September 26, 2018

‘Sauna rabbi’ providing counseling at NY health center

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, the New York spiritual leader who resigned from his pulpit after coming under fire for having naked sauna chats with boys in his congregation, is working as a counselor at a suburban New York health center.

Rosenblatt is providing spiritual and psychological counseling at Scarsdale Integrative Medicine in Westchester County, according to his page on the health center’s website. The Forward reported Monday on Rosenblatt’s new position.

“Recently retired from more than three decades in the community rabbinate,” Rosenblatt “combines the ancient wisdom of the Jewish tradition with the sophistication of a broad Western liberal arts and social science education,” according to the medical center’s website, which does not mention why he left the rabbinate.

Rosenblatt playing racquetball and visiting the showers and sauna with boys and young men from the Riverdale Jewish Center garnered headlines after an expose in The New York Times in May 2015. The article reported that some congregants and former congregants of the modern Orthodox synagogue discussed the trips to the sauna, during which the rabbi “engaged the boys in searching conversations about their lives, problems and faith.”

No one cited in the story accused Rosenblatt of sexual touching, but several expressed their discomfort with the practice and described the behavior as deeply inappropriate for a rabbi and mentor. At various times, Rosenblatt was told by rabbinic bodies or his congregation’s board to limit such activity.

After vowing to remain in his position in the wake of fallout from the article, Rosenblatt announced his resignation as the congregation’s senior rabbi in February.

“Rabbi Rosenblatt has deep experience across a broad spectrum of challenges: coping with serious illness and bereavement, stressful family relationships, parenting challenges, life transitions, loss of a sense of meaning and direction, workplace conflicts,” according to the health center’s biography.

The bio added: “Many rabbis from around the world call him to consult on their thorniest counseling situations.”

Rosenblatt, a Baltimore native, studied in Israel at Yeshivat Har Etzion and was ordained by Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school in 1982.