Freed from a lawsuit that sought to undermine their authority, trustees of The Jewish Center of the Hamptons have voted to fire their rabbi against the wishes of a large segment of the congregation. But supporters of Rabbi David Gelfand, whose contract expires in June, say they will keep up the fight.
"We are in the process of preparing our papers to pursue our appeal, and also considering other options," said David Samuels, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who sought to replace the anti-rabbi board members. "That includes going to the attorney general on grounds that they are ignoring the wishes of the membership and causing financial difficulty on the synagogue as a result of their conduct."
State Supreme Court judge Ralph Costello on Jan. 31 threw out the lawsuit challenging the authority of the trustees. The suit claimed the trustees were not heeding the will of a majority of congregants at the 600-member Reform congregation who want to renew the rabbi’s three-year contract, worth more than $1 million. The trustees have disputed the validity of a proxy vote that was counted in the rabbi’s favor.
Opponents of the rabbi have kept their argument private, but published reports have cited alleged financial improprieties and disputes between the rabbi and other employees. Supporters of the rabbi have started a petition to amend the synagogue constitution to require a full membership vote before firing a rabbi.
A synagogue trustee, Barnett Lieberman, said the board was focusing on finding an interim rabbi and healing the congregation.
"This is no longer about the rabbi, it’s about going forward," Lieberman said. "The decision has been made. This will remain a community independent of whoever the rabbinical leader is."