006 to gauge congregational and  community perceptions of the rabbi. The survey as drafted was highly unprofessional and extraordinarily complex. Notwithstanding that its sole purpose was to gauge popular sentiment regarding the Rabbi, it got mired in pages upon pages of irrelevant questions. Abner Ozinsky, then President of the IMW Board and son-in-law of Arnold Stone, was invited by the new OSP Board to address them on the survey they had crafted and already had mailed.  Ozinsky, a professional marketing-survey expert, told them that the vast majority of questions in the mailed survey were utterly irrelevant as pertained to the Rabbi and had to be disregarded.  In narrowing the questions he deemed acceptable for their focus, Abner Ozinsky helped the OSP Board set three scoring parameters. With survey questions asking respondents to reply on a scale of 1-5, the Board set (i) a highest-range response zone for which the Rabbi automaticallywould be extended an additional year; (ii) a lowest-range zone for which the rabbi automatically would be denied an extension; and (iii) an intermediary range that would require the Board to evaluate further by reading respondents’ narrative comments in the survey, alongside their circled numbers, to better gauge which way to go with the Rabbi.

There was ample reason to anticipate that the survey would elicit a congregational negative response.  Intuitively, people who have complaints respond to mailed surveys more intently and numerously than do people who basically are satisfied.  Second, many people who were counting themselves as my supporters were so angry by the Board’s crassness in frontally surveying me by mail that they called the office to say they had torn-up or otherwise destroyed their surveys “in support of the Rabbi.”  My opponents, by contrast, were not tearing up their surveys but were responding to them and mailing them in. In addition, my opponents responded in force.  As it emerged, there was a profoundly strong response rate – perhaps as many as 160 of 250-300 possible respondents.  Yet, according to several Board members who oversaw tabulating the actual hard copies that were mailed in, the community voted and wrote narrative overwhelmingly in support of the Rabbi and extending the contract.  The result in favor was so overwhelming that it was in the highest response-range zone, mandating automatic extension.  Mike Goldstein felt compelled by the results and the automatic extension to resign from the Board.  He soon thereafter told me: “Don’t get too comfortable.  Next time we will not poll the community first. You will be removed. I guarantee it.”

Although rumors came back to me in August 2006 that the survey results had been so positive that my contract automatically was being extended to September 1, 2008, the Board President, Jerry Miller, never informed me of the results or decision. I was never informed.

A Period of Elective Surgeries — and More Slander

During the summer of 2006, I underwent several elective medical procedures, using my vacation days for time off to attend to the medical needs.[6]  I did not exceed my four weeks’ vacation.  In late July 2006, I underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in my right knee.  Earlier that month, on July 4, I underwent my first-ever colonoscopy. Mike Goldstein later would say that “the Rabbi is a very sick man and very sickly, unable to withstand the strain of the job.  His body keeps breaking down.”

Growing Excitement and Energy at  OSP, As We Move into My Second Year

By now, I was beginning my second year as OSP Rabbi.  My weekday class now was attracting 15-20 people every Tuesday night, a profoundly large continuing weekly turnout for a regularly scheduled OSP weekly class.  Attendance at Friday night services had rebounded from 35 worshippers to an average of 60 men and 20 women every Friday night.  On Saturday mornings, we were gathering an average of 65 men and 35 women in the main service, as well as another 15 men at the 7:00 a.m. Hashkamah (Early Risers) service and another 15 men at the Shabbat Sephardic service.

