Thursday, September 4, 2014

Controversial Rabbi Brant Rosen resigns from Synagogue post

Brant Rosen,  the rabbi of the 500  family Jewish Reconstruction Synagogue in Evanston Illinois is resigning.  Rosen is closely associated with  the extremist group, Jewish Voice for Peace, and is co-chair of the JVP Rabbinical Council.

Congregation member Lisa Pildes said Rosen's very public stances gave the false impression that everyone at the synagogue agreed with him and crimped what should have been a more vigorous conversation.

"Rabbi Rosen's public and extreme political views divided the congregation when he should have brought the congregation together for respectful discussion," Pildes wrote in an email. "His actions created distrust among certain members that he was interested in or capable of leading such a dialogue."

 Rabbi Rosen’s letter to the congregation:

 It is with sadness that I write to let you know that I am resigning as rabbi of JRC. I have informed the Board of my decision, which will be made effective at a mutually determined date in the upcoming months.

As many of you know, I have long considered social justice activism – particularly regarding the issue of Israel/Palestine – to be a central aspect of my rabbinate. Recently, however, it has become clear that my activism has become a lightning rod for division at JRC. This crisis has taken an increasingly emotional toll on our community – and it has taken a considerable toll on my own well being as well. Given the current environment in our congregation, I believe my decision to resign is the healthiest one for all concerned.

I want to make it clear that this decision is mine alone. The Board has not asked me for my resignation, nor have I experienced any pressure from our congregational leadership to curtail my activism as a result of this controversy. On the contrary, I have been deeply inspired by the efforts of our leaders in responding to this crisis. Our Board has consistently responded with immense thoughtfulness and care for all concerned. For this I will be forever grateful.

My decision to leave JRC is a difficult and painful one. For the past seventeen years, JRC has been a profoundly important spiritual community for my family. Hallie and I have raised our children here, we have created deep and lasting friendships, and we have keenly experienced celebrations, joys and sorrows together with so many of you. JRC will always occupy a cherished place in our hearts.

I know I will have the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to our members during the months ahead. In the meantime, I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to the JRC staff and leadership – particularly President David Tabak – for their support, their guidance and their faith in me. I pledge to do my utmost to work with them to ensure that the upcoming rabbinic transition goes as smoothly as possible.

However painful this decision, I am looking forward to the future with optimism and hope. While I do not yet know what my professional future will be, I know all too well that our losses invariably lead to new possibilities and opportunities that we might never have dared to imagine. I have no doubt that the same will be true of JRC’s future as well.

In this season of renewal and new beginnings, I know in my heart we will find our way to a future of healing and hope.

 In response, the President of the congregation wrote:

These have been challenging years for JRC since Rabbi Rosen began his personal yet public exploration of his relationship to Israel. His activism has deeply hurt some JRC members and greatly inspired others. Rabbi Rosen’s decision to step down as JRC’s rabbi is courageous, admirable and reflects his genuine love of our community. I wish him nothing but success and peace on the next leg of his journey.

There will be a myriad of emotions as a result of Rabbi Rosen’s resignation. It would be unfair of me to ask people to put aside their feelings. That being said, I hope we can all acknowledge that no one has a monopoly on hurt or love for JRC and our mutual goal is a place of healing and community. The work of the recently formed Israel Programming Committee will be integral to that process. We are all the authors of JRC’s future and we have much work to do together.

So what comes next? First and foremost, the functions of JRC will continue. Rabbi Rosen and Cantor Friedland will officiate our High Holiday services. Religious school will be held. B’nei Mitzvah will be celebrated. According to Rabbi Rosen’s contract, he must provide us with six months’ notice and I am grateful for his assistance in ensuring a smooth transition. There will be opportunities, both public and private for proper goodbyes. I will soon convene a search committee. I am sure they will seek input into the qualities our next spiritual leader should possess. I ask for patience and understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters. Please know we are trying our best and only have the good of the community in mind.

JRC is fortunate to have a committed Board, talented staff and dedicated members and I look forward to working together to write the next chapter in JRC’s history.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or suggestions.


Anonymous said...

OT: has an article on Joan Rivers that recaps her life, without mentioning the word "Jewish" once. They refer to her Russian parents and her German born husband. Apparently, the new editorial policy is to write an obit on a famous Jewish Zionist, without mentioning that she was Jewish. A new low for them. I left a comment. I didn't read enough comments to see if anyone else picked up on this, but I think this is a pretty big deal. I read the article several times, to make sure, so if you see any mention there of her being Jewish, they fixed it after I called them out. I doubt that they'll bother, though...

Anonymous said...

The anti-Semitic Pseudo-Rabbi Brant Rosen forced to resign from his "synagogue" In Evanston. He makes Mikey Lerner from Tikkun look like a real rabbi and a Jewish scholar.