(AKA: Sam Mendelowitz, Samuel H. Medelowitz)
Licensed Marriage Counselor
Rabbi - Ridgefield Park, NJ
Rabbi - Hackensack, NJ
(2009) Hollywood, FL
At times Rabbi Mendelowitz promoted himself as a psychologist, even though he was not licensed to do so.
Rabbi Samuel Mendelowitz surrendered his marriage counseling license following charges of sexual misconduct with clients. Each sought his help for emotional and marital problems, and instead wound up feeling exploited. They finally banded together to file complaints asserting that he had repeatedly pressured them to remove their clothing, submit to fondling, and engage in other sexual activity. Mendelowitz denied wrongdoing , but he didn't fight the charges.
Mendelowitz was born in 1926. He earned a bachelor's degree from New York University in 1966 and a master's degree in counseling from New York Theological Seminary in 1969. He was ordained a rabbi in 1952 by the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Brooklyn.
The complaint states that while Mendelowitz referred to himself as "Dr. Mendelowitz," his doctorate in philosophy comes from a Florida university not recognized by the New Jersey Education Department.
Table of Contents:
- Classified Ad (09/28/1975)
- The Matchmakers A Jewish Art In Resurgence (07/05/1987)
- Celeste Holm Picked For 2nd Term (08/07/1987)
- Red, Green, And Blues Holidays Can Be A Time When Hearts Grow Heavy (12/1-/1987)
- Obituaries (03/15/1990)
- Women File Sex Charges Against Teaneck Rabbi (06/16/1994)
- Accused Rabbi Sat on State Panel - Counselor Quit Ammid Sex Case (06/18/1994)
- If Therapy Goes Awry (07/28/1994)
- 100 years ago -- 1909 75 years ago -- 1934 50 years ago -- 1959 25 years ago -- 1984 (07/28/1994)
By Michael J. Kelly, Record Staff Writer
The Record (New Jersey) - July 5, 1987
It's 9:15 a.m. and Norman, the English teacher from Los Angeles, is on the phone. He wants a wife preferably one like himself, an Orthodox Jew over 40.
Pearl Lebovic, Morristown's Jewish matchmaker, listens sympathetically. "I'll see what I can do," she says, and invites Norman to be interviewed.
Such phone calls are common these days for Mrs. Lebovic and her husband, Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic. In synagogues and Jewish singles clubs around the country, word has spread that the Lebovics, members of the Lubavitcher Hasidic Jewish group, have a knack for making successful matches.
The couple introduced a divorced mother of two in Milwaukee to a divorced father of two in Montreal. For a 66-year-old widow, they found a 72-year-old widower. And after finding a husband for a Brooklyn woman, the Lebovics got a call from the woman's widowed mother, who was seeking a mate for herself.
Commonplace among Eastern Europe's Jews beginning in the Middle Ages, matchmaking all but disappeared in the 20th Century as Jews left small towns and as single Jewish men and women were allowed to mingle more on their own.
But with 30 percent of Jews now marrying outside the faith and Jewish singles claiming it's harder than ever to find Jewish mates, matchmaking is making a modest comeback.
Among Brooklyn's Hasidic groups and in other Orthodox neighborhoods in the metropolitan area, 25 to 30 Jewish matchmakers or shadchanim practice their skills, according to estimates from rabbis and matchmakers.
The Lebovics are among the few shadchanim who cater not just to Hasidic and Orthodox Jews, but to Conservative, Reform, and nonreligious Jews, say rabbis and matchmakers. Indeed, Mrs. Lebovic says, the largest segment of the 2,000 singles in her files does not go to synagogue regularly or observe Jewish dietary laws. Nonetheless, they want Jewish mates.
"They have tried everything. So they may as well try matchmaking," Mrs. Lebovic says.
David Goldring, a 23-year-old Orthodox Jewish accountant who grew up in Fair Lawn and lives in Monsey, N.Y., met his fiancee three months ago through the Lebovics and is scheduled to marry next month. "The pressure of working and going to school didn't allow me enough time to go out and meet women," Goldring says. "On the first date, I felt something. "
In six years since they began, the Lebovics, who charge a $54 registration fee for each single person and ask for donations from those who marry, have had a perfect record among clients who got married: 100 marriages, no divorces.