For years before I arrived at Ohaiv Sholom, weekday morning services, which run Monday through Friday for approximately 45 minutes from 6:30 a.m., typically had been drawing barely the minimum quorum of 10 men, or one or two more, each service.[7]  Before I had arrived, weekday morning-service attendance had dropped so low that the President was compelled every Shabbat morning to plead from the podium for volunteers to come, if only to assure the quorum of ten men.  Under my leadership, the problem came to a complete end, and daily morning minyan attendance grew to nearly 20 men in less than a year.  Jack Rosen, whose family is one of the 30-40 new memberships we attracted during my first 18 months at OSP, undertook to prepare daily breakfasts for the worshippers if I would agree to teach Daf Yomi, the intensive daily study of a folio of Talmud.[8]  Every morning, I would awaken at 4:30 a.m. and spend an hour or more preparing the daily folio of Talmud study, an intensive educational undertaking nottaught by the vast majority of full-time congregational rabbis.  I did so because Jack was filled with enthusiasm, and we started growing the daily minyan.  Daf Yomi continued daily for some nine months until the March 18, 2007 AGM.  After that debacle, Jack told me he no longer would prepare breakfasts or even come to daily services.  Several others also stopped coming regularly after the March 18 debacle, and a prominent Kentucky Orthodox Rabbi told me that it was foolish for me to put myself through so much effort to maintain a rigorous Daf Yomi schedule, noting that the overwhelming majority of full-time congregational rabbis do not teach Daf Yomi.

Only one year into my OSP tenure, as we moved towards the High Holy Days in autumn 2006, it rapidly became apparent that we were about to attract the largest turnout to High Holy Day services in Ohaiv Sholom history.  Meyer Berlinsky, who personally oversees seating plans and the entire High Holy Day cash intake, marveled to me that he never had seen anything like it before in his twenty years with the congregation.  For the first time ever, OSP actually ran out of room in the building to accommodate everyone asking for membership or to buy a seat.  Meyer Berlinsky discussed with me options for handling the first-time-ever overflow:  To jam seats tighter together?  To send Ashkenazim across the street to the Sephardic service? Meanwhile, across the street at the local community room, our new Sephardic service was enjoying its largest turnout.  In all, we hosted more than 650 worshippers and took in more dues and more memberships than we had done the previous year.  The holidays were remarkably successful — spirited, joyous, and spiritual.  And a financial success.

Even Amid Excitement and Success, A New Scandal –— Harassment —
and Retaliation Against the Rabbi for Blowing the Whistle,
While Jerry Miller Refuses to Disqualify the Harasser from the New Board

On a darker note, it was emerging that a married man among the Ohaiv Sholom membership had been harassing two OSP women.  In one case, he had put both his arms around a lady, forcibly drew her close to him, and attempted to plant kisses on her lips.  She pulled away.  This account initially was alleged to me directly by the woman.  I had been working with this When I followed up, privately speaking with the accused harasser, he confirmed the facts, saying that he was just kidding. He added: “So it was all in good fun.”  But the lady had proffered a formal complaint to me, the Rabbi.  Aside from the legal ramifications, I am an Orthodox Rabbi.  As a matter of personal values, I cannot tolerate such conduct in my congregation on my watch.

I brought the matter to the immediate attention of Jerry Miller, the President, and Jeffrey Eisenberg, the Vice President.  I also advised Rabbi Jeffrey Asher, Kentucky Director of the Orthodox Union.  Rabbi Asher wanted the shul to pay for a lawyer-directed investigation.  The Board officers, alarmed at a possible expense exceeding $10,000, opted to investigate by themselves.  In doing so, Jerry Miller and Jeffrey Eisenberg met with the accused in the synagogue front office in such a manner that Abe Kulik, the Board Secretary, overheard the situation, too.  The harasser reached an oral agreement with Jerry Miller and Jeffrey Eisenberg that he would not again harass the women.  Nevertheless, days later, he again harassed the same woman.

Months later, as the March 18, 2007 AGM approached, Jerry Miller pressed to have the harasser included among the list of new candidates for an incoming Board seat.  As Rabbi, I forcefully opposed.  Jerry Miller maintained that the harasser had not been convicted of any wrongdoing. In pursuing his intent to ratify the harasser as a candidate for election to the Board of Directors, Jerry Miller attempted to silence me by threatening me with repercussions if I told anyone about the matter.  When I communicated about the matter with Abe Kulik, the Board officer who already knew about it, Jerry Miller wrote me a condemnatory letter, with the clear implication that a censure was being placed in my personnel file, alleging that I grossly had breached a professional confidence.  I called Rabbi Asher, the Kentucky Director of the Orthodox Union.  Rabbi Asher told Jerry Miller that the harasser could not contend for the Board.  Jerry Miller told Rabbi Asher that, “if Rabbi Weiss wants to tell the man, let the Rabbi tell him, but I [Jerry Miller] will not do it.”  Abe Kulik stated that, if the harasser were to contend for a Board seat and be elected, then Abe Kulik, as outgoing Board Secretary, would refuse to certify his election.  Compelled to take the lead, I met privately with the harasser in my office and told him that he would not be permitted to run for the Board.  I explained why.  I held open the possibility that, in a few years – maybe two or three – the matter would pass, and it could be reconsidered.

