Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Rabbi's ex-wife tells all in exposé of abusive clergy


"Sunday, the Rabbi Assaulted His Wife," is the grimly ironic first-chapter title of Charlotte Schwab's book "Sex, Lies and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust." The wife in question is the author herself.

Schwab's analysis is borne out by her personal and professional experience, and by cases that have gained notoriety. When Robert Kirschner, senior rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, was accused in 1991 of harassing, exploiting and abusing female congregants, students and an employee, the board of directors voted to keep the matter secret for the sake of everyone involved, especially Kirschner's wife and children.

That is a disastrous mistake, says Schwab -- silence is what destroys the rabbi's family. She interviewed Michele Samit, author of the 1993 book "No Sanctuary: The True Story of a Rabbi's Deadly Affair," about the murder of her friend Anita Green by a hit man on Oct. 20, 1990, after she'd spent the night with Rabbi Steven Jacobs. Green's abusive husband, Melvin, was convicted of the crime.

Jacobs' congregants in the San Fernando Valley concealed his affair with Green while it was going on, and kept silent even after her murder. "This is the same silence," writes Schwab, "that I and other women found/find when we reported/report our experiences to rabbinic authorities." It was silence, Samit believed, that killed Green and Carol Neulander.