Rabbi Studly: Shrimp is treiff, but hot congregants aren’t.


A story of love and shrimp, a nun and a rabbi, a jilted wife and, well, fodder for gossips.

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.” Many people in a similar situation would probably benefit from the advice of a chicago divorce lawyer.

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.

and later:

Rubinger contends that before he met Villaverde, he and his wife were experiencing marital problems because of their differing levels of religious observance. According to the rabbi, who maintains the laws of kashrut, his wife sometimes ate lobster and shrimp. Diana Rubinger, a 58-year-old middle school science teacher, didn’t deny the claim.

“Occasionally, when I would get very upset with the rules, I would sneak out to a place where nobody would find me and, yes, pop a piece of shrimp in my mouth,” she said. But she added, “You don’t divorce your wife because she had a piece of shrimp.”

At this point, I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. I did realise, however, that ck has brainwashed me with his stupid shrimp-encrusted-fish-stick story and that I’ll never be able to read a rabbi-leaves-wife-for-ex-nun-but-blames-the-shrimp-and-not-the-sexual-attraction story ever again without thinking of our denominational debates on Jewlicious. Thanks, ck.

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  • For the record, I added that pic of Rubinger, not TM. This story has less to do with shrimp than it does with the perceived relationship between Rubinger and Villaverde. So far there is nothing to indicate that, prior to accusations against them being made public, anything illicit was going on between the two. It’s entirely possible that a prominent member of the Columbia SC Jewish community was driven out of town and had his marriage and carreer destroyed because of unsubstantiated gossip. I feel sorry for everyone whose lives have been subsequently detrimentally affected.

    And a Rabbi’s wife eating shrimp is ALWAYS wrong.

  • Actually, part of being a Jew is that we can’t do “whatever we want”.

    Speaking of the religious aspect mind you, not the ethnic/racial aspects.

  • CK- I can believe that they didn’t have a physical relationship until after the Rebbetzin threw the rabbi out of the house . . . but according to the article, Rubinger admits that he and the former nun were “developing very strong feelings for one another” even before she converted.

    So, we have a Rabbi who fell in love with a congregant and — no matter what was going on before– is NOW having an adulterous affair, and we have a Rebbetzin who eats shrimp when she’s feeling passive-aggressive.

    Sounds like a match made in Heaven.

    I feel so bad for the Rabbi’s 13-year-old son. His dad is on to his third woman, and all these sordid details are being made public. Nice.

  • 1) You see TM – it’s not just Orthodox Rabbis!

    2) CK: try the Japanese “fake shrimp” made out of fish. I believe there’s a kosher brand of this. The taste is actually very close to what I remember shrimp tasting like.

  • The most common kosher “shrimp” is made by Surimi Seafood Produced for Dyna-Sea Group, and it’s made out of pollock, IIRC.

  • A Jew eating shrimp is not always wrong. Maybe an Orthodox Jew eating shrimp is always wrong.

  • For some of us, whether or not it’s wrong does depend on the circumstances, after all. I love the fried shrimp out at the Crab Shack, for example, but the house is strictly kosher.

    btw, TM, I was initially prepared to submit a spelling correction, thinking the Rabbi was moving to the Upper West Side. I know it’s the object of much derision, but I didn’t think it had yet been designated a politically autonomous municipality.

  • ck, of course this story has little to do with shrimp and more with the accusation of a relationship. In fact, if the article and Rubinger’s claims are correct, he did nothing wrong and has suffered a grave injustice because of previous conflicts with his wife.

    Sarah, people are people and developing feelings for another person is one thing and it’s a very different thing than acting on those feelings. People go to work with others, develop crushes, and usually don’t do anything about it. Rabbis are exposed to hundreds of congregants, are given positions of authority and I’m sure it’s not unusual to develop feelings for congregants at times. The question is whether you’ve acted on your feelings – it appears that Rubinger didn’t. If he’s doing it now while technically married, you have to admit that he was pushed away by his wife and congregation.

    Ben David, who ever said it was just Orthodox rabbis? Of course, it’s worse when they do things because of their self-righteous, self-serving claim that…oh no, I’m not going there this time. Nya nya nya nya.

    david, are you referring to a section quoted from the article?

    I dunno, while I may quibble about cheeseburgers, shrimp is like pork in that it’s biblically unkosher. It’s interesting that the rabbi’s wife mentions that she would go to have shrimp (and come on, it had to have been more than one) “when she would get very upset with the rules.” It can’t be easy to be a rabbi’s wife, especially if your faith is not as deep. This is really a tragedy for all involved and especially the poor child.

  • I’m sure they’re delicious Harry. Never mind that they look and feel like roaches – they make for great bait when deep sea fishing for red snapper and yellow tail – but I’d never eat the filthy beasts.

    Why? Not so much because they’re filthy beasts. But because I have a Jewish identity today in part due to the fact that for many, many generations, my forefathers clung to their Jewish identity by NOT eating shrimp. But you do what you like dude, who am I to judge?

  • That’s one doozy of a mid-life crisis. The guy should have recognized that as a Rav he should have acted in a such a way that no suspicion would rest on him. He didn’t. But it also seems like he is also the victim of some serious lashon hara. Bad all the way around, and I think some people have a lot of work to do this Yom Kippur. And, miracle of miracles, I agree with Middle. Poor kid. A shande for everyone involved.

    The one thing I really miss is shrimp. I grew up eating all sorts of trayf, and I’m here to tell you that if I could make just one type of trayf kosher, it would be shrimp. Delicious little buggers. How I miss them. Sob!.

    The kosher shrimp made out of pollock don’t taste anything at all like the real thing. Not even close.

  • Yes it seems the Loshon Hora was working overtime.
    Back to shrimp, and this is a very interesting issue, Secular Guy seems to think it is OK for some and not others. Can you expand?

  • Rabbi Yo:

    It’s pretty simple, I think. I once asked a Reform rabbi who was visitng Japan, where I lived at the time, why he was scarfing down the prawns at a buffet and he said “It’s OK. I’m Reform”. It was also why he could take a taxi to go shopping after Shabbat services while smoking a cigar.

  • My father-in-law, who is Jewish, eats shrimp all the time, even in front of me, who keeps kosher. There is nothing more insulting that a Jew intentionally eating something we are not religiously permitted to eat. I believe my father-in-law has been faithful to his wife, however.

  • Right; far, FAR more insulting than, say, a Jew who leverages his spiritual authority to commit acts of sexual predation against children, or a Jew that trades on his reputation for piety in order to get rich starving helpless nursing home patients, or a Jew that builds a business empire by extorting food and rent money from his own employees, all of them rapaciously exploiting those upon whom Jews are religiously prohibited from feeding like blood-sucking vampires. Yes, I can hear another angel cry every time a Jew takes a bite of a shrimp puff.

  • No, this is not a satire or a joke. It’s real people with real lives involved in an extraordinary story that is both amusing and banal while entirely destructive to their lives and more than sad to read.

    Just in case you think it’s the shrimp, Tom, I don’t think that’s what is going on here. That part of it sounds more like the type of thing he threw at his wife when they had arguments about real things. One can assume that these “real things” include the pressures that exist for a pulpit rabbi’s wife, particularly a wife who may not be devout. I also think that since he was speaking to a reporter, this was a way for him to undermine his wife and her supporters, and perhaps the legitimacy of their claims by indicating to people who care about such things that she wasn’t a devout or “good” Jew. It’s a dig – instead of being referred to as a person, she’s referred to as this person who ate lobster and shrimp within a culture where those are almost as taboo as pork.

  • Didn’t mean to belittle the human tragedy here, Middle. The part about the ex-nun’s a hoot (if true– I’m still not convinced).

    The jilted ex seems quite capable of defending herself, looks like.

    Interesting from a Catholic perspective how faiths which permit their clerics to marry, deal with domestic matters like this. The rabbi seems to be playing to an unarticulated expectation of Caesar’s wife-style purity. This is familiar from US Protestant settings. Plenty of ambitious Protestant ministers and bishops have had to offload responsibility for marital breakdown onto their spouses– the better to safeguard their careers. It’s really quite ugly.

  • I have to say that I know of no fewer than 4 cases, just in my present town over the past 10-12 years, of rabbis (non-Orthodox) leaving spouses for congregants. It’s a position of authority combined with spirituality and I guess that seems attractive to some.

    But yeah, the ex-nun part is funny enough for a Mordechai Richler novel.