Last year, the Lebovics received $7,000 from the East Orange-based Jewish Community Federation of MetroWest to offset the couple's $800-a-month telephone bill and other business costs.
In awarding the grant, the federation cited such factors as the increasing rate of marriages between Jews and non-Jews and the inability of Jewish singles to "initiate lasting relationships," says federation Director Marvin Schotland.
But for all their success, the Lebovics say theirs is a frustrating trade. Single people are "crying out for help," says the 39-year-old Mrs. Lebovic, mother of six unmarried children, ages 6 to 19.
A common problem, she says, is that singles set their sights too high.
"Some will not settle for anyone who is not a Size 8," Mrs. Lebovic says. "I tell people these externals change, but a good, kind heart never changes. Ten years later the wife might gain weight. What are you going to do, throw her out? "
Rabbi Lebovic, a 44-year-old Talmudic scholar who teaches at Morristown's Rabbinical College of America, adds this advice:
"If you don't have a reason not to marry someone, then get married. "
Norman Skolnick, a 33-year-old Conservative Jew and social worker for the Middlesex County Welfare Board, turned to the Lebovics after failing to find a wife in three years of frequenting singles bars, dances, and dating services. "The settings weren't proper," he says. Nine months after signing with the Lebovics, Skolnick was engaged.
Matchmaking's newfound popularity does not surprise Jeffrey S. Gurock, professor of American Jewish history at Yeshiva University in Manhattan. "The matchmakers in the past did a pretty good job," he says.
Samuel Mendelowitz, a rabbi who formerly led congregations in Ridgefield Park and Hackensack and who is a family therapist at Bergen Pines County Hospital, contends that matchmaking has psychological benefits. "It means that people are getting nurtured," he says. "Matchmaking is just another term for helping people find themselves. "
According to Jewish tradition, every Jew has a soulmate of the opposite sex. Orthodox Jews believe it is the job of a matchmaker to be an intermediary for God and unite souls through marriage.
When he was introduced to Cindy Kolt of Morristown, Alan I. Shapiro, a 29-year-old Orthodox Jew who runs the kosher restaurant and catering service at Tenafly's Jewish Community Center on the Palisades, remembers thinking, "This was my other half, the other half of my soul. "
Ms. Kolt, who met Shapiro in April and is scheduled to marry him in September, says she too felt an instant attraction. Also, she says, Shapiro fulfilled two basic requirements: "He's tall and he's Jewish. "
Rabbi Lebovic says helping Jews find their basheret ("destined one") can be "like looking for a needle in a haystack. " He says that despite all the theological underpinnings, "a good matchmaker is really a good friend. "
Nechama Baumgarten, a Brooklyn Hasidic matchmaker for 20 years, adds: "Putting two people together is more difficult than when the Jews crossed the Red Sea. "
Like the Lebovics, Mrs. Baumgarten says matches are made in heaven. "You're matched before you're born," she says. "So how is it that they get married? That's where I come in. "
Another Brooklyn matchmaker, Shimshon Stock, contends that many singles fear AIDS and need a matchmaker to screen dates.
"A guy called me from Nevada. He's 39 year 1679232s old. He wants a girl between 21 and 25 who is a virgin," Stock says. "I said, `Do you want a girl who's never slept with a guy? Why do you think you're better than her? "
In the dining room where he conducts his interviews, Stock keeps a mirror for those middle-aged guys who demand to be hitched with a beautiful young woman. "I tell the guy to look in the mirror," says Stock, who then takes the opportunity to point out the man's poor qualities: a bald spot, a beer gut, stooped shoulders.
With so many nonreligious Jews as clients, the Lebovics find themselves acting not just as matchmakers but as evangelists. "This is a godly thing," Rabbi Lebovic says. "We ask them to get God involved. "
Mrs. Lebovic often counsels women to begin regularly lighting Sabbath candles each Friday night. The idea, she says, is that God will respond favorably to requests from Jews who light Sabbath candles. "The red carpet is out. The hot line is open," she says.
