Albany temple fires cantor
Letter cites episode of "inappropriate behavior" as prosecutor takes look
By MARC PARRY, Staff writer
July 19, 2006
ALBANY -- Temple Israel fired its longtime cantor for "inappropriate behavior" toward a member of the congregation, and the Albany County district attorney's office confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the matter.
The Albany temple's board of trustees voted unanimously to terminate Cantor Philip Friedman on May 31, Temple Israel President Gavin Setzen said in a prepared statement responding to questions from the Times Union. Synagogue trustees reported the episode to law enforcement officials on the advice of counsel, he said.
Setzen declined to provide details about Friedman's inappropriate behavior, citing an ongoing investigation by the district attorney's office.
Friedman, 65, became cantor of Temple Israel in 1992. The 57-year-old temple on New Scotland Avenue is Albany's largest Conservative synagogue. Friedman served congregations in Queens and Long Island before he moved to Albany.
A cantor chants the liturgy of a service. Friedman also worked with students at the temple.
"Relieving Cantor Friedman was a wrenching, painful decision," said a June 6 letter to Temple Israel congregants co-signed by Setzen. "The board, however, had no alternative, given Cantor Friedman's conduct."
Mark Harris, bureau chief of the district attorney's homicide and special victims unit, said information "was provided to the district attorney's office, and there is an ongoing investigation of that matter."
Harris said he is handling the probe but declined to give any details.
Special victims unit cases range from domestic violence to child abuse to failing to register as a sex offender, Harris said.
Friedman, reached at home, had no comment.
The letter to congregants announcing Friedman's departure said temple leaders would not give more details about the incident at this time "out of respect for the privacy and confidentiality of the family involved."
"Should anyone have had any concerns about Cantor Friedman's conduct, please advise us as soon as possible," the letter said.
The synagogue's Web site now lists Rogerio Marx as cantor.
Marc Parry can be reached at 454-5057 or by e-mail at email@example.com.