From that day forward, the harasser relentlessly defamed and mocked me throughout the synagogue and pressed for my termination or at least non-renewal.  He influenced friends, and I was not at liberty to disclose why he hated me so much.

Benny Belcher Presses the Rabbi’s Wife
to use Her Private Professional Connections
to Help His Company Win a Large Contract;
Turning Against Me After She Refuses

Another insider Board member turned against me for a different reason. Benny Belcher had been a supporter.  Then he approached the Rebbetzin, my wife Lisa, who works during the week in an outside secular position. Benny Belcher asked Lisa to employ her personal connections at work on his behalf to help secure for his firm a lucrative contract. Lisa explained that she could not engage in a conflict-of-interest on behalf of Benny Belcher. Benny Belcher continued pressing Lisa over several months for insider assistance, and she finally agreed to ask her supervisor how to handle the pressure.  Lisa’s supervisor advised that Lisa could provide Benny Belcher with the name and office phone number of the corporate person who handles purchasing of such items, but that was all she ethically could do.  Lisa advised Benny Belcher that she could not do more for him.  He turned against me, metamorphosing from supporter to becoming a new strong opponent.

In time, it emerged that his company was given an “F” rating from the Paducah Better Business Bureau (BBB) – the lowest of the BBB’s eleven ratings[9]    Had Lisa pressed insiders at her work to contract with Benny Belcher’s firm, such behavior could have violated a wide range of Jewish Business Laws and Ethics, as well as secular laws.

Other Opposition from Within the Board of March 2006 – March 2007

In addition to Jerry Miller’s and Benny Belcher’s opposition emanating from the March 2006 – March 2007 Board of Directors, Martin Chait also continued opposing me intensely on the new Board, representing the last remnant of the outgoing Board’s Mike Goldstein Circle.

Mike Goldstein’s vacation friend, Bill Josephson, had been obliged to leave the Board because of a patent ethical conflict that I consistently raised: the Board was hiring and compensating Bill Josephson’s wife, Margie, as the salaried Director of the afternoon Hebrew School.  With Bill Josephson and the Mike Goldstein circle of friends on the Board, Margie Josephson was able to continue in her role as Afternoon School director, despite manifest shortcomings in her service at that post and in her actual administration of her position.[10]  Although the Rabbi is supposed to supervise the Hebrew School Director, I could not do so because Bill Josephson, her husband, had power-of-hiring-and-firing over me throughout my first year, in his capacity as a Board member within the Mike Goldstein Circle of Friends, and he explicitly had warned me earlier during his Board tenure that my employment stood to be terminated because “it just isn’t working out.”  Jerry Miller, the President, also personally protected Margie Josephson.  He was a close personal friend of the Josephson family.

Meanwhile, the pressure continued unabated on the front office staff to access my daily planner. When Paula Kaganowitz stated to me that she again had been getting pressured to get my Planner from my office, she and I, along with Rhonda Tuchman, the new office manager who had succeeded Stephanie Levine, held an office meeting to strategize on how to protect the office staff from further pressures to make my private Planner accessible to Board members.  We agreed on a strategy that we would have a locksmith change the lock and key on my office desk drawer, and I thereafter would keep my personal Planner under that lock and key.  In that way, Rhonda and Paula could tell the likes of Meyer Berlinsky and Dave Bodinsky — each of whom had pressed Paula at one time or another — that the daily calendar was unavailable because the Rabbi had begun securing it under lock and key.

