Rodef Shalom will not renew longtime rabbi’s contract
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TransitionsAlleged 'workplace culture concerns'

Rodef Shalom will not renew longtime rabbi’s contract

Rabbi Aaron Bisno has served the congregation as its senior rabbi since 2004.

Rodef Shalom Congregation. (Photo courtesy of Rodef Shalom Congregation)
Rodef Shalom Congregation. (Photo courtesy of Rodef Shalom Congregation)

Rodef Shalom Congregation will not renew Rabbi Aaron Bisno’s contract, the congregation’s Board of Trustees told members in a March 7 email.
The decision came after “having the opportunity to review, discuss, and deliberate over the results of the independent investigation conducted following employee complaints,” the email said.

Bisno was placed on administrative leave late last year. Congregants were told in a Nov. 30 email that Bisno had taken a leave of absence “to have some time away from work.”

In a Feb. 11 email to congregants, the board provided more details.

“Late last year, we were put into a difficult position when personnel allegations were brought forth relative to Rabbi Bisno and employees communicated workplace culture concerns,” the Feb. 11 email said. Details of the allegations, including the names of those who made the claims, were not shared in the email to “protect the employees’ confidentiality,” consistent with Rodef Shalom’s personnel policies.

The congregation engaged a firm outside Pittsburgh to “conduct an independent, thorough, and objective investigation,” the Feb. 11 email continued. That firm interviewed current and former employees, as well as Bisno.

Bisno has served as the senior rabbi of Rodef Shalom since 2004.

In its March 7 email, the board said that after the investigation, the congregation reached out to Bisno through each party’s respective counsel, “to initiate discussions about, and try to amicably resolve, Rabbi Bisno’s rabbinic transition. At this point, those efforts have failed to yield the cooperation we had hoped for.”

The March 7 email further stated that the board was informed through Bisno’s legal counsel that “he plans to sue the Congregation’s Board of Trustees and individual Trustees for defamation.”

“Although some congregants have requested more details about what has transpired, we want to reiterate that the Congregation is bound to protect the confidentiality of employees who raised complaints, and now the threat of litigation further limits our communication with the Congregation.”

Bisno declined to comment.

The board plans to launch a national search for an interim rabbi to work with Rabbi Sharyn Henry, who has served the congregation since 1999.

“Finding additional rabbinic leadership for Rodef Shalom is our utmost priority, and in the meantime, Rabbi [Jessica] Locketz will continue to work with us in an increased capacity,” the board wrote.

“We understand that this is a grieving process for us all, especially those who have celebrated special and meaningful moments with Rabbi Bisno,” the email continued. “We can assure you this has been an equally difficult matter for the congregants and past presidents who comprise our Board of Trustees, all of whom have developed relationships with Rabbi Bisno over the years.” PJC

Toby Tabachnick

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