Spielberg's rabbi in adultery storm

By Paul Berger, September 16, 2010
Rabbi Marc Schneier allegedly kissing his congregant Gitty Leiner

Rabbi Marc Schneier allegedly kissing his congregant Gitty Leiner

Last year, Tobi Rubinstein-Schneier bought her husband Rabbi Marc Schneier an endangered Asian lion as a 50th birthday present.

This year, it is the high-flying, 51-year-old rabbi's career that is endangered as his wife files for divorce in a bitter lawsuit.

Rabbi Schneier is being accused of an affair with a woman in her thirties, which resulted in her pregnancy. As a result of the allegations, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the world's largest Orthodox rabbinical group, is now considering expelling him from their organisation.

Rabbi Schneier founded the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, a high society Long Island retreat, 20 years ago. Known as a "rabbi to the stars", he has given spiritual guidance to billionaire Ronald Lauder and Steven among others.

Newsweek has ranked Rabbi Schneier among the 50 most influential rabbis in America since it began compiling a list three years ago.

Ms Rubinstein-Schneier is the prominent rabbi's fourth wife. The couple broke up earlier this year, after three years of marriage.

Just last year, they were pictured happily together at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, where Ms Rubinstein-Schneier made a donation in return for having an Asian lion named after her husband.

When their marriage dissolved this year, Rabbi Schneier told congregants that his erratic behaviour was a result of bipolar disorder.

That admission caused Rabbi Schneier's third wife, Fay Toby Schneier, to sue for full custody of the couple's 11-year-old son.

Meanwhile, Ms Rubinstein-Schneier accused Rabbi Schneier of cheating on her with Hampton Synagogue congregant Gitty Leiner. Ms Rubinstein-Schneier hired a private detective who trailed her husband to Israel, where he photographed the rabbi and Ms Leiner kissing.

The photographs were submitted to a New York court along with a 20-page written complaint.

Ms Rubinstein-Schneier's lawyer, Susan Bender, declined to comment.

But court papers, obtained by the New York Daily News, accuse Rabbi Schneier of carrying on the affair while he was still living with his wife.

They also claim that Rabbi Schneier arranged a house for his lover opposite his Hamptons synagogue and that he got his lover pregnant.

Some members of Rabbi Schneier's congregation say that they are not alarmed by his behaviour and stand behind him.

Nevertheless, the Rabbinical Council of America has convened an internal ethics committee, known as a Vaad Hakovod, to investigate whether Rabbi Schneier's behaviour warrants expulsion from the RCA.

Rabbi Basil Herring, the executive vice president of the RCA, said he could not comment pending the outcome of the Vaad Hakovod deliberations.

Rabbi Schneier was not available for comment.

Last updated: 2:43pm, November 2 2010