    That’s your cue, by the way, to pick up one and read one if you haven’t yet – it’s better reading than Jewlicious. I’m happy to recommend some…

  • Better reading then Jewlicious… *Gasp!*

    I once asked a Reform rabbi who was visiting Japan, where I lived at the time, why he was scarfing down the prawns at a buffet and he said “It’s OK. I’m Reform”.

    “It’s OK. I’m Reform.” This is precisely my problem with the reform movement. It tells people “It’s OK”, “Your fine as you are”, there’s no work required of the individual, no burden of responsibility, and no room for introspection and improvement.

    It is one thing to not believe in something. If you don’t believe in the authority of the Torah or Halacha, then when you don’t follow it your actions make sense. They coincide with your beliefs.

    That’s very different then “It’s Ok. I’m Reform.” That isn’t a statement of lack of belief, that’s a process of using affiliation as a permission slip not to do something. It’s like saying “I don’t have to go to school today, I have a not from my parents.” It doesn’t imply that school isn’t important or incumbent upon you, just that you get a magical exemption.

    I don’t take issue with the individual members of the Reform movement. In fact, I completely understand the desire to be in a system that is easy and non-burdensome, especially when there are highly educated, respected individuals telling you that the option is just as valid if not more so then the alternatives. But I take issue with the people who write the permission slips. School’s important. Introspection, personal development, and individual responsibility are valuable and beneficial. Don’t coddle people and tell them that it’s OK. Encourage them to explore and to learn for themselves. Maybe their believes will coincide, maybe they won’t. At least you gave them a chance.

    **As an aside, (sorry about the rant,) I realize that this is not an accurate description of everyone involved in the Reform movement, members or leaders. And in fact, there have been increasingly more people calling for changes within the movement to address these issues. While this is a positive development, it still doesn’t change the fact that for a large number of people this is precisely their relationship with Judaism and that those fostering that “permission slip” form of Judaism really need to think about the disservice they are doing to their congregants.

  • My Ex contended that my putting the milk dishes in the stainless steel meat dishwasher proved my “lack of judgement”. I shoulda rubbed all his plates with hot shrimp before I moved out.

  • Orthodox fetishes over dishwashers: they used to be OK, now there not, no wait – they’re OK for milk or meat, but not both, no wait – they’re OK for both if you have separate racks, no wait – re-kasher the kitchen and the kids just to be sure…! Separate loads with a rinse cycle in between works for me (when we get another dishwasher, sigh), but knock yourself out. Remember: kashruth must be neither easy nor livable. If in any event you find yourself not having guilt and/or stress over it, immediately contact your nearest long bearded, black hat rabbi for musar.

    Shrimp are never OK. Sorry. Besides, in the Bad Old Days, I got sick more than once eating shrimp – it’s too easy for bad things to happen in handling such foods. Now scallops, scallops I still dream about, and they kids still haven’t forgiven us for taking away chicken Parmesan, although the soy chickie patties aren’t half bad, really. Really. Stop laughing!

  • Forget about the shrimps and lobster…
    How Kosher is Leslie Villaverde?
    What Leslie Villaverde looks like?
    Any pictures?

  • Yeah, I too, like to know, does the Rabbi have as good taste in NUN kosher women as his wife has in non kosher food?

  • so, I think what upset the rabbi so much is not the mere fact that his wife ate shrimp (which is sad -but not a reason to devorce, realy) but the mere fact that she did it out of pure dafke. She didn’t point out her weekness for the delicious taste of shrimps, but rather that she ate it becaues she could’t handle all the laws. So I do get that he was upset. And of course what he did isn’t great either. It doesn’t show a stunning personality if s.b. had three marriages allready.

    And does shrimp taste that good, because if it tastes anythink like the imitation it’s horrible!

  • One of the commentors here said something about not eating shrimp has something to do with his/her clinging to the faith. I ask you all is what you do or do not eat the essence of a faith or merely the outter trappings of false piety?

    KOSHER has NOTHING to do with Jewish…it has everything to do with ancient tribal nonsence…I say eat whatever you want…. means NOTHING to anyone except the strict constructionists amongst us who use obsevence of antiquated rules as their yardstick for who ios and is not a Jew..

    Shame on them

  • Prime Minister Marvin said:

    One of the commentors here said something about not eating shrimp has something to do with his/her clinging to the faith. I ask you all is what you do or do not eat the essence of a faith or merely the outter trappings of false piety?

    How about neither. It is not the “essence” of Judaism nor is adhering to G-d’s commandments
    “false piety.”

    KOSHER has NOTHING to do with Jewish – it has everything to do with ancient tribal nonsence

    Ahah. And a little birdie told you this?

    And being “Jewish” has nothing to do with “tribalism”, as you see it?

    I say eat whatever you want… . means NOTHING to anyone except the strict constructionists amongst us who use obsevence of antiquated rules as their yardstick for who ios and is not a Jew..

    A Jew is not defined by whether to eat kosher or not.

    Shame on them

    With pleasure!

    BTW, I withdraw my nomination.

  • But Shy Guy…Think about this for a moment (or two) If simply observing rules is the qualifier for being authentic then one can follow any set of rules and claim authenticity. My mother used to tell us that what is in the heart is what makes a Jew not what is on the dinner plate.

    Apart from the worship of a “god”, Jewishness is having a moral outlook on life and understanding that we (as a people have a mission for the world) that mission does not include what we are eating.

    BTW – I second your withdrawal of the nomination 🙂

  • Middle– have at it with Richler recommendations. He’s from Montreal, n’est-ce pas? Unfamiliar with him, except by reputation. But I’ve cut a wide swath through Saul Bellow.

    Happy Independence Day, btw.

  • Marvin said:

    But Shy Guy… Think about this for a moment (or two) If simply observing rules is the qualifier for being authentic
    Again, being a Jew versus a non-Jew is not defined by observing the Torah’s laws. A Jew can violate every rule in the book and he/she is still a Jew.

    A jew is defined by his Neshama (loosely translated as “soul”), which in inheritted from his/her Jewish mother or acquired via conversion.

    then one can follow any set of rules and claim authenticity.

    Tell me, if I follow the tenets of Catholocism and claim that it’s Judaism.


    My mother used to tell us that what is in the heart is what makes a Jew not what is on the dinner plate.

    Your mother was sort of half right.

    There’s an old Jewish Joke about an accident victim whose mother is weeping as the doctors keep coming out of the operating room to tell her that they have to amputate first 1 arm, then another, then 1 leg, then another. The chief surgeon eventually comes out to inform the poor woman that they now need to amputate her son’s head and tell her not to worry because he has a “good heart.”

    Think about that for a moment (or 2). 😉

    Apart from the worship of a “god”, Jewishness is having a moral outlook on life and understanding that we (as a people have a mission for the world) that mission does not include what we are eating.

    This is factually incorrect.

    The Torah consists of many Mitzvot, both in our relation between man and G-d and between man and man. Just look at the 2 halves of the 10 Commandments. Think about that for a moment (or 2).

    BTW – I second your withdrawal of the nomination

    Chicken! 😉

    Where are you located Shy Guy??? I am in the great country of the USA..

    I live in the holy city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish Nation, where the 3rd Temple shall eventually be established and the entire world will join us in worshipping G-d as one.

    Seats still available.

  • Thanks for getting back…My mom is buried in Jersusalem… ok now onto the discussion at hand…

    1. My mom was Jewish so by definition I inherited my Jewish soul from her…by definition this also means that I can defy the tenents/rules of the faith and STILL be a Jew… so, merely aquiring a Jewish sould would not really make one a “real” Jew.

    2. No, if you’d follow Christian tenents you may qualify as being an authentic christian… it’s their rules after all.

    3. What, exactly, is being “sort of half right” mean ?. Either one is right or one is wrong

    4. I loved the joke…has a very Jewish flavor to it

    5. I take it that the factually incorrect statement pertains to the eating part…but I may be in error since I was kicked out of 2 hebrew schools in my youth… If one ONLY followed the 10 commandments (nothing about soare ribs there) does that mean one (having the prerequisite of a Jewish soul) is an authentic Jew?… If so all the other rules are but mere commentary and of no binding authority

    ok I’ll now accept your nomination…how much does the job pay (see, I have a Jewish soul after all) 🙂


  • Kicked out of 2 Hebrew Schools?!?!?! Why I shouldn’t even be typing to you! 😀

    1. Your whole life is not defined by the fact that you’re born a Jew but by the choices you make as one. The Torah is G-d’s very specific instruction book of what is good and right versus bad and wrong. Chosing between those sets is what’s known as “Bechirah”. The rest is up to you.