Mrs. Lebovic believes that lighting the candles was the key to finding a mate for one of her most difficult cases a homely, overweight West Orange woman in her late thirties who worked as a teacher.
"She called me day and night," Mrs. Lebovic recalled. "She said she was the last in her family. But I had no one for her. "
Finally, Mrs. Lebovic encouraged the teacher to light Sabbath candles and "invite God to get on your case. " Four months later, Mrs. Lebovic introduced the woman to a New Brunswick man who had requested a "slim and pretty" wife. "I didn't tell him too much about what she looked like," Mrs. Lebovic says. "They just went out, and it clicked. "
With a Bergen County psychologist, Mrs. Lebovic was even more whimsical. "I just picked a name at random, and they got married," she says.
Usually, however, the Lebovics rely on a more refined process that begins with a 45-minute interview, focusing on religious outlook and level of observance, education, age, and family goals.
If a match is made, the reward for the Lebovics is a wedding invitation. But, they say, weddings are bittersweet.
"I don't let it get to my head," says Mrs. Lebovic. "When I go back and have to look at my files, I realize it's a drop in the bucket. "
CELESTE HOLM PICKED FOR 2ND TERM
By David Blomquist, Record Trenton bureau
The Record (New Jersey) - August 7, 1987
Kean also announced the appointment of several other North Jersey residents to state panels that do not require Senate confirmation. Included were:
- Rabbi Samuel Mendelowitz of Teaneck, to continue as a member of the state Board of Marriage Counselors.
By Barbara Hoffman, Record Staff Writer
The Record (New Jersey) - December 10, 1987
The new YM-YWHA of Bergen County in Washington Township is offering a one-session workshop for single parents called "Beating the Holiday Blues. " Led by Rabbi Samuel Mendelowitz, a practicing psychologist, it meets Monday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. Cost is $3. For information call the Y at 666-6610, or Sarah Groisser at 488-6800.
The Record (New Jersey) - March 15, 1990
RACHEL MENDELOWITZ of North Miami Beach, Fla., formerly of Brooklyn, died Wednesday. She was born in Poland. Before retiring 20 years ago, she was a Hebrew teacher in Brooklyn. She was a charter member of Hadassah, Young Israel, Mizrachi, and Hillel Academy, all in North Miami Beach, and a member of the American Jewish Congress. Surviving are a son, Rabbi Samuel Mendelowitz of Teaneck; a daughter, __________ of Summit; eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Her husband, Rabbi Moses J. Mendelowitz, died in 1940. Services are today at noon at Menorah Chapels at Millburn, Union, with burial in New Montefiore Cemetery, Pine Lawn, N.Y. Donations to the Jewish National Fund, 545 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, N.J. 07666, would be appreciated.
By Susan Edelman, Consumer Writer
The Record (Bergen County, NJ) - June 16, 1994
A Teaneck rabbi and marriage counselor used some highly questionable methods in therapy sessions with clients, state officials charge.
Samuel Mendelowitz, 67, is accused of gross malpractice with four female patients between 1981 and 1992. He allegedly pressured women to remove their blouses and touched them sexually, engaged in masturbation and oral sex with one patient, and disparaged their husbands and urged them to have extramarital sex with what he called "surrogate lovers" male patients in his group sessions.
In an agreement reached with the state Attorney General's Office and released Wednesday, Mendelowitz admits no wrongdoing. But he agreed to permanently surrender the state marriage-counseling license he has held since 1970. He is barred from applying for reinstatement.
Mendelowitz did not return phone messages Wednesday. His lawyer, Edward A. Wiewiorka of West Orange, said Mendelowitz "denies everything."
"He surrendered his license. It's over," Wiewiorka said, refusing to discuss the allegations of sexual misconduct.
But Mendelowitz still faces possible criminal prosecution and scrutiny from his religious peers.
