On Friday, July 19, 2019 the President of the Young Israel of Phoenix (YIP), David Zuckerman, wrote to his congregants about Rabbi Ari Mandel: “For reasons he does not wish to disclose publicly, he will no longer serve as the Rabbi of YIP.”
President Zuckerman closed with the usual expressions of gratitude to a rabbi leaving in good standing
President Zuckerman closed by writing, “I want to express gratitude for his service on behalf of myself, the board,and the community. He remains a friend and we hope to him and his family thrive. Thank you Rabbi!”
At the time, I wrote:
If there are problems with Rabbi Ari Mandel’s suitability for the rabbinate which prompted this abrupt resignation, congregants at YIP are entitled to know more. After all, they may need that information in deciding whether to deal with him. If there are no reasons to avoid him, there should be statements about hoping to maintain the connections. But there are no such statements.
Folks may say I am quibbling. But alas one must read between the lines in dealing with organizations not committed to transparency who will not put the facts into the words on the line.
There were indeed problems. I was hoping that my posting would prompt the board to be forthcoming to the congregation. But alas, nothing more was said.
So, for the benefit of the congregants of the YIP, and anyone else considering the services of Ari Mandel, at the end of this post you will find the text of a letter that was sent to the National Council of Young Israel in the first week in July and received by Farley Weiss, President of the NCYI on about a week before Mandel’s resignation was announced.
Farley Weiss also remains a member of the Phoenix congregation and lists it on the NCYI site along with his membership in the Boca Raton YI, where he now lives. The author of the letter shared many of the concerns raised in the letter with local board beforehand and thinks it likely that Weiss already knew about the allegations since Weiss has maintained regular contact with the board over the years.
The letter was sent by certified mail to Weiss and three other officials of the NCYI. The letter alleges that
- Ari Mandel claims smichah (ordination) from the Rabbinical Seminary of America (aka RSA, Chofetz Chaim of Queens) which he does not have
- Conducted conversions with a beit din which included another layman
- Bizarrely had unmarried female conversion candidates shaving each others heads in front of him in his office
- Plagiarized his regular congregational parsha messages word from word from the Aish Hatorah site and had false information on his resume (besides the claimed ordination)
- Was convicted of reckless driving
- Was urged to resign by rabbis of the local vaad who also made that request of the shul board
- Needlessly caused rancor and conflict within the shul
To summarize, the letter made the case that Ari Mandel was not a rabbi, was not honest, was bizarrely cultish, and destructive. All these points had been made in the past to the board. In sending the letter it was hoped that the board would be forced to publicly disclose Mandel’s unfitness so other communities would know to steer clear of him. Instead, the board allowed Mandel to resign without warning the public. Hence the decision to make this letter below public.