    2. The same is true of Judaism. If you don’t abide by its tenets, you might be a Jew but what you practice is not Judaism. It’s G-d’s rules, after all.

    3. What’s on the dinner plate is also part of what brings out the Jew in you or vice versa. Here’s a Kosher 101 article for you, just as an example.

    4. I gotta million of ’em!

    5. The Torah contains 613 commandments. Not all of them are applicable to everybody and not all of them are applicable at all times. G-d was very clear that there’s no do-what-you want options.

  • Don’t be so judgemental…you don’t even know why I was kicked out…But I will tell you that I spent much time questioning the “written word” … always a skeptic … they were not very tolerent of me…My folks finally found a shul that would take me (on my terms) along with my twin brother. When Bar Mitzvah time came my brother (who by the way spent 10 years in Israel) got to say the haftorah (sic) and I got to stand by his side nodding in agreement… the rabbi knew I was an atheist so he just went along with it for my parent’s sake (concentration camp survivors) ..see now what he did was , in my humble opinion, the ultimate in being a Jew. He always said to me that the biggest sin was to invite someone over for dinner knowing that they could not come. From that remark I came to understand what Judiaism really means.Anyway, enough of me onto your comments:

    1.Being born a Jew is a bit different than having a Jewish “soul” passed onto you at birth. The soul, no matter what your choices makes you a Jew. At least culturally a Jew. But I take your point about being a Jew but not practicing Judiaism…But even if I do not practice, and even if I do not believe in god..I am still a Jew.

    2.God may have made the rules but he/she/it gave me the choice to follow them or not.. besides I may have a different opinion on how the rules ought to have been written. As a Jew (unlike a Christian) I can argue and disagree with god…

    3. Thanks for kosher 101 … personally, I love dry matzoh balls but detest gefilte fish 🙂

    4. Good to know you ahve a stockpile of great jokes…. god loves jokes…I think, if there really is a god, he/she/it has quite the sence of humor…

    5. As a Levi I believe that at least 571 of the rules would apply to me…or is it 318.. 🙂

    Do you actually have a name?

  • I am glad that there are people who take the laws of Kashruth very seriously. I am a bit like the wife in this story, I do pop out for an occassional something. It is easier for those born into it, than for BT’s. I wonder if those who cheat a bit are proud of their kids who are totally into all the laws?From Shomer Negiah, to every bracha and all.

  • Tom, happy 4th to you as well.

    Richler is very different from Bellow. Imagine an urbane, iconoclastic, city-slickin’, Malamud, but from Montreal. I’ve always thought one can understand that world far better, by the way, by reading some early Irving Layton poetry and perhaps Leonard Cohen biographical information about his Montreal and Greece days. These are not necessary, of course, but can serve, um, as lubricant to reading and understanding Richler’s Montreal.

    His best, in my humble opinion, is Barney’s Version. I admit that you have to slog unrewarded through the first 70 or 80 pages, but then, this book soars and becomes, simply, a masterpiece. It represents in many ways the culmination of all of Richler’s powers as a writer, and offers a nice wrap-up of most of the themes that had compelled him throughout his career. It is moving, funny and true.

    St. Urbain’s Horseman is probably my favorite of his early books. St. Urbain was considered the center of the Jewish community in Montreal back in the new, immigrant, less affluent days. Richler won the Governor General’s award for this one (this being the highest Canadian literary prize awarded to one book annually in each writing category – fiction, poetry, etc.). In it he captures a different era beautifully and with great humor.

    Solomon Gursky Was Here has a somewhat anti-climactic conclusion, but is a fun ride taking you through the creation of a Canadian liquor baron’s fortune and the lives of his children who inherited his wealth. Yes, he probably based it on the Bronfmans, having stated publicly that it was ridiculous that they had always tried to cover up the illegal booze empire and Sam’s maneuverings that were the source of their great wealth. On an emotional level, this isn’t as satisfying as Barney’s Version, but it shows a superb writer having fun for the hell of it.

    Lots of people are fans of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Joshua Then and Now, both of which have been made into films. As we are able to look back at his career now, I think they’re both good when you’ve finished the other three and still need more of Richler (which you will). Of the two, I much prefer Joshua Then and Now. There is something mischievous about Joshua that is more urbane and to my taste than the scrappy, hungry Duddy Kravitz.

    If you have nephews, the Jacob Two Two series is great fun for the 6-9 year old crowd.

    Richler used to write in the mornings, then in the afternoon he’d go to his regular watering hole and shoot the shit with the other regulars. I always picture him sitting in a bar, the afternoon sun filtered by the tinted windows hitting the dank wood of the tables, and smoke rising from the half smoked cigar in the ashtray. He would talk and listen, take a sip of his drink, and think about his next pages. Then the next morning he’d wake up and write funny stories about his childhood in early Jewish Montreal and that deep immigrant’s desire to get out of that harsh, impoverished milieu and into the better part of town where you may try really hard to cover up those ethnic foreign origins, but your own demons, and they, just won’t let you forget.

  • “I wonder if those who cheat a bit are proud of their kids who are totally into all the laws?From Shomer Negiah, to every bracha and all.”

    This alludes to the dynamic that may explain the rightward careening of Orthodoxy over the past 50 years. Modern Orthodoxy promoted so strongly the goal of professional vocation (e.g. doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc.) that there was a social stigma against the low-paying, seemingly low esteem work of education.

    Then, all of the those American Orthodox families – who were, really living lives more like observant early Conservative Jews (non-egal, shomer kashruth and shabbat, etc.), sent there kids off to day school and yeshiva – which they may not have ever attended themselves. Those schools were, and are, staffed largely by haredim who strongly believe in static halacha and are willing to work for dirt-poor wages in the schools. A dichotomy existed between some straight and narrow definitions of halacha and what many communities had actually been living. This, I would claim, is the normal progression of halachic development; changes happens and slowly gets codified into the text, or at least develops into the power of local custom. Women had been – chas v’shalom – wearing short sleeve shirts, and many married women stopped covering their hair outside of shul. Men and women had been sitting together and – unbelievably – married couples been seen dancing with each other at simchas. People were eating food based upon the ingredients rather than relying upon the growing kosher supervision cartel that would soon strong-arm itself into a multi-multi-million dollar a year industry employing hundreds and then thousands of Orthodox rabbis.

    The kids were taught that all of these behaviors were not authentic halachic stuff – and some commentators on Jewlicious would certainly agree. 😉 I, however, see natural evolutions to fit local needs while preserving core mitsvoth (Shabbat, kashruth, NO SHRIMP, etc.)

  • Being a writer, I was fascinated by the story, and especially by the variety of comments. Does anyone in your organization know where I can reach either Rabbi Rubinger or the former nun,
    Leslie Ruchama Villaverde? Would greatly appreciate an address or an email. thanks.

  • I am for Columbia SC. It is not about the shrimp. The story reported in the media does not tell the whole story. It is much more than unsubstantiated gossip. My upbringing does me allow me to reaped the story. If you knew the real story – you would not side with the Rabbi. It is not about the shrimp.

  • I am also from Columbia, SC. And I agree with the person above. I’m only 13 but heard about this article. The whole story isn’t about shrimp!! And even so, they may have only kept kosher in their house, and it said she went OUT to eat shrimp and lobster. And so what? She can. They aren’t at an orthodox synagogue. if you knew the whole story, then you may have a different opinion. The whole story in this article is not told, and it focuses on shrimp, but that is not the point. It is adultry commited by the rabbi. And although it never stated that he actually commited adultry, it seems that way. And having the rabbi as a teacher, we were taught the 10 commandments. 1 being “Thou shall not commit adultry”. He was a poor role model and this whole situation is difficult and a personal problem for his wife and children, and I think it is terrible it has had so much public fuss about it. So everyone who is taking sides based on shrimp needs to back off and find out the whole story.

  • My name is Shayna I am 13 years old and I live in Columbia SC. I am friends with his son and this is definately not the whole story. It is true that our synagogue is conservative and not orthodox so you do not have to keep kosher. My family doesn’t keep kosher. We just don’t eat pork AT HOME! Rabbi Rubenger taught my hebrew school. His wife gave a speech about him on his son’s bar mitzvah. She did not insult him yet she just said that was his choice. yet he had the nerve to come back to her and then leave her again! He left her with all their children. How is she going to support them with her teaching job? I hope Rabbi that you will read this because you really let our comunity down.

