Magen David Sephardic Congregation confirmed this week that Rabbi Haim Ovadia, who led the synagogue for three years, has passed on the offer to stay with the Rockville, Maryland, congregation.
According to Debbie Shemony, recording secretary and treasurer of Magen David’s board, the original plan was to extend the rabbi’s contract for an additional three years.
After agreeing to the terms in April, however, Rabbi Ovadia passed on the offer in June. He no longer wanted to be a full-time rabbi and wanted to be closer to his family in New Jersey, she said.
“We would like to formally apologize for an email sent to you stating that our beloved Rabbi had resigned. It was sent without authorization of the board and without authorization of the Rabbi,” the second email stated. “The Rabbi, himself, was never considering resignation. He was in fact considering leaving within six months to a year, allowing for a smooth transition. He has not resigned and is still in communication with the board according to a concerned community member who wants the community to know about the ongoing negotiations between Rabbi Ovadia and the board.”
Both emails were signed “The Alliance of Concerned Magen David Community Members of Magen David Community Alerts.”
Shemony said that while they are not too concerned about the emails coming from the false address, (there have not been any additional emails after the one sent on July 5), they are more concerned about rumors and misinformation. She went on to clarify that Rabbi Ovadia has in fact formally resigned and that he did so in June before the emails were sent.
“Factually speaking, Rabbi Ovadia has resigned,” she said.
“We were disheartened and disappointed to learn of his resignation but we certainly don’t have a contentious relationship with him.”
In response to the unofficial email messages, the synagogue board sent a follow-up email urging congregants to ignore the unsanctioned messages. They are also planning on having an open meeting for members after Tisha B’Av to clear up any misinformation about Rabbi Ovadia’s resignation and their plans for the future.
“I think at this point we’re trying to put the community first and are hoping that the meeting and open forum after Tisha B’av will shed light and present facts in the hope of curtailing any future misinformation,” Shemony said.
By Emily Minton