The Rabbinical Council of America issued a strongly worded statement Tuesday rebutting criticism from Rabbi Mordecai Tendler and his supporters over his expulsion last month from the Orthodox rabbis’ group. Rabbi Tendler and his supporters, who include prominent Orthodox rabbis, have made public statements indicating that he tried to provide his side of the story to the RCA in person and they consider the organization’s move to be illegitimate.
Also, a religious court in Israel allegedly complained to the RCA that it should have convened a bet din, or religious tribunal. Sources said supporters of Rabbi Tendler hired a rabbinic lawyer in Israel to initiate the claim.
The RCA statement said the investigation “was not, and never purported to be, in the nature of a bet din proceeding” but rather a peer review.
“We felt that clarification was necessary in light of the efforts by Rabbi Tendler and those who support him to discredit the RCA and the process by which we arrived at our conclusion,” said Rabbi Basil Herring, the organization’s executive vice president.
According to the statement, it was issued “in light of a concerted campaign to mischaracterize, misrepresent and distort both the process and its outcome, as well as to demean the eminent and distinguished rabbis who were part of the process.”
The investigation took a year, the statement said, “because the Vaad Hakavod [ethics committee] made every effort to follow all the relevant halachic, legal as well as moral guidelines and laws both as regards procedure and substance. It said Rabbi Tendler “was given repeated opportunities prior to the issuance of the decision to respond to the charges … as well as to appear in an appropriate hearing and face his accusers. However he … clearly and unambiguously turned down in writing such invitations to appear before the Vaad Hakavod.
“Only after the decision was communicated to him did he offer to appear,” the statement said.
Rabbi Tendler was expelled for refusing to cooperate with an RCA investigation into allegations that he had sexually pursued several women he was counseling and had engaged in affairs with some of them. The RCA also cited “conduct inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi,” but declined to be more specific.