  • The whole story isn’t about shrimp!! And even so, they may have only kept kosher in their house, and it said she went OUT to eat shrimp and lobster. And so what? She can. They aren’t at an orthodox synagogue.

    Whoever taught you this information has deceived you, either deliberately or unintentionally. In no way, shape or form does the Conservative movement excuse any Jews from following the laws of kashruth. There are some Conservative positions on keeping kosher that are difference than current orthodox ones, including: the acceptance of soft cheese without rabbinic suppervision, the acceptance of swordfish as kosher (because it may have small scales when young), the acceptance of non-glatt meat (e.g. Hebrew National hot dogs) and the acceptance of wine made without rabbinic supervision. Even those positions were not accepted by all Conservative rabbis. Any rabbi associated with the Conservative movement that told you that Jews who attend Conservative shuls should not keep kosher was wrong, straight and simple.

  • Excerpt from the article
    Conservative Leaders Call For New Openness

    Responding to perceptions that Conservative Judaism is spiritually listless and on the decline, a major thinker in the movement called this week for it to acknowledge that it is not bound by halacha, or Jewish law.
    In calling for a new vision at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s biennial in Boston, Rabbi Neil Gillman, professor of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary, argued that calling itself a halachic movement is intellectually dishonest and has failed to inspire increased religious commitment of congregants.

    “We have to be open and honest, and try to project a religious vision, a theological vision,” Rabbi Gillman told The Jewish Week.

    Conservative Jews should instead distinguish themselves from other liberal movements by their liturgy, their ritual practice and their loyalty to Conservative Jewish institutions, he said…

    Rabbi Gillman said there is little difference between the religious practice of Conservative and Reform Jews outside the synagogue, and that “if we are a halachic community, it has to be because we want to be, not because we have to be. Then we have to explain why we want to be, and we have done neither.”

    Sounds like shrimp’s on the conservative menu to me!

  • No, Shy Guy, shrimp is not on the menu and you should be more respectful of another stream of Judaism.

    Shayna and Emily, thank you for your comments. You are welcome to have all of your friends visit and contribute to this discussion as well. We are not so confused as to think this was simply about shrimp, it was just an ironic line in this crazy story. I would urge you to carefully consider whether the accusation of adultery and actual adultery are the same things. Then again, abandoning his family, particularly with children involved is reprehensible unless there are mitigating circumstances (and even then, they need to be significant matters that are very difficult to overcome).

  • Rabbi Neil Gillman can’t speak on behalf of anyone but himself. His views are clearly on the radical left of JTS. Rabbi Joel Roth is the man you want to check out for the real modern halakhic JTS rabbi. Ask yourself this: do they allow non-kosher food at JTS? No, they do not – shrimp is not on the menu and never, ever was in the first place.

  • Correct, Emily, that does not mean you are a bad Jew and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. It does mean that you are violating one part of the laws of kashrut, however, and there is no way around that since it’s biblical kashrut not even rabbinic kashrut (like cheeseburgers). Then again, it’s just one part of being a Jew, it is a practice you can easily change if you so choose, and there are many other things you can do as a Jew that are important. Also, right now virtually every kosher-eating individual in this country who eats AgriProcessors kosher meat (Aaron’s Best, for example), is supporting alleged practices that probably make it more just and humane – and therefore more Jewish – to eat unkosher meat. (DID YOU HEAR THAT, RABBIS WHO SUPPORT THAT COMPANY’S PRODUCTS? FORCE THEM TO CHANGE PRACTICES BEFORE THEY KILL THE MARKET.)

  • TM said:

    rabbinic kashrut (like cheeseburgers)

    Such eating of milk and meat is a Torah prohibition, assuming we are talking about beef burgers.

  • From what I understand, TM, the verdict on AgriProcessors is still out, much like it is with this Rabbi Rubinger. While if the accusations against the company or individual are true, they would represent significant problems, I wonder why we are so ready to be Dan L’Kaf Zchut, to provide the benefit of the doubt, to an individual, but are so quick to condemn the company, its employees, and its Rabbinical oversight. Shouldn’t we extend them just as much suspended judgement until we know better?

    As far as Agri-Processors goes we have the charge against being lead by PETA, an organization with a clear agenda. And rebuttals by the company and its supervisory staff, the former with a clear agenda, and the later being officially above and agenda, as halachic supervision would require bias free supervision.

    Even if we assume the worse and feel that the Rabbinic oversight cannot be trusted, we still have no independent, unbiased confirmation of any of the reports by a 3rd party. In fact, the few (and I mean very few) 3rd party accounts that I’ve read (because there just aren’t that many) have expressed a sense of the fact that while their is room for improvement, overall the problems with Agri (both labor wise and Kashrut wise) are greatly exaggerated and that the industry is being vilified unjustly.

    This being the case, I contend we should continue to extend AgriProcessors the benefit of the doubt until shown definitively otherwise. Just as we do with Rabbi Rubinger and we do toward his wife.

    Of course, the reality is that even Kosher Shchita (slaughter) in its optimal and most humane form is potentially something one would find cruel, as no matter how you look at it you are taking an animal’s life prematurely. If that is what one is reacting to, then be honest about it, and be a vegetarian. I can understand and support that. But don’t turn the cognitive dissonance you may have from watching animals be slaughtered making you feel bad while still wanting to eat them by turning to condemn those who make the process possible. That isn’t honest, and I can’t support that.

    Oh… And since when was keeping kosher purely about being just and humane? Last I checked, it was because G-d told us to keep kosher by providing the rules to follow. While we are encouraged to seek reasons and understandings for the commandments, we also need to realize that human knowledge and reasoning isn’t the defining aspect of Halacha.

    And since when could someone be more Jewish, or less Jewish? Last I checked you either were or you weren’t (0 or 1 in binary terms). I suppose you could choose to perform more or less halacha, but in that case, it seems that eating clearly unkosher food would be the less. Or, I suppose you could seek to be more or less “just and humane” in which case you can make your argument. But since when has Judaism been only about being “just and humane”?

    Now, here is the part where I must agree with you TM. Emily your not a bad Jew, just possibly troubled or misguided in a certain area of Jewish Law. If you decide you want to do something about that there are plenty of people and organizations out there that would love to sit down with you and teach you. Of course, at the end of the day the decision is yours to make, and irregardless I’m going to love and respect you anyway as a fellow Jew, I just probably won’t eat at your house.

  • Shy Guy, where in the torah is there a prohibition on eating milk and meat?

    Purim, I am willing to be flown out to Iowa or wherever they are to be part of an independent fact-finding team. I would want access to any part of the plant and any employee after hours. They haven’t gotten an independent investigation going on by their own choice. They brought in someone who makes his living from their meat and had him disseminate positive information about their practices. Would it have been difficult to bring in somebody independent?

    I did write that these are still allegations, but now there is a grand jury investigation into their employee practices.

    The PETA video about the manner of slaughter was never denied by AgriProcessors. They merely had rabbis claim this was a kosher practice.

    So it is now incumbent upon AgriProcessors to show themselves innocent of these charges or prove they have changed them if the charges are real. If this were Coke Foods we were talking about, they would already have changed the egregious behavior.

    The issue of animal slaughter is not the problem. It is that we should lessen the pain of the animal maximally. That is not the case with AgriProcessors and their practices, as that PETA video showed.

    I didn’t say that being kosher is about being just and humane. I said that being Jewish is about being just and humane. If the two conflict, you may choose kashrut over justice and humanity but I’ll choose justice and humanity over kashrut. The food tastes better and I know I’m being better as a person and a Jew.

    You can’t be more or less Jewish but you can be a good Jew or a bad Jew and there are gradations, just as you can be a bad person or a good person with gradations there. Mostly, these are a function of the decisions and choices we make. If some Jews in Monsey decide that they should bring Yemenite Jews to live there and then separate the children from the parents by legal means, or if a rabbi in a position of power is accused of molesting, or if an Israeli Jewish soldier decides to shoot at a person who is not a threat or to humiliate a Palestinian without a security reason, these people may be Jews but what they are doing is in violation of our values.

    Emily, about Purim’s comments regarding receiving an education about kashrut, I’m sure your new rabbi can give you guidance if you decide you want to explore this topic.

