June 29, 2006

HOLY, FAST-TRACK TO HELL, BATMAN (via Marisa):

Rabbi and Former Nun Settle Down in Miami (REBECCA SPENCE, June 30, 2006, The Forward)

To the two protagonists, it is the heartwarming story of how a small-town Conservative rabbi and a flamenco dancer-turned-Russian Orthodox nun fell in love and wound up living together in a condo in Miami. The rabbi's heartbroken wife and his irate former congregants, however, see a sordid tale of betrayal and abandonment.

Whichever description one chooses, the latest twist is the same: Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger, 62, recently resigned his membership in the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly as the organization launched an ethics investigation into his conduct. Rubinger is casting his resignation as an act of defiance and principle, saying that he quit the R.A. rather than submit himself to the judgment of a "kangaroo court."

The resignation could prove to be the final chapter in a scandal that rocked the Jewish community in the sleepy town of Columbia, S.C. — population 116,000 — where Rubinger served as the religious leader of Beth Shalom Synagogue from August 2005 until being forced out three months ago.

Last summer, Rubinger moved to Columbia with his wife, Diana, and his 13-year-old son from a previous marriage. Just an hour's drive to the south lived a nun by the name of Leslie Villaverde who had spent the past six years at the Saints Mary and Martha Orthodox Monastery in Wagner, S.C.

At the time, Villaverde was in the throes of what she now describes as a "crisis of faith," and she had furtively begun to explore Judaism.


Nothing wrong with Jews and Christians getting together, nor even with a nun deciding she wants to get her freak on instead of being a bride of Christ, but breaking up a marriage is evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 29, 2006 1:13 PM
Comments

Hey, as long as we're not promoting men who left their families for their gay lovers, we're ahead of the game.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 29, 2006 1:31 PM

On to #3 for the rabbi.

Posted by: Sandy P at June 29, 2006 2:15 PM

Yes, he had already broken up the marriage that gave him his son, why shouldn't he break up the step-marriage too? He's only re-affirming his faith.

Posted by: pj at June 29, 2006 2:28 PM

Wasn't this the plot for an episode of "Seinfeld" after Jerry's parents moved into that condo in Florida?

Posted by: John at June 29, 2006 4:22 PM

...it is the heartwarming story of how a small-town Conservative rabbi and a flamenco dancer-turned-Russian Orthodox nun fell in love and wound up living together in a condo in Miami.

This story has caused me to reaffirm my vows and resolve never to stray. I mean, on sheer artistic merit alone, how could any other affair be anything but embarassingly commonplace and boring beside this. It's a question of taste and these two have set the bar too high for me to hope to match.

Although, I do remain open to offers of assistance from sultry ladies willing to help me to begin furtively exploring Judaism.

Posted by: Peter B at June 29, 2006 7:23 PM

Flamenco you say? Sounds more like a hora story.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at June 29, 2006 8:46 PM

Both have definitely lied and denounced their professed faiths showing truly what could be surmised just by knowing at least her: confused. Her allegation of being ostracised is false. She was an addition from another monastery to the little one she "fled." The Orthodox community in Columbia embraced her as one of their own with no questions asked. Her final letter to the nuns was that she was "confused." No doubt that a Nun and a Rabbi have both confused each other.

Posted by: John C. in sleepy Columbia at July 2, 2006 3:21 PM

Both have definitely lied and denounced their professed faiths showing truly what could be surmised just by knowing at least her: confused. Her allegation of being ostracised is false. She was an addition from another monastery to the little one she "fled." The Orthodox community in Columbia embraced her as one of their own with no questions asked. Her final letter to the other nuns was that she was "confused." I'll say. You might be able to change the binding and cover on a published book, but you can never truly change the meaning in the pages.

Posted by: John C. in sleepy Columbia at July 2, 2006 3:28 PM

This has to be one of the most vicious websites I have ever come across. It is amazing to me that you people can sit in judgment of me and Ruchama without even knowing us. Of course it is obvious from some of the postings that indeed a few of the writers know us but are too cowardly to even state their names. This is the usual MO of rumor mongers and purveyors of hate. Part of me wants to keep silent and not to lower myself into the stench, the muck and the filth that most of the writers above have sunken to.

However a few corrections are in order.

First I did not "break up the mariage" fom which my son was born. Nathan's mother died from cancer after being married 19 years to me.
Ruchama left the first monastery she had entered beause she found it cult like and suspected that child abuse was going on there.

To say that Ruchama was ostracized by the Orthodox Christian community is a simple statement of fact. When suffering from Optic Neuritis a doctor she had contaced for advice about this ailment refused to even speak to her unless she let herself be persuaded to return to the Christian faith.

Shame on those who claim otherwise. Shame on those whose evil hearts and murmuring tongues lead them to write the cruel and vicious letters that appear above.
In the meantime, I shall also pray for them with the hope that the Holy One excise from their souls the hatred and the malice they harbor.
Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger

Posted by: Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger at July 10, 2006 8:50 PM

That's a non-denial of the story. Which factual assertions do you dispute?

