It's not nice to break faith...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's not nice to break faith...

Updated 08/24/2008 - 3:38 pm

...with the Hamptons Interfaith Council.

The "re-thinking" of the September 7th invite to Rabbi Marc Schneier by the Vestry and Wardens of Saint Mark's Church should come as scant surprise to anyone familiar with the 14-year history of the Rabbi and the Hamptons Interfaith Council (nèe Hamptons Council of Churches).

It is one marked throughout by disdain and overt rudeness on the part of the Rabbi, and it has now returned to bite him on the tuccus.

Following August 13th's WEEEF, Rabbi Marc Schneier approached me at the kiddush table and for about 20 minutes, in the words of mu­tu­al friend Glenn Dorskind, we "went at it."

We covered a large amount of territory in that time, and when we got to the issue of the tim­ing of that evening's public meeting, he re­quested, and I agreed¹, to "go off the record."

And to make sure that it stayed that way, he went so far as to, with a flap of his hand, shoo Long Island Jewish Press reporter David Gertler away and out of earshot.

The Rabbi then related the heretofore undis­closed reason why, after announcing to the world in his May 23rd letter his intention to:

"...suspend the application for the eruv (and) use this Summer to extend the hands of friendship across the faiths and educate all segments of the Westhampton Beach community (about the eruv)..." took him so long to get to it.

Following his explanation, he twice stated that I would be able to confirm his version of the events with Clint Greenbaum, a member of the Synagogue's Eruv Committee as well as its Hamptons Interfaith Council representative².

When I suggested that I could always confirm directly with Council President Ridge Barnett, the Rabbi was adamant that I not do so, in the interests of not "upsetting her."

I decided to "let it go" and to keep everything private. The just concluded meeting had been a public relations disaster³ for the Rabbi, the Synagogue and any eruvian enlightenment, so there didn't seem to be much benefit in finger-pointing and Monday morning quarterbacking.

Two days later saw the start of correspondence and colloquy with various current and former members of the Interfaith Council, most of whom were dismayed by the events of the WEEEF, and in particular the Rabbi's hanging his reversal on the "pyrrhic victory" issue on the Interfaith Council's support for the eruv.

(Reporter Gertler has noted that Rabbi Schneier's letter of May 23rd, the one which stated "The Hampton Synagogue does not wish to win a pyrrhic victory," also claims "the unnanimous backing of The Hampton Interfaith Council." The Rabbi's disingenuity is staggering!)

Over the next eight days what emerged was wide-spread and deep-seated resentment toward the Rabbi for his attempt to co-opt the Interfaith Council in his quest for an eruv after more than a decade of giving that body... a body which has always extended their own hand of friendship to him… short shrift.

Item related by an incensed correspondent:

"When the Synagogue first became part of the community, the local organization that oversaw houses of worship was named 'The Hampton Council of Churches.' The Rabbi and his congregation were invited to be­come a part of this organization. (I know, because I was involved at that time.) The Rabbi informed the HCC that he could not be a part of an organization of 'churches,' so the HCC took the necessary steps to re-incorporate as 'The Hamptons Interfaith Council.'

The invitation to join was again extended."

So what actually resulted from this significant gesture of bon homme and fellowship?

Nothing overtly positive... for reasons best known to himself, Rabbi Schneier never at­tended an Interfaith Council function.

Item the second:

"An invitation to participate in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial service was also extended to the Rabbi. He in­formed the newly-minted Interfaith Council that because the service was to be held in the AME Zion Church in Quogue, as an Orthodox Rabbi he was prohibited from en­tering the sanctuary of a church and would not be able to participate.

The Council obtained the needed approvals for a change of venue to hold the service on the totally non-sectarian Village Green.

The Rabbi said that this would be much better for him and that he would attend and participate.

The day of the service, the Rabbi was not in attendance, nor had he let anyone know that he would not be there.

It was later learned that the Rabbi had not attended the service that had been specifi­cally changed for his benefit because he was in the city attending a dinner where he was being given a humanitarian award.

Congratulations to him, but he could have at least called.

For as long as I was involved with the Council, I cannot remember the Rabbi at­tending one meeting.

It annoys me no end that the Rabbi is using the Interfaith Council now, as it serves him, when he has all but ignored it for the last 16 or so years."