  • If the nun had previously been married to Christ, a Jew, did he obtain a”get”, so that she could remarry?

  • In response to #6 Sarah’s observation about the rabbi’s 13-year-old son, the rabbi is now on his fourth woman, having had one other wife before the mother of this son. What a bar mitzvah present that is.

  • Ephraim Rubinger was the spiritual leader of my congregation, Oceanside Jewish Center, in Oceanside, NY, for approximately eight years. He was a brilliant pulpit rabbi and pastoral counselor who helped me deal with some tough times in my own life. He also did much to encourage participation by the children in the congregation.

    Unfortunately, he had difficulties getting along with the lay leadership and left on bad terms. Since then, he has known little peace. Shortly after taking a position with a synagogue in upstate New York, his second wife, the mother of his 13-year old son, was diagnosed with terminal cancer; she passed two years later.

    Columbia was his third congregation since then. I have no knowledge of his most recent marriage, but a rebbitzim sneaking off to eat “trayf” strikes me as being symptomatic of bigger domestic problems.

    While the type of indiscretions described in the Forward article can never be commended, I do hope that this new relationship brings him peace. He, his family and his congregation are paying a very high price for it.

  • I’ll choose justice and humanity over kashrut. The food tastes better and I know I’m being better as a person and a Jew.

    Nice. And yet? And yet you continue to participate in a food manufacturing system where 25% of the food produced goes to waste while people go hungry. You are concerned about justice and humanity and yet I don’t hear anything about buying products made in china or by slave labor from WalMart. The point is that there are tons of injustices going on in the world that we can do something about – injustices that are far more eggregious than problems in one kosher meat processing plant. You can work actively to address those issues and you do not have to cut yourself off from your people by preparing and eating treiff in your home. For my part, I stopped eating meat the day I saw the video. Kosher eaters can still come to my home though for shabbat or any meals. I protested against what happenned at Aggriprocessors without cutting myself off from anyone. And please, don’t sit there and tell me that your solution of eating treiff grain fed free range whatever meat is the more Jewish solution – that’s ridiculous. If you feel the injustices taking place at one slaughterhouse are terrible, then stop eating meat – cutting yourself off from kosher eaters takes a bad problem and makes it far worse, especially when there are kosher options – ie wise poultry organic chicken. A google search will show you many other acceptable options – kosher free rnge beef and bison. Eating treiff is not an absolute neccessity and it definitely is not the ideal Jewish option.

  • Um, I don’t shop at Wal-mart and boycotting products from an entire country would be idiotic since the people who would suffer most would be the workers who had nothing to do with their own circumstances (or with their government’s policies in this case).

    As for people not eating in my home, I’m afraid many indiduals who consider themselves kosher wouldn’t for reasons far more complex than my shopping, eating and cooking patterns. And you know it. The best I can do is live right by my judgement.

    Thanks for the tip about Wise Poultry, I will try their products.

  • When we moved to the US from the FSU in 1979, a Yeshiva offered “Free Jewish Education” for those of us Russian Jews willing to take it. My parents jumped on the chance since they were not allowed to practice Judaism and only dreamed of their children being able to grow up with a Jewish education and the understanding of Yiddishkeit. One day my mom (ignorant to what kosher was), sent me to school with the old double-sin: a ham and cheese sandwich. Needless to say, before I was able to take a bite, I remember a rabbi’s hand fly out of nowhere and slap my sandwich through the air. I was only 4, so I began crying. He did his best to explain and took me in the kitchen to make me some new food. Since then, I have always hated the replacement: P&J (I like Peanut Butter only :))

    Anyway, after another year of exhaustion trying to learn two languages (English and Hebrew), being hopped up on Ritalin at the request of the school, and just the long school days (8:30am – 4:30pm), my parents pulled me out and put me in public school. I believe it was a good choice, but in hindsight I would have loved the full on education. Can’t say the Orthodox kids treated us foreigners very nice, but hey, kids are kids.

    In the end, I find it funny if someone were to tell the many Russian Jews in my community who were raised in a secular, anti-Semitic environment that they are not real Jews because they can’t keep kosher, after the years of persecution they endured just because it was written Jewish rather than Russian on their birth certificate, who secretly practiced what little they knew about Judaism under a totalitarian regime where the kosher option wasn’t even an option. Like I always say, I/we may not be a Jew in your eyes, but I know what I am, and I’m sure, if g-d exists, he knows what I am as well.

  • CK: hazak u’barukh for having the courage to stop eating that treif meat when so many others, including the rabbis we are supposed to trust, have failed. Purim Hero, wake up and smell the treif meat, my friend. The bad news from Postville has come continuously over the past year covering kashruth, environmental, and worker treatment issues, and don’t be fooled by the spin control being aggressively practiced by both Aggriprocessors AND the OU. The best you can hope for if you still have been eating that meat is that they were forced to clean up their act behind the scenes while refusing to publicly admit guilt.

    We stopped eating read meat on that fateful day as well, and searched for almost a year before we found a small-volume organic/free-range kosher meat supply for our occasional chulent/hamine/dafina on Shabbat treat. The Wise poultry is hard to find in our part of the world, but Empire is free-roaming and David Elliot is like the Wise product. In general, (kosher) meat should be a small part of one’s diet anyway.

  • OK… To set a few things strait.

    First… The US Department of Justice served subpoenas on Rubashkin and other kosher meat providers as part of an investigation of anti-trust, price-fixing and collusion, NOT as part of an investigation of Kashrut standards, environmental standards, humanitarian standards, or workers rights issues.

    Second, in some of the most recent news it would seem that the humane treatment problems seem to have been solved. A forward article from July 7th ( covers how Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the leading Animal Rights experts has given Agriprocessors the OK. Some of you may remember her as being one of the more outspoken critics of Agriprocessors after viewing the PETA video. Now that she’s finally seen the plant for herself, however, she says that they must have improved a lot, because things look OK. citing among other things, the fact that the cows weren’t moo-ing. (I just found that humorous.)

    I completely agree with the general communal consensus that if Agriprocessors were guilty of the many things the PETA video charged them with, and did nothing about it, then a serious problem would be on our hands. I just refuse to allow evidence provided by a group with a clear agenda (PETA) and dark history coupled with a mob like mentality seeking to condemn to convince me beyond doubt of the continued guilt of Agriprocessors, much the same way I don’t allow the same desire to vilify convince me of Rabbi Rubinger’s autrosities. I’d rather be Dan L’kaf Zchut (providing the benefit of the doubt) until shown undeniably otherwise.

    That’s all I’m saying. I’m not asking you to agree with me. I’m merely suggesting that the mob mentality seeking to condemn might benefit by re-evaluating what it really knows and where that information comes from. If you remain uncomfortable, then please, abstain from the purchase of their products. Don’t condemn them publicly until you have proof. That’s it. Simple.

    And for goodness sakes… Like CK said. This shouldn’t stand as a reason or proof for one who keeps kosher to stop keeping kosher. Even if it’s all true, at best it tells you not to use their products and to seek alternatives within accepted guidelines. Of course, if a person never kept kosher, then this really doesn’t change much for them.

  • In my city, most of the kosher meat is supplied by Aaron’s Best so it’s not always easy to have other options. Second, it wasn’t just the PETA video from two years ago (which to my knowledge the company never claimed was misleading) that was the issue, it was Popper’s article about working conditions a couple of weeks ago in the Forward that suggested problems. The Forward did point out that Dr. Grandin was paid by Rubashkin to come in and provide a critique and FailedMessiah is pointing out that it took a long time to put this visit together (despite the company’s statement) and that the combination of public pressure and the antitrust cases may have been catalysts. If under those conditions, the report is an honest one, then they have gone a long way towards resolving some of the issues. It’s still not a clear home run and if their standards have improved, it is clear the public pressure had an impact.

    Also, if you read the articles carefully, you will not see unqualified support for Agriprocessors but rather current support and strongly expressed hopes that they will be able to maintain this new positive standard.

  • The commentator Paul Harvey used to do a radio show, called “and now the rest of the story”. I do not represent myself to be the in the league if Mr. Harvey, but I am somewhat disappointed that the above article is not completely correct.

    I met this Rabbi once at the Beth Shalom Synagogue, in Columbia, after a minion. Outside I was parked next to him, and he approached me to introduce himself to me, as we were both getting into our cars.