"The rabbi's heartbroken wife and his irate former congregants, however, see a sordid tale of betrayal and abandonment.

Whichever description one chooses, the latest twist is the same: Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger, 62, recently resigned his membership in the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly as the organization launched an ethics investigation into his conduct. Rubinger is casting his resignation as an act of defiance and principle, saying that he quit the R.A. rather than submit himself to the judgment of a "kangaroo court."

The resignation could prove to be the final chapter in a scandal that rocked the Jewish community in the sleepy town of Columbia, S.C. population 116,000 where Rubinger served as the religious leader of Beth Shalom Synagogue from August 2005 until being forced out three months ago.

Last summer, Rubinger moved to Columbia with his wife, Diana, and his 13-year-old son from a previous marriage. Just an hour's drive to the south lived a nun by the name of Leslie Villaverde who had spent the past six years at the Saints Mary and Martha Orthodox Monastery in Wagner, S.C."

Posted by: oj at July 10, 2006 8:58 PM

Forgive me for not being able to figure out how discovering that your husband is having an affair with another woman leads to two protagonists and a heartwarming story.

As a spiritual leader, one must maintain a strong moral compass. Your compass has gone astray Rabbi. Our "evil hearts and murmuring toungues" are at our disapointment for how you have let down our community. We certainly would not feel that way had you been a real man and handled this matter in a morally upstanding fashion.

Further, posting that we are purveyors of hate will do very little to endear us to you and only makes you look too defensive.

Posted by: duram at July 12, 2006 11:02 PM

for the many of your who read this article, thank you for your support. this has been a very painful journey, but it is nice to know that some of us do follow a moral compass.

Posted by: diana rubinger at July 26, 2006 6:51 PM

Personally I wonder why a publication such as The Forward would stoop to airing the personal issues of this couple and the congregation in such an article. Why, really, is this anybody's business? I have known several Christian congregations that have had similar things happen in their ranks in recent years and thank God for those involved (I knew a few of them) that area religious and secular media basically left the things alone because they were, in the end, personal matters. Airing this in such a manner, I think, just adds more hurt to those involved. I pray for all of you.

Posted by: Patricia B. at August 7, 2006 4:33 PM

Personally I wonder why a publication such as The Forward would stoop to airing the personal issues of this couple and the congregation in such an article. Why, really, is this anybody's business? I have known several Christian congregations that have had similar things happen in their ranks in recent years and thank God for those involved (I knew a few of them) that area religious and secular media basically left the things alone because they were, in the end, personal matters. Airing this in such a manner, I think, just adds more hurt to those involved. I pray for all of you.

Posted by: Patricia B. at August 7, 2006 4:33 PM

Personally I wonder why a publication such as The Forward would stoop to airing the personal issues of this couple and the congregation in such an article. Why, really, is this anybody's business? I have known several Christian congregations that have had similar things happen in their ranks in recent years and thank God for those involved (I knew a few of them) that area religious and secular media basically left the things alone because they were, in the end, personal matters. Airing this in such a manner, I think, just adds more hurt to those involved. I pray for all of you.

Posted by: Patricia B. at August 7, 2006 4:34 PM

Destroying families and congregations is never personal.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2006 4:38 PM

This has been a terrible time for all the parties involved and none of us can talk about ourselves being perfect. We all have made mistakes in our lives. It's learning from them and using those mistakes to grow as human beings. Its not about being Jewish or not, Eph's second wife was not raised Jewish, but she was still a wonderful wife and mother. Diana has been a great mother since Alex's passing and has been held in high regards by our family. Eph is not the greatest and perfect man, but he is human, he is an amazing Rabbi, and he will learn and grow until he dies. We have every reason to be angry at him, it's finding the courage to forgive him that's important. Eph, Rusty never stops talking about you, and you know what I mean. And I hear anger and love from Elisheva. Nathan is so confused and angry. Please for the love of G-D, find yourself and make ammends with those who you have angered. I remain neutral towards you as I know in your heart, you will do what is right. Whether we approve or not, you only have to answer to G-D. We all at some point will have to face him, and therefor rather than writing posts of hate and disgust, we should stop worrying about other's lives and be out trying to live the best lives we can. And help the people who need our help.

Posted by: Shawn B at August 27, 2006 6:22 PM

I just read the above comment from Shawn and for the record I would like to clarify a few things. All three of Ephraim's wives were raised Jewish, and held different levels of religious observance. All three wives kept a kosher home and observed Shabbat. To discuss religious observance is a waste of energy as each of us observes according to what is in our hearts. What is important are the vows we take, and the way we treat our families and community. In this regard, it is impossible not to recognize the pain that was caused by the actions of two individuals. During the upcoming holidays remember to treat your loved ones with the love that you desire for yourself and not seek love outside of your marriage. The destruction that the break up of a marriage can cause is simply not worth what one believes to gain.

Posted by: diana rubinger at September 21, 2006 3:16 PM
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