Board Chair Liss who Protected Sauna-Bonding Rabbi Rosenblatt Is Accused of Inappropriate Conduct with Child

Dr. Donald Liss Board Chair, Riverdale Jewish Center

Dr. Donald Liss
Board Chair, Riverdale Jewish Center

Andrew (Andy) Blumenthal was a child in Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt’s Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC). According to Andy’s posting, during that time, Andy, from a less well-off family, was befriended and groomed by RJC member, Dr. Donald Liss, with home invitations, babysitting jobs, vacation invitations and a paid job in Liss’ hospital.

Dr.Liss repeatedly touched him, fawned over his developing muscles, orchestrated situations to be naked with him in a gym, and got naked before Andy while also in the presence of Mrs. Liss. Even as Andy got uncomfortable and tried to distance himself, Liss persistently tried to deepen and further the connection. Andy finally acted on his growing discomfort and terminated the connection. Yet Liss continued to pursue him for years. Whether or not this went still further, this is classic pedophile grooming and illegal as misdemeanor child endangerment, at a minimum.

Dr. Liss is now the Board Chair of the Riverdale Jewish Center. Together with President Samson Fine, he overrode the will of the majority of the board which voted 34-8 to buy out Rabbi Rosenblatt’s contract.  The majority sought the buyout to rid their synagogue of the scandal of Rosenblatt’s outrageous and persistent exploitation of his relationship to manipulate boys and young men to spend time with him while naked, all under the guise of bonding through sports.

According to the New York Times

The about-face was forced on the board by the president and chairman…… At a board meeting last Wednesday… the chairman and president presented the decision to keep the rabbi as a done deal and would not allow a vote. The board member said he resigned after the meeting…… Another member, who also did not want her name published, said she did the same. Both board members said that at least three others had resigned. The president, Samson Fine, and the chairman, Donald Liss, did not return voice mail messages on Tuesday.

Jonathan Rosenblatt

Jonathan Rosenblatt

Dr Liss, the Board Chairman, may have very guilty reasons for his decision. This seems like a story of much more than a rabbi, but perhaps a culture of mutual protection.

I can see some Rosenblatt defenders complaining that there is no proof of penetration, sodomy, or direct sexual contact, I caution readers to ask themselves how these descriptions of sexual innuendos and grooming can possibly be compatible with either professionalism, mature mentoring, or Jewish sexual morals. A provable criminal act within the statute of limitations is not the litmus test for suitability as a rabbi. That may be enough to keep these people out of jail, but surely a sacred community can expect more, especially of its leaders. Heck, the Boy Scouts and public schools expect much more.

What Happens Next

statue discusRosenblatt’s problems may not be over. Many of his victims were hoping to see him dismissed. But now that he escaped that consequence I expect more of them to go public. This time it will be with detailed, lurid accounts. These will shake his congregants who till now only heard from one named source who was dismissed as politically motivated. I personally heard two such accounts. I expect there are many others out there and I am guessing some more will step forward just as Mr. Blumenthal did.

A Note About Hellenism

A number of descriptions of the Rosenblatt and Liss shenanigans feature endless fawning over the muscles of young men, bonding through athletics, and nude displays. I cannot help but visulize the art of the Greco-Roman gymnasium replete with nude young men and their defined, supple muscles. I picture Rabbi Rosenblatt delivering his annual Chanukah diatribe about the triumph of Torah values over the morally debauched culture of the Hellenists. I wonder whether his mind wanders to his true preferences.

#JonathanRosenblatt #RiverdaleJewishCenter

Hat Tip to Chashdan

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13 thoughts on “Board Chair Liss who Protected Sauna-Bonding Rabbi Rosenblatt Is Accused of Inappropriate Conduct with Child

  1. Does Rabbi Rosenblatt give an annual drasha/diatribe about however are better than debauched Hellenists? (I’ve never davened there.)

  2. Has anyone noticed that the leaders who kept rabbi Rosenblatt are both physicians. Physicians may consider examining the unclothed body so normal, they do not understand that it is only normal when part of a medical exam.
    They also are hurting from obamacare and feel bad for the rabbi who cannot stay abreast of tge new rules.
    Is it surprising that a state department employee would launch a personal attack in which he emphasizes his government position.
    Will the hospital now investigate dr. Liss

    • Andy Blumenthal did not mention his State Department position in his posting about Dr.Liss. It is just part of the standard footer on his blog as a sort of profile. I removed it from my posting because it did not seem relevant and its inclusion might be misunderstood as invoking some official backing. That also turned out to be his preference.