    We had a nice chat, he told me that he and his wife were both in a 2nd marriage and they both had children. He mentioned that his wife had died from cancer, and I do not remember what was the cause of his new wife’s situation in her former marriage was. Although I also lost my wife to cancer, I joked to him, it sounded like the old TV show The Brady Bunch. We both smiled, got in our cars and drove away. I never saw him again

    I left thinking that this Rabbi appears to be a pretty good guy.

    Shortly after that, the rumors and whisperings began about the Rabbi and a num. Although I do not live in Columbia, and am not a member of the Beth Shalom Congregation, I do have relatives and friends that are members. I was appalled to hear the gossip and the spin put on this tragedy. Gossip is a hateful thing. Those that make the choice to gossip should be ashamed of themselves.

    Gossip is hurtful. This man had a wife and there were children. The gossip somehow allowed the gossipers to ameliorate their sins by slandering the wife and the children. It is said that the wife ate shrimp. So what, this is a conservative congregation, and not an Orthodox or Chabot congregation. I would guess that less than 5% of that congregation does not eat shell seafood or good old Southern Bar-B-Q, made from dead pigs.

    Where was the act of simple sympathy, compassion and charity for the wife and the children?

    The board of the Synagogue dragged on the process of what to do. I have no idea why they did not act in a rapid manner to solve the problem with a separation of the congregation from the rabbi, but it appeared to drag on for weeks,

    Finally, after this matter dragging on too long, and allowing the gossip to grow to a wall of insults and giggles, the board decided to remove the Rabbi from the congregation.

    So the Rabbi is gone with his new love of life to Miami, and the wife is still in Columbia with the children..

    As a reader of this epistle, I would think that you, the reader would think that this is the end of the story. Well it is not.

    Again, in the words of Paul Harvey, let me tell you the rest of the story.

    Many weeks after the start of this so called tragedy, which fanned the flames of gossip, a representative of the agency that recommended this rabbi to the board of directors of the Beth Shalom Congregation arrived in Columbia. He arrived to finally be a man and tell the congregation and the board that they knew that the Rabbi had some mental problems and that the Rabbi had a nervous breakdown, but they did not think it was important.

    And now, you know the rest of the story, so can you tell me why the gossip continues? I am reminded of the proverb, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. I assure you that this writer fully admits that he is not in any position to be throwing any rocks.

  • Bill: excellent point, very well stated. Alas, if you hang around, you’ll discover that what many people here do best is not sympathy, compassion and charity, but casting stones. And like most such people, they demand that you acknowledge what an oppressive mantle of responsibility that it is to wear.

  • While many of you discuss the “shrimp” issue, let me remind all of you that this is a story where many real people were left with wounded hearts and souls. This is not a story about shrimp, but a story about an e mail affair initiated by a Russian Orthodox Nun and a conservative Rabbi, who recently moved his family to Columbia, SC. This is a story of the betrayal of the vows under the Chuppah, the betrayal of the vows under the Russian Orthodox Church, the abandonment of a wife and child, and the lack of judgement and understanding of consequences that the Rabbi chose. Yes, Rabbi Rubinger was a brilliant speaker, but his actions did not echo his words. This was his third marriage to a woman who grew up in a secular background. This was a marriage where the Rabbi was fully aware of his wife’s background and the compromises she was willing to keep. Because she loved her husband, she agreed to keep kosher in the home always, and in the town where they lived. She agreed to observe Shabbat and attend shul. She did everything that she agreed to do. She also raised his children from his second marriage, moved twice for his Rabbinical positions, left her friends and family, and changed jobs and states twice to accomodate him. She provided him with a beautiful home, changed the light bulbs, worked full time, purchased a dog for him, and loved and supported him dearly. Marital difficulties? They weren’t about shrimp. The marriage broke up for one reason, an illict love affair between a Rabbi who refused to acknowledge his feelings, stating that loving someone wasn’t a sin, his removal of her from the monastary, and her conversion in less than 24 hours of leaving the monastary, all this less than one month prior to his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Gee, what a guy! Rumors? When the confirmation class wittnessed the flirtings of the Rabbi and the nun, when he would study with her for up to five hours a day and neglect his duties as the Rabbi, when he raised funds for her without board approval, they weren’t rumors. So before all of you place judgement on the characters here, think about how you live your own life? Have all of you always observed all the commandments all the time? Have you ever had a spouse cheat on you ? Publiclly? Have you ever been left by the one you trusted most in the world, a Rabbi yet, who proclaimed his objections to intermarriage, to run off with a Habit wearing, twice divorced, flamengo dancing, Russian Orthodox Nun? Unless you have been there, don’t judge the characters and realize that the seven children, the two former wives, and the family of the deseased wife have all been left behind to grieve.


    I know some of us have said this before in this discussion, but as more information is added by people who seem to come from this community, the scope of the harm to this family and congregation is very sad to contemplate. What a truly horrible situation for all involved.

  • The scope of the harm done to the community was more than horrific, especially since the community was already traumatized from a previous incident about a year and a half before Rabbi Rubinger came to town. Clerics are always role models for the community and if they chose to be in that position, they must also realize that they must act in moral and ethical ways. Getting involved with a nun, or for that matter, anyone in an e mail affair, while married, is never an ethical thing to do. If the affair is emotional or sexual, both are wrong. Sometimes, the emotional affair is more damaging than a fling in the hay. It is the obligation of the married party, once the feelings of love are acknowledged, to end the correspondance immediatley. If that had been done in this case, the Rabbi would still have his job, the family would be intact. Did the Rabbi love his family, his wife and career? Yes, he did, very much, yet he chose to betray the entire community by not ending this relationship. The congregation gave him opportunity to repair his relationships and continue his work, but he would not give up the nun. You should know, that she was a nun, until the day after she left the convent. She was never a congregant. If you investigate into her past, you will find a very immoral person who targeted an easy victim. Now, the wife is left alone in Columbia, far from her children and family, she is raising his son on a teacher’s salary (which in South Carolina is impossible), his children won’t speak to him, her children hate him for hurting their mother, the community is in an uproar, more so after the “article’ in the Forward, and the Rabbi, the NUN, her former boyfriend and a male roomate are living together in her former condo which she gave to her former boyfriend? Still think this is about shrimp?

  • TM, the Torah states “Lo tevashel G’di Bachalev Imo” 3 times to teach us 3 prohibitions of meat and milk: 1) eating, 2) cooking, and 3) deriving benefit from it. I believe the Gemara that mentions this is in Masechet Chullin but I may be wrong.

  • I too am from Columbia (not a member of Rubinger’s former synagogue), and this article is a very good example of shoddy and one-sided reporting on the part of the Forward and the writer. The writer had an agenda to make the Rabbi look good, and the congregation and Columbia look bad. It is unbelievable that so many people got caught up in the cuisine when in fact this was about cuiSINe. The writer presented the views of one side and everyone who knows the details knows that this version is totally inaccurate; all the prior posts from “locals” respectfully leave out details that many know in respect to the victims that the Rabbi left behind. This whole story is full of spin including the presentation of the city as sleepy and of about 100K residents. The metro area actually has close to 600K residents, and a thriving Jewish community dating back to before the Civil War. We are home to state government and the University of SC. I am sure that the university’s journalism school would be glad to talk to the Forward editorial staff about accurate reporting and ethics.

  • Lot tevashel gdi bechalav imo translates roughly to thou shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk. I don’t see a prohibition there on mixing milk and meat except in a very specific situation. Rather, I read it as a call not to doubly harm a creature by 1. hurting/killing its young 2.with resources originating from that creature. If I were to extrapolate, I would say one should not kill a child with a parent’s gun, or one should not destroy somebody’s business by using tactics or elements of a parent’s business. I don’t read this verse as saying anything about meat and milk mixing. However, rabbis subsequently did and this is why I referred to it as “rabbinic kosher.”

  • Middle, it’s all very nice how YOU want to read it but Moshe Rabbeinu told us otherwise. Please take it up with him. This is in fact a “Halachah L’Moshe Me’Sinai” Torah commandment. It’s origins are Moshe Rabbeinu’s teaching G-d’s Torah via the Oral Law to Bnei Yisrael during their 40 years in Sinai. It is NOT a Rabbinic interpretation – more revised Jewish history to suit your deviant beliefs.

    Of course, if you wish to revive the Sadducee sect, that is your choice. Once again, that would not be Judaism but yet another belief of convenience.

