The national chairman of an ethics committee for Reform rabbis calls a Santa Fe man’s acceptance of a job with a local synagogue “very disturbing.”
The rabbi is Martin Levy, who works at Santa Fe’s Congregation Beit Tikva, and as an ice skating instructor at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis suspended Levy in 2007 following a complaint and lawsuit involving him.
Rabbi Stephen Einstein, the chairman of CCAR’s ethics committee, says Levy’s decision to continue working as a rabbi flies in the face of the organization’s attempt to resolve a “very serious” suspension through guidance and rehabilitation. The suspension, Einstein says, evolved from a specific case in which Levy “was found to have violated the section of our code of ethics that has to do with proper sexual boundaries with an adult.”
Einstein tells SFR that Levy’s 2007 suspension was for a minimum of five years, and is the second-most-serious form of punishment the CCAR metes out.
“Out of 1,800 members, we only have a few rabbis who are suspended,” Einstein says. “Rabbi Levy was suspended for very serious matters.”
Levy at first agreed to an in-person interview with SFR, but then canceled and deferred questions to Paul Grace, a lawyer and the president of Beit Tikva.
“It’s really a legal matter that’s being handled by a number of attorneys, and it’s basically a confidential situation,” Levy says. “It’s a private matter.”
Gail Rapoport, the executive director of Beit Tikva, says Levy “was completely vetted, and there are no problems.”
Levy was ordained from Hebrew Union College in 1980, according to Beit Tikva’s February newsletter. Before moving to Santa Fe in 2009, he worked in upstate New York; Houston, Texas; and Sun Valley, Idaho.
In February 2006, Levy filed a lawsuit in Idaho’s 5th Judicial District Court against Devon Robertson, a woman with whom, according to court documents, Levy had an affair. In his initial filing, Levy requested a temporary restraining order and that the case’s entire record be sealed. But in 2007, the case was unsealed. Court documents reveal a maelstrom of competing accusations.
According to Levy’s complaint, Robertson “e-mailed [Levy’s] wife and falsely accused her husband of multiple acts of infidelity, homosexuality, bisexuality, dishonesty, lack of integrity and more.”
Robertson, however, disputes that claim. According to her attorney, Shan Perry, Robertson informed Levy’s then-employer, the Wood River Jewish Community, as well as CCAR, of Levy’s infidelity when she began to suspect that he was sleeping not only with her and his wife, but also with another woman. In a counterclaim, she accuses Levy of defamation for claiming she has herpes and calling her a “stalker.”
In response to Robertson’s claim, “[Levy] ends up getting suspended for five years based on what she provided to [CCAR]—but then he files a complaint saying she made it all up, she’s lying, she’s a stalker, all this stuff,” Perry tells SFR. “We obviously disagree with that.”
(Levy’s attorney on the case, listed in the case file as T Jason Wood of Thomsen Stephens Law Offices in Idaho, did not return SFR’s call prior to press time.)
CCAR’s suspension prohibits Levy from serving as a rabbi in congregations that belong to the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational membership organization. Einstein says Levy resigned from CCAR before he took the job in July at Beit Tikva, which is unaffiliated. Then, as Rapoport puts it, “We can hire whoever we want.”
But Rabbi Marvin Schwab of Santa Fe’s Temple Beth Shalom says a CCAR suspension should give pause.
“Somebody has to be upset enough, hurt enough, distraught enough to contact the central conference and lodge a complaint,” Schwab tells SFR. A five-year-minimum suspension, he says, is “a very long suspension in my experience. That would connote something very serious.”
Grace says Beit Tikva did its due diligence—and that Levy himself brought forward the suspension.
“It’s not something he’s hiding,” Grace says. “On balance, the decision was made that this is not something we need to be concerned about.”
Einstein doesn’t agree.
“As far as the CCAR was concerned, [Levy] was not a safe individual to place in a congregation,” Einstein says. “It’s very disturbing.”