Bergen County Prosecutor John J. Fahy said Wednesday he will contact the Attorney General's Office to see whether any criminal charges should be brought. "The key question is whether it [sexual contact with clients] was consensual," Fahy said.
Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly in Manhattan, the international association of conservative rabbis, confirmed that Mendelowitz is a member in good standing. He said he had heard nothing about the allegations.
But he added that the association's ethics committee would investigate any suggestion of unethical or immoral conduct by one of its members.
Rabbi Stephen Listfield of Englewood, president of the Bergen County Board of Rabbis, an association of reform and conservative rabbis, said he was unfamiliar with Mendelowitz, who apparently is not affiliated with a congregation.
The civil complaint against Mendelowitz alleges misconduct with four female patients, identified only by their initials.
The first case involved a woman who sought therapy from Mendelowitz between 1981 and 1982 for emotional problems in her marriage. Within the first several visits, the complaint says, Mendelowitz "made comments of a sexual nature and told her that if he put his hand inside her blouse and touched her breasts she would no longer feel emotionally cold."
In subsequent visits, the complaint says, he hugged the woman "in an intimate fashion," began to "touch her sexually," and ultimately engaged in "sexual intimate touching, masturbation, and oral sex."
Three other female patients lodged allegations of sexual misconduct against Mendelowitz. One of the women complained that Mendelowitz told her "she had a beautiful body and that he would like to have an orgy with her and another female member of his therapy group." He allegedly urged her to remove her blouse, saying it would help "overcome her fear of men."
Bonnie James Sheppard, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Consumer Affairs, said Mendelowitz earned a bachelor's degree from New York University in 1966 and a master's degree in counseling from New York Theological Seminary in 1969. He was ordained a rabbi in 1952 by the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Brooklyn.
The complaint states that while Mendelowitz referred to himself as "Dr. Mendelowitz," his doctorate in philosophy comes from a Florida university not recognized by the New Jersey Education Department.
By Susan Edelman - Consumer Writer
The Record (Bergen County, NJ) - June 18, 1994
Samuel Mendelowitz, the Teaneck rabbi and marriage counselor accused of sexual misconduct with four female clients, was a member of the state panel charged with hearing consumer complaints and disciplinary matters against other counselors until he resigned his position last week.
Mendelowitz had been a member of the state Board of Marriage Counselors since 1979. The board had referred the allegations against him to an administrative law judge for a hearing, but Mendelowitz has agreed to step down from the panel and surrender his marriage-counseling license rather than fight the misconduct charges.
The 67-year-old conservative rabbi disqualified himself from board business in April 1993 after four clients had lodged complaints against him the previous month.
The women, identified only by their initials in a civil complaint brought by the state Attorney General's Office, sought therapy from Mendelowitz between 1981 and 1993. They say he pressured them to remove their clothing and engage in sexual touching. One woman says she had oral sex with Mendelowitz in his office. The women also say he disparaged their husbands and urged them to have sex with male members of his group therapy sessions.
Mendelowitz denies any misconduct, and all allegations of sexual contact.
The charges came to light earlier this week when the Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the marriage counseling board, released the agreement by Mendelowitz to give up his license. In his formal answer to the complaints, he admitted that he referred to one of his patients as a "surrogate daughter," and that he asked her to sit on his lap and remove her blouse, telling her: "If you want to be a real daughter, you'll take off your shirt and let me see who you really are."
Mendelowitz maintains the statements "were made in a therapeutic context and had no sexual connotations whatsoever," according to papers filed in response to the attorney general's complaint.
Mendelowitz has not returned phone calls seeking comment, and his lawyer, Edward A. Wiewiorka of West Orange, refused to discuss the specific allegations.
A former family therapist at Bergen Pines County Hospital and an instructor in religion and philosophy at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Mendelowitz served for nearly 15 years on the seven-member board of marriage counselors, which oversees the state's 1,105 licensed marriage counselors. His duties included attending monthly meetings, reviewing applications for licensure, discussing pending laws and regulations, hearing consumer complaints, and holding hearings on disciplinary matters.
The Attorney General's Office said it was forwarding documents in the case to Bergen County Prosecutor John J. Fahy.