  • Personally, TM, I’m of the opinion that one shouldn’t kill a child period. Who cares if it’s the parents gone? But maybe that’s just me… 😉

  • Marc, there is nothing to get offended about. It is not your rule he is breaking. It is G-d’s. Of course it might be a problem if it is in front of your children.

    Do-it-yourself Judaism leads to problems. Forgetting Who this is all for, meaning G-d, leads to problems.

    If you want to flout a guy’s rules, put his socks in the wrong drawer. If you want to flout G-d’s rules, eat shrimp. But why? You can get a new husband. You can’t get a new G-d because He is One.

    Alas for the kid. Maybe he can find Chabad.

  • I see, Shy Guy. I have no simple response for you since we kinda hit that magical line where faith in unseen and unknown things divides us. I would encourage you to consider that the mixing of chicken meat and cheese that is also prohibited now is essentially a similar development to the mixing of beef and milk as defined by the rabbis a little earlier.

    I also find it interesting to hear you reject the Saducees so openly since some believe they were descendants of Zadokite priests. Whether they were or weren’t, they were Israelites practicing Israelite religion about 2000 years before you and therefore much closer in time to Moses. Don’t you find it a bit odd that you think you know what the “truth” is in this regard while they, who were closer to Moses, did not?

  • Chevreh,
    I do not know anything about this website. A dear friend of mine brought it to my attention.

    What can I say? Th causeless hatred, the vicious meaness, the filthy gossip and the self righteous judgements by people who do not know me, who do not know Ruchama and who do not know Diana, all point to the very dark side of the American Jewish community.

    This is a free country with constitutional protections for free speech. You all have a right to come to your own decsions about my behavior and to write about your decisions; even though not a one of you knows the full story.

    My life’s experience has taught me that the only way to respond to such ugly hatred is with silence and with forgiveness. I choose silence because it is the only reasoned and decent way to repond to such unreasoned and indecent rage.
    I choose compassion becuse I do truly feel pity and sorrow for those who engage in such unwarrentted hate. I forgive all of you,. My prayer is that God also also forgive you as well.
    With blesings,
    Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger

  • TM, Korach was Moshe Rabbeinu’s personal first cousin, no kidding, it doesn’t get closer than that. And HE was wrong, indeed, swallowed; sorry, you did not win that round.

    The Saducees went the way of, well, the dead ducks of history. We are all Pharisaic Jews now, although there are certainly some difficulties, depending on where you live.

    Everybody believes in things you can’t see, like love, and the “value” assigned to a small wrinkled piece of green paper that says “legal tender” on it.

    Not everybody sees this sorrowful story as a failure of doing mitzvot (kosher eating). Some see it as a cautionary tale of what can happen if you don’t really do the mitzvot whole, er, hog. I mean, totally.

  • Hello, out there…..where are your brains???? It’s not about shrimp, don’t you get it? It’s about being unfaithful to your wife….Shrimp? Lobster? Really, is that it. What about smoking on Shabbat? Should the wife have an affair because her husband takes a smoke on Shabbat? What about carrying? Should a wife have an affair because her husband carried a book on Shabbat? Oh, lets see….hummmm..What about driving to shul? Or using the dishwasher? or watching TV, or turning on the lights? or using the phones? Hummmmmm. Maybe I should have my head examined….affair with nun in monastary? What do you think???? Are you so naive to believe that the Rabbi got involved with another woman over shrimp? Get real boys and girls. One can always justify their actions if you look hard enough or have a wonderful imagination. My advice, you’d better follow all the rules all the time, because you never know if your spouse will excuse their behavior. The key word is their. If shrimp was really the issue, don’t you think there could have been a better solution to solving the problem, than dating a ham eating nun?

  • Dinah, you need to relax a bit. It is not unusual in these discussions to go off on other tangents. This is not the first discussion between myself and Shy Guy and certainly not the first where we discuss issues of observance. If you read the comments above, you will see that virtually nobody considers the shrimp eating to be a significant factor except for the Rabbi as quoted in the Forward article.

    Jewish Mother, I agree that we are all most likely descended from the line of thinking and practice of Pharisaic Jews, but to dismiss the Saducees out of hand is a mistake because we were not there during this division between these groups. Don’t forget that these groups had much in common as well. As for Korach, I’m afraid there is a significant difference since the Saducees did not doubt God or the giving of the Torah. Rather, they rejected the idea of a parallel oral law being passed down. They believed they were practicing correctly and devoutly, something that was far from Korach’s mind.

  • I agree about their miseries not really being about the mitzvot or observance at all, but TM, you brought that aspect up originally. You have a right to schadenfreude if you want to indulge in it .. but do it right, is my take. I mean, they weren’t doing much mitzvot. They were kidding themselves and making it up as they went along.

    The Saducees’ position has died. Four paws in the air, not moving. I wasn’t talking about bloodlines.

  • Rabbi Rubinger, thank you for your input though you didn’t say much. The fact is that your comments to the Forward are a key reason for some of the strong reactions that you see here. It could be shoddy journalism or writing, or it could be fine journalism and excellent writing, but the Forward’s article contends that you stated that a key source of friction for your marital problems was the difference in levels of observance between you and your wife. The shrimp factor is merely emblematic of this. I don’t see how you expect people from your community not to be angry with you in light of those comments. I should say also that while you had detractors, there were also sympathetic comments on your behalf and the overall sense that regardless of fault, this is a sad story all around.

    I will say also this, however: this is not the dark side of the Jewish community, that’s just how you explain away anger directed at you from within your former congregational community. This, in fact, is not about the Jewish community as much as it is a story about a marriage that has apparently been destroyed. There are victims here and there is a great deal of pain, as there would be in any community. In any community, Jewish or not, you would have people taking sides, and in some cases perhaps believing a side of the story that others would reject. As such, this is more a story about failed relationships than it is about the Jewish community – dark or enlightened. Where the Jewish element comes in, I’m afraid, is with your being a rabbi – with some expectations that may come of individuals possessing such a title – and your claim to the Forward that your marriage was in turmoil in part because of levels of observance.

  • All experience hath shown that Judaism does not work long-term without the Oral Law. The fact that people cannot prove WHY is just another transcendental thing.

    Yes, different attitudes toward observance can be very hard in close relationships. Very hard.

    Sometimes you have to recuse yourself.

  • TM, may I suggest you learn about Jewish history from more established and ancient sources than Wikipedia?

  • The Saducees’ position has died. Four paws in the air, not moving. I wasn’t talking about bloodlines.

    Sadly, The Sadducees and their approach to frozen text is well-represented by Orthodoxy today. The difference is that Orthodoxy added additional frozen text: Mishna and Gemara. The more the oral tradition was codified, the less flexibility there was to periodically update it to meet the needs of the people in a given time/place.

  • Shy Guy, you may suggest whatever your fantasies compel you to suggest. Since I posted the above information without having looked at any sources, including Wikipedia, I have no idea what you’re talking about. By the way, I would say one of my primary sources on this topic is Josephus. Do you think he’s ancient enough for you? Are books and essays by biblical and Judaic History historians of sufficient import to put aside your Wikepedia concerns? Oops, now you’re going to have to degrade those sources as well. Are the Dead Sea Scrolls and areas of the Talmud where it is believed the Saducees and Pharisees are mentioned although not by these names good enough sources for you? Oops, now what are you going to say? If you’ve noticed, although you believe something I entirely reject as plausible, I have not insulted your beliefs or called them unscientific or implausible. Nope, i merely spoke of another version of events and history. Do you wonder why you are resorting to silly attacks that have no substance? Here’s my suggestion to you: you’ve learned a great deal about torah and halacha so why not go to university and study some biblical history, some Temple Period Judaic history and some archaeology? I hear Hebrew U has a terrific biblical studies faculty.

  • Good, Shy Guy, then go back and take some of the coursework I recommend and let us know how their take compares with yours about the history of that era.

  • TM, what have you studied in university?

    I’ve read plenty of Josephus and his description of Tzedukim very much coorelates with the Talmud’s. And both of those correlate with Avot D’Rabbi Natan, 5.2:

    “Antignos of Sokho had two disciples (Tzadok and Baitos) who studied his teachings, and taught them to other disciples, who in turn taught others. When they came to this Mishnah, they questioned: What prompted our forefathers to make this statement? Is it conceivable that a laborer would work the entire day and not receive his wages in the evening? Had our forefathers held that there is another world… they would not have said it. Thereupon they arose and denied the Torah (the principle of reward and punishment), and from them emerged two heretical sects, the Tzedukim and Baitusim (Sadducees and Beothusians).” Of such an event it is said “The ways of the Lord are straight; the just will walk in them; but transgressors do stumble therein.” (Hosheah 14:10)

  • Nathan said:

    Sadly, The Sadducees and their approach to frozen text is well-represented by Orthodoxy today.