Continued from Part 2             Continued at Part 4


[1] In my first class, when I introduced myself to the students as “the new rabbi at Ohaiv Sholom Congregation,” students asked “Which congregation is that?”  I responded: “It’s the Orthodox one, down at the corner of Farragut and Sherman, right here in Paducah.”  Virtually no one knew of the congregation other than children who had been Bar/Bat Mitzva’d there.  At that point, after one of the curious seniors asked a third time “I just can’t figure out which congregation it is,” another student called out: “That’s the poker hall where we played poker that time that [Belcher] won.”  As I soon learned, OSP had been permitting under-age young teens to play poker at the shul’s regular series of poker games, and that participation, according to the students, had been the only exposure to Orthodox Judaism that most of my class of IMW seniors ever had experienced in their lives.  Later, when I insisted as Rabbi that the Shul stop running poker games and casino nights, I encountered defiant opposition from the Board.

[2] Adding to the arrangement’s profound transparency, I confirmed with Mr. Shapiro that Louis Minsky’s wife, an employee at IMW, would have access to all data pertaining to the arrangement.

[3] Mike Goldstein, Bill Josephson, Julie Levitz, Martin Chait, and Isaac Mendelson.

[4] Executive Committee meetings never were preceded with a formal Agenda so that I could prepare for them.  Rather, they regularly were conducted in an atmosphere of catching me off-guard, ambushing me with hostile questions and criticisms in unexpected areas.

[5] The following year, by then having learned and absorbed the culture of the membership, I insisted on running Purim my way.  At that Purim night in March 2007, there was a top-flight costume contest, well conducted, with excellent prizes.  The same catering company that had been limited the year before to plain spaghetti this time catered a sensational international food festival of delicacies from four countries.  There was a live klezmer band, a disc jockey for teens, a top-flight magician for younger ones, and a “moon bounce” for tykes.  The next day, we catered a festive multi-course meal for 60 participants, accompanied by live entertainment by our cantor and his father singing operatic and traditional Jewish arias.  The Purim night event attracted as many as 300 people, the next-day event was sold out, and people throughout the community expressed the sense that “this was not only the best Purim in OSP history, but it was the single best event ever held in OSP history.”  Through it all, Meyer Berlinsky never said a single word to me in comment on any aspect of Purim 2007.  He and Jerry Miller boycotted the programs except for a brief visit. Two weeks later, he worked to take me down at the AGM of March 18, 2007.

[6] I opted to undergo several medical procedures at that time because my medical costs arising from my February 2006 appendectomy made the timing sensible.  The appendectomy and hospitalization had been billed at more than $25,000.  Under my 80-20 PPO health coverage, I was responsible for 20% of that bill, but not to exceed an annual stop-loss maximum of $3,000. Therefore, having reached my annual maximum stop-loss in February, the year 2006 emerged as a financially sensible year for me to attend to various other outstanding surgeries that had been medically recommended, including the meniscus surgery and the colonoscopy.

[7] In a public congregation-wide Question-and-Answer session with the new Rabbi and Rebbetzin (Rabbi’s wife), when I was at my initial interview try-out weekend, I even had been asked whether I would agree to make phone calls each morning from the synagogue when the quorum was not present.

[8] Daf Yomi is an institution that encourages Jewish men throughout the world to study one folio of Talmud daily.  Those who participate in this international program all are “on the same page” daily through the seven-and-a-half year cycle of study that culminates with world-wide celebrations upon completion.  For me to add this one-hour class, which also requires of me an hour of daily preparation, to the portfolio of classes I was teaching, I had to begin waking up 4:30 a.m. each morning.  I would prepare from 5:00-6:15 a.m., then depart for 6:30 a.m. services. After services, I would teach the class from 7:30-8:20 a.m.  My office work day would begin ten minutes later and continue typically until midnight, often without a break to eat.

[9] The Better Business Bureau describes the meaning behind an “F” rating: “We strongly question the company’s reliability for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints, their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s industry is known for its fraudulent business practices.”

[10] Under Margie Josephson’s direction, Hebrew School attendance had dropped dramatically, a very highly qualified teacher (the school has only three teachers) was lost, and the HebrewSchool was least coveted in the area.  Margie has resisted preparing curricula, sending home report cards, and instituting other basic core improvements to administration and recruiting.