Questions linger over Ovadia’s sudden departure from Magen David

Rabbi Haim Ovadia resigned as rabbi of Magen David Sephardic Congregation in Rockville. File photo

Rabbi Haim Ovadia has resigned from Magen David Sephardic Congregation in Rockville after a three-year tenure. But the rabbi and the congregation don’t agree on the reason.

Ovadia has led the Rockville Orthodox synagogue since July 2015. He renewed his three-year contract in April, according to Debbie Shemony, the congregation’s recording secretary. But in June he rescinded his decision, she said.

In an email to members, the congregation’s board of directors explained that they had spoken on the phone to Ovadia, who told them that he wished to “pursue other opportunities.” The email also said that Ovadia wanted to, “in time, move closer to his family in New Jersey.”

The board was upset, Shemony said. “We extended a contract to him for three years. We were very disappointed and disheartened that he changed his mind. He did wonderful work in our community.”

Ovadia told WJW that he and his family would not move to New Jersey. Rather, he hoped to move to a local neighborhood with a concentration of Shabbat-observant Jews, such as Kemp Mill in Silver Spring.

“I’ve been working for many years in communities that were not so observant, and I need my own Shabbat experience for my family,” he said.

In Kemp Mill, “you see dozens of people walking to shul and it gives you a good feeling about Shabbat, and a rabbi needs that,” he said.

Ovadia said he will not seek another pulpit, but will focus on educational writing and podcasts and music.

Asked why he left the congregation abruptly, Ovadia said he didn’t want to comment “for personal reasons,” but that he enjoyed his three years as the rabbi of Magen David.

Board members are scheduled to meet with congregants next week to discuss the circumstances of Ovadia’s departure and plans for a successor.

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