    What do you want changed that could ever have been changed?

    The difference is that Orthodoxy added additional frozen text: Mishna and Gemara.

    You’re repeating the same revisionist fictional Jewish history you’ve stated in the past. Mishna and Gemara were not “adopted.” As you yourself stated, they are codified oral teachings that had been passed down, much of it for generations, going back to Moshe in Sinai.

    And the Mishna and Gemorah are ever so far from being frozen. Millions and millions of debates have gone on for 1000s of years as to this or that ruling’s extact understanding or interpretation, with numerous legal, moral and philosophical consequences.

    The more the oral tradition was codified, the less flexibility there was to periodically update it to meet the needs of the people in a given time/place.

    Hashem, through His Torah and its teachers throughout the ages, did not have in mind the concept of revising the Torah to meet the whims of people who make the conscious choice to not abide by it in the first place.

  • Nothing like hanging the prisoner prior to the trial. How about the congregation driving Rabbi Rubinger out of town, the Va’ad not allowing him to know his accuser and now instead of a well respected rabbi, we have a rabbi living with an ex-nun.

    I know Rabbi Rubinger as a congregabt. I am not condoning his actions, but it seems to me his wife was being passive-aggressive and perhaps “looking for a way out”.

    The way I see it, he should have been up frony about his feelings gor Ms. Villaverde in the first place and his marriage problems with his marriage with his board of directors and it may have saved him a lot of grief.

    It is a shame that we have,perhaps, lost a Talmudic and Torah scholar of such high regard over what may have been something that began quite innocently.

    I see it as an issue of a marriage in trouble , a couple who fell in love and very,very poor judgement.

    As for the shrimp….. I eat shrimp,but I don’t bring them in the house and if my husband were a rabbi I most assuredly would not eat them. A wife needs to help a husband in his career as a husband needs to help a wife in hers. When Mrs. Rubinger married she was quite familiam with the Rabbi’s level of observance.

    Also, I agree one should never eat shrimp when with people who keep the laws of kAshrut where ever they may be. It is insulting and just plain bad manners.

    I think the Rabbi should have had a chance to be heard. I don’t think a man of his calibrfe suddenly begins to lie. Let me add that I had no opinion of him one way or the other when he was our rabbi and found him dull, at times. So it is not because I am particularly fon of him that I take this stance. We are so very quick to judge!

  • This whole discussion of Eph and Diana is so far fetched from the reality. NONE OF YOU KNOW THE FACTS behind this story. Nobody understands the pain that ALL the parties are going through ESPECIALLY Nathan and Eph’s daughter living in Jerusalem. I am related to Nathan from the previous marriage (Nathan’s Uncle) and we stand in strong support of Diana. Nobody is perfect in life, not You or I, not Eph and Diana. So before you criticize anyone, be sure that you can stand before G-D and tell him your perfect. I have every reason to hate Eph for what he has done to my family, the strain he has put between his daughter and son, for Eph is not by any means perfect. But he is a brilliant Rabbi and I am in no means to be judged for being perfect. But I know Diana still loves him, my mother still hates him, and I just hope he get’s the help he needs.

  • Being Eph’s former Brother in Law. I’d like to get this story straight. Eph, is on his THIRD Marriage and trying to move onto his FOURTH. I was not raised a religious Jew (as I was adopted), But the one thing I am, is very close to my Niece and Nephew. I know Eph’s STORY. It seems to be more of a FAIRY TALE if you ask me. Eph has been nothing but trouble from the get go. How can a man of GOD be so MEAN and HORRIBLE to his Wives? My sister was his Second wife , she passed away over 8 years ago from Brain Cancer. I, can still remember on one visit to see my sister when she was ill. Eph walked across the driveway from the synagogue to his house (this was back on Long Island,NY) and he walked in the house, the first words out of his mouth were “Where is my lunch?” No hello to me or anything nice to my sister. My sister replied to him “My brother just got here Eph, fix yourself something” OH BOY….That man can SCREAM! There are plenty more things I could tell you about the life my sister had with him, it’s just not worh the time. Eph, has plenty of problems. How a man of GOD can treat his wives and Children like they are his OWN PROPERTY and DO AS I SAY OR YOU’RE OUT OF MY LIFE, Is beyond me. Now as for Diana, all I can say about her is, she is the most LOVING and GIVING person. She has done nothing to EPH, except love him. (I guess that is a bad thing) Diana has done a TERRIFIC JOB raising my Niece and Nephew since my sister passed away and EPH walked out the door. In my eyes, There is a SPECIAL PLACE IN HEAVEN waiting for her. For all of you that are on Eph’s side, I feel sorry for you. I have heard many messages this man has left for Diana on voicemail. He, needs help! Plus, I’m feeeling for this current girlfriend or next wife of his too. I just hope my sister is getting a good laugh about all of this. My sister held onto life for as long as she could(for her children) ever though Eph had an affair when she was very ill, and could have used her Husband around. I’m going to be around for My Niece and Nephew and DIANA. Eph, get the help you need!

  • What is it lately on this blog with the crazies posting as multiple people thinking nobody would notice? You leave IP addresses, people! And if you’re going to pretend to be multiple people, not that I recommend it, at the very least alter your prose.

    God, the Mossad Jewlicious commentors aren’t.

  • The middle is correct… Actually different computers in the same home. I showed Tony this blog and he was outraged and posted his own comments.

  • I think most of us are missing the point. For many American Jews, keeping kosher in the home and eating “trafe” out, is common. I do not imply that this is necessarily a proper thing to do.The sad downfall of Rabbi Rubinger has apparently been a lifelong pursuit. I was a student at WUJS Institute in Israel (and a roomate of his former wife, Alexandra) while Rabbi Rubinger was the resident Rabbi/Scholar in Residence. While obviously a learned and brillant man, he has left behind him many broken marriages and innocent children. My heart goes out to these innocent victims of his selfishness.

  • Considering how many people find Jewlicious through Google searches for Rubinger, I suspect that he continues to have a significant impact on many people.

  • It has been two years since I first discovered that my husband was having an on line relationship with a Christian Orthodox Nun who claimied that her mother had been a convert to Judaism. Jewish mother or not, Mother Seraphima had not been raised as a Jew, and was a convert to Roman Catholicism, before joining the Christian Orthodox Church.
    While the issue of shrimp became a topic of discussion due to my husband’s statements to the Forward, in the years that we were married, I kept a strictly kosher home according to the standards of my husband instruction. Out of the house, we ate kosher as well. It wasn’t until my husband became unfaithful, either emotionally or sexually, that he claimed “not religious enough”, as a way of trying to legalize his behavior to myself, his children, our families and community.
    Our divorce is now complete and the Get has been delivered. With time, myself and our families will heal. Sometimes, what seems like the worst thing that could ever happen to you, the thing that tears your heart to shreds, becomes a new beginning and something that you may, in the end, be thankful for. Leah, Alex and myself were victims of Ephraims deceipt, but we could at least look at ourselves in the mirror and know the truth.

  • Diana Rubinger is my Mother. Ephraim Rubinger, the Rabbi who left his wife for a nun was my Step Father. This whole thing was so painful for my entire family, and the fact that it was so painful made it that much worse. The fact that most of you are discussing the ethical issue of eating shrimp, and not the fact that Ephraim and the nun fell in love while corisponding through email even though he was married, and she was devoted to her church! This is not a love story, there is no happy ending for anyone involved. Everyone lost a lot because of the affair. Everyone including the Eph and the Sister Seraphima. My Mom is not the villan or the one to blame for the demise of her maggiage. Even if she did enjoy shrimp every now and then. Give me a break. She didn’t have an affair, he did. He left his family, including his son for someone who has had so many different iddentities. Frombeing a flaminco dancer to a buddist to a nun, and now a Jew. I don’t know her, but I don’t think she knows herself.

  • But wait, never mind a poor shrimp and wife.
    EVEN bigger prohibition, for a Jew, is to have a sex with non-jewish female.So, Rabbi pumping a nun is subject to big punishment.

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