      I have no guess about how the hospital will respond.

      One does not expect Doctors to be shocked by naked bodies. But everything depends on context and demeanor. Doctors do not drop their pants in front of patients. Every last one of them knows that will get him in deep trouble. Doctors are also notorious for their neutral demeanor while while examining unclothed patients to preclude any sense that s/he is sexualizing the situation. So i don’t buy the idea that a Dr. should be less attuned to the ways in which Rosenblatt was sexualizing the interactions.

      • Yes, YL, in total agreement.. My experience has been for many years that the MD examining me, has a nurse or some other staff member present in the room during the exam. “pen yachshevu or yit’be’u”
        This is true for a variety of medical specialties.
        I cannot attest that the same scrupulousness is applied for both sexes.

      • Anonymous,
        would you care to explicate this response of yours,
        who is “neither??
        who, pray tell, are those who never work in medical fields that deal with “unclothed people”.
        please be more specific re those to whom you are referring particularly if their names have somehow popped up on this blog.
        please, re what specialties are you referring where naked bodies never exist,
        where any of named people of interest, would never be involved at all, per their specialties, only, if not at all?

  3. Regarding Mr Blumenthal’s article about Dr Liss and to Mr Lopin:
    Several points within your articles are blatantly distorted:
    1. Mr Blumenthal paints Dr Liss as taking advantage of him by giving him a summer job. Am I missing something? People generally view being provided with work as a good thing, and the way society works is that you can only get a job for things that you’re actually qualified to do. Hence, high school and college graduates typically are happy to accept entry level positions. Does Mr Blumenthal not understand this obvious reality? What was he expecting, for society to bow down before him and provide him with work he was completely unqualified to do? Clearly he has an agenda.
    2. Mr Lopin uses the language that Dr Liss repeatedly touched Mr Blumenthal. The language “repeatedly touched” sounds like molestation, but that’s not the actual claim that Mr Blumenrhal himself is making in the article. This strongly suggests that Mr Blumenthal has a blind agenda, and that he is willing to commit slander in its most egregious form, towards that end.
    3. Mr Blumenthal states at the end of his article that everything in his post is true. When’s the last time you saw the New York Times write towards the end of a piece: “everything in this article is true”. Is there some reason why we should assume that Mr Blumenthal is not telling the truth (or just simply has a warped interpretation of reality)? A likely explanation is that he himself realizes that his blog is far from the golden standard of truth & justice that he claims to be attempting to achieve, and that he had to distort his own mind to reassure himself that it is true. It’s quite ironic that the Chief Information Officer in the U.S. could be so blatantly irresponsible with such loaded supposed information

    • Dan Needle,

      You are reaching in your criticisms.

      1. Of course a job with no attached sex innuendos is a favor. But it is clearly the assertion of Mr. Blumenthal that there were attached strings, ones with a more powerful tug for a kid from a less well-off family.
      2. My language is descriptive and based on Andy Blumenthal’s report. If it sounds like molestation there is a reason. Even if it did not cross over into direct genital contact, it was classic grooming behavior. Had young Andy not warded off more, it might have ended up in molesting.

      3. When you have watched numerous testimonies against a creepy Rabbi Rosenblatt dismissed as wild imaginings of sexual overtures, you get concerned about being believed. The fear of not being believed is what inhibits many abuse victims who are debating whether or not to report their violations. It makes perfect sense for Andy to slip into asserting “it’s true.” He correctly anticipated denial and criticism of the type you show.

      Andy made one mistake here. He failed to anticipate that saying he was telling the truth would also be held against him. Go figure! It turns out his candor is no match for your nitpicking, when you are the arbiter. But most others see it the way he calls it.

  4. Reblogged this on LOSTMESSIAH and commented:

    There is no better way to describe this post, which we are reblogging and for which offer thanks to the author, than the comment “by perhaps a culture of mutual protection.” Sexual abuse amongst Rabbis and their students or congregants is, we believe an epidemic. The subject deserves far more attention than it gets and we thank anyone who blogs about it. – LostMessiah, March 1, 2016

    • You are welcome to use my stuff within fair use limits (Max 150 words or less than 2/3 of article, whichever is less) explicit credit of me as the source and a link to my posting, not just my top level URL. Under those conditions I am flattered and glad to have it used and spread.

      PS- Stay tuned for more on Rosenblatt in coming days.

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