Staff and wire report
Congregation Shearith Israel quickly responded Thursday, April 21, a day after Senior Rabbi William Gershon abruptly announced his resignation effective April 30.
“I want to assure you that Rabbi (Adam) Roffman, Rabbi (Shira) Wallach, Cantor (Itzhak) Zhrebker, and Avi Mitzner are ready and able to meet your individual and family needs.
“Each is an extraordinary individual who has the best interest of our shul at heart,” wrote Shearith President Gail Mizrahi in a letter that was emailed to the congregation.
The night before, Rabbi Gershon stunned congregants with his resignation, emailed to the synagogue membership in the early evening. In it, he cited the most personal of reasons for his resignation.
Rabbi Gershon wrote, “I am very saddened to admit to you and to myself that even as I strove to be present in the lives of so many people, I could not be truly present with myself. I have wrestled for many years with questions of my sexual identity, but was unable to understand, accept and integrate this most personal and intimate aspect of myself. I regret that this struggle led me to take inappropriate actions outside my marriage that caused great pain to my family.” Gershon is married and the father of three grown children.
Rabbi Gershon asked that people respect his privacy as he begins the healing process.
When contacted by the TJP, Rabbi Gershon declined to elaborate on his resignation.
“What I wrote in my letter was sincere and heartfelt and there’s nothing I can add to it,” he wrote in a text message.
Mizrahi explained in her April 21 letter that the congregation would contact the Rabbinical Assembly to let them know of shul’s need for interim experienced rabbinic leadership. The synagogue will be forming a search committee to begin the process of looking for a new senior rabbi and spiritual leader for the congregation.
“Shearith Israel is a 132-year-old congregation with a wealth of history, integrity and character. While every senior rabbi brings something special and unique to the pulpit, our synagogue has never been defined by one man. Rather, we are defined by the members of our congregation as a community who celebrate, mourn, study, and worship together,” Mizrahi told the TJP on Tuesday.
Rabbi Gershon, known to have touched countless lives during his 18-year tenure at Shearith Israel, had taken a national stage in recent years. He had just one month left on his term as president of the Rabbinical Assembly — the international association of Conservative rabbis — when he made his announcement Wednesday. According to wire reports and the RA website, Rabbi Gershon is currently “on leave.”
In her April 21 letter, Mizrahi concluded, “As we approach Pesach, we invoke the spirit of Elijah the Prophet who comforts us in difficult times, and who gives us hope for the bright future that awaits our congregation and the Jewish People.”
She added Tuesday, “I am honored to work with a dedicated, intelligent and judicious team of officers to help lead our congregation and I truly appreciate the trust of our community. May we go l’chayil u’mchayil, from strength to strength.