Item the third, from long-time officer of the Hamptons Interfaith Council, Gale Spaulding:

"I don't recall a meeting he's ever attended.

Also, we've repeatedly asked him to host our annual Thanks­giving services, but he's always begged off because he's 'not out here that time of year.'"

And from the President of Hamptons Interfaith Council, Ridgie Barnett:

"It seems to be a one-way street with Rab­bi Schneier, and I'm not sure the Council wants to be used in this manner."

Last week Clint Greenbaum circulated an E-mail among his "fellow members of the Hamp­ton Interfaith Council," asking for comment on the final paragraph of The Vestry Has Spoken.

Whether any will respond to him as they have spoken to OtBB is unknown.

Leo Rosten's timeless example of chutzpah is "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his parents, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan."

In regards that quality, it seems that Rabbi Scheiner has it in abundance. He has some major fences to mend before he tries to involve the Hamptons Interfaith Council in the eruv project again.


¹.- As a journalist... yeah, bloggers can qualify... I will respect the Rabbi's request and not cite verbatim although I don't feel any such obli­gation since he attempted to mislead me,.

².- It is instructive to note that Mr. Greenbaum is the sole respresenative of the Synagogue, the only member of the Council without a cleric "on board." Rabbi Schneier has never attended a meeting of the group.

³.- Yes!, there had been a decided "lack of civil­ity" by some, but balanced by the arrogance and condescension at the front of the room. Neither side may claim a moral high ground!


1. Matalynn Carville said...

I therefore surmise the "education" of the truly "good" people of the greater Westhampton community began long before the Rabbi intended, didn't it?

Maybe it's the sea air, but this Village has previously been home to self-promoting, bloviating clerics. The latest one, Rabbi Schneier, has broken faith -- badly. This blog entry is the strongest data to date about why things are proceeding so awkwardly for the eruv. Why accommodate a request for a rabbi who couldn't find the time for the good-willed and clearly ecumenical locals? He was too busy collecting humanity awards? In their shoes I'd feel the same way. You can't walk over a bridge that you never built. Thanks for the solid investigatory journalism, Dean.

I am disappointed with the news, but better understand the reasons why this issue has become a flash point.

May I suggest the Rabbi give an immediate dispensation to good Mr. Tuchman's Dad and daughter, as well as other disabled religious observants, to get to the Synagogue by any means available, and that he stop torturing his own faithful for lack of something stapled to telephone polls and his selfish, unseemly ambitions?

That's just wrong.

As l'expression du jour goes, it is what it is.

But I don't know of any person of the cloth... at least in my seven decades here... "bloviating" or otherwise, who has been at the center of such deviseness and wide-spread ill-will. It's awful.

As Glenn Dorskind pleaded in his opening statement at WEEEF, we need to come together, and tragically we have grown further apart.

I have two other related works-in-progress: the reality of the Rabbi's "fable" about the origins of Hampton Synagogue, and a look at anti-Semitism in Westhampton Beach from decades past, and then I'd like see us get past all this so I can go back to writing about Toni-Jo Birk's coiffure and the deconstruction of the Police Department's command structure.

2. Hunt Marckwald said...

Dear Dean - Greetings from Costa Rica.

I have been reading your blog concerning the ervu and I would like to add my view from afar. Westhampton Beach is a community, plain and simple. It is not a Jewish community nor is it a Catholic community. This ervu request is, without a doubt, the most divisive thing that I have ever witnessed. The Catholic Church, for example, has strict rules concerning many issues, such as marriage yet they have "Special Dispensations" and rules to break the rules (i.e., Annulment), and so should those of the Jewish faith.

If the Rabbi is so powerful, let him grant the members of the Jewish faith the right to walk, run or do whatever they wish within the Village and put an immediate stop to the bullying and hurtful dialogues that are going on. Just one man's opinion.

Hello, Hunt... it's been awhile.
  1. The terrible thing is that it didn't have to be so divisive. It has been badly mis-handled by all sides: the Village, the Synagogue and the Alliance (1.0).
  2. Point taken... annulment is one of the great Catholic hypocrisies!
  3. I trust that you are being sloppy when you wrote "walk, run or do whatever" rather than dismissive.
– Dean

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