By Susan Edelman
The Record (Bergen County, NJ) - July 28, 1994
When Teaneck Rabbi Samuel Mendelowitz surrendered his marriage counseling license last month following charges of sexual misconduct with clients, it stunned and saddened the state Board of Marriage Counselor Examiners. Mendelowitz, a family therapist and college instructor, had been a member of the licensing panel since 1979.But it was also a victory for four women all clients of Mendelowitz over the past 12 years. Each had sought his help for emotional and marital problems, and instead wound up feeling exploited. They finally banded together to file complaints asserting that he had repeatedly pressured them to remove their clothing, submit to fondling, and engage in other sexual activity. Mendelowitz denied wrongdoing , but he didn't fight the charges.
Although accusations of such blatant abuse are rare , the case is a reminder that clients of marriage counselors and other psychotherapists should never feel bullied or controlled by any therapist , nor obligated to stay in uncomfortable or fruitless sessions. "Clients can lose some of their ability to think things through because of their dependence on the therapist," said Annette Friedberg, a Fair Lawn marriage counselor. "We're not gurus. We're human beings who supposedly have expert knowledge in the field of dynamics, emotional problems, and personal interaction." But assertiveness can be difficult when people are depressed, anxious, or suffering from low self-esteem.
Many see therapists as authority figures. The women who brought the complaints against Mendelowitz said he berated them when they balked at his idea of therapy, telling them that disrobing and engaging in sexual contact with him could help overcome their emotional coldness or "fear of men." He reportedly called one woman his "surrogate daughter," and promised to "take care of you for the rest of your life." He also denigrated their husbands, they said, and urged them to have sex with other men. Brenda Welles, a Madison social worker and officer of the New Jersey chapter of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, said good therapists do not tell clients what to do, but help them make their own decisions. "Never should you be in a position of having to prove yourself," she said. Welles believes good marriage counselors treat both spouses or at least try to meet an uncooperative partner. The counselor should act as a "neutral third party," and never disparage an absent husband or wife, she said. And touching between therapist and client - -even an "innocent hug" -- is a bad idea , she contends. " It just opens too many possibilities for misunderstanding." Welles suspects sex between therapists and clients may be underreported. The last time the marriage counseling board cited sexual misconduct was in 1989, when it suspended a therapist's license for five years after he admitted having an intimate relationship with a female client. The board ordered the counselor to undergo psychotherapy. Patients should see themselves as consumers Welles said. They do the hiring and pay the tab -- a 50-minute session costs an average of $80.
"If you feel uncomfortable with your therapist, it' s time to look for a new one," she said. The state board in Newark (504-6415) can tell you whether therapists are licensed, their level of education and training, and whether they have been publicly disciplined. Over the past five years, one therapist was ordered to repay fraudulent insurance claims. Another was arrested for illegal drugs and weapons. For other suggestions, the therapy association offers a brochure, "A Consumer' s Guide to Marriage and Family Therapy." For a free copy, call (609) 596-2878.
100 years ago -- 1909 75 years ago -- 1934 50 years ago -- 1959 25 years ago -- 1984
Two important stretches of roadway will be built this year. Nelson J. Clayton, chairman of the goods roads committee of the Schuylkill County Motor Club, announced. The road from Rough and Ready in Upper Mahantongo Township to Pitman in Eldred Township has been officially approved. Another important road will be built in Rush Township. This stretch extends from Ginther's Gas Station near the Lehigh Valley arc in Rush Township to the Carbon County line where it joins the Honesdale Road.
Rabbi Samuel Mendelowitz, who has served as the spiritual leader of Oheb Zedeck Congregation for the past five years, will leave Pottsville and fill the pulpit in a synagogue in Hollywood, Fla.
After nearly three weeks of silence, negotiations were scheduled to resume today in a bid to end a 40-day-old strike that has shut down the Gilberton Coal Co. The strike by 100 employees at Gilberton and five subsidiary companies centers around a company effort to change work rules, to ease long-standing grievance procedures and to allow lower salaries for new employees.
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