Take the case of Rabbi Marc Schneier, 57, the founder and leader of the Orthodox Hampton Synagogue, and a man who has been married and divorced five times. Schneier is the 18th generation of a rabbinic line, and when he married in January 1981 at the age of 21, to 20-year-old Elissa Shay, the ceremony was officiated by the chief rabbis of Israel and Romania.
At the time, he was a rabbinic student at Yeshiva University, while she was a Brooklyn native studying at Barnard College. Their marriage lasted less than a year.
Young and hopeful, Schneier wed again a few years later, this time to Esther Melamed. Friends believed the marriage was an unhappy one, and the couple divorced in 1992. It was during this marriage that Schneier founded the Hampton Synagogue, an upscale house of worship catering to the well-heeled, often elderly, residents and visitors to the Hamptons.
Schneier took a slightly unusual approach to leadership of the congregation, appointing his own board rather than letting members vote or select representatives.
In 1993, Schneier wed again, this time to Toby Gotesman. The daughter of a prominent Orthodox family from Portland, Oregon, the couple had an exclusive 90-guest ceremony at Gracie Mansion, and friends felt that the union was a good one for both.
Gotesman seemed to enjoy the couple’s lifestyle of entertaining and partying, and the marriage produced a son, Brendan, now 17. In 2005, rumors surfaced that Schneier was cheating with a divorced fashion designer, Tobi Rubinstein, which led to the couple’s divorce. Gotesman went on to write a fictional memoir of the experience, called “Bad Charisma.”
Gotesman told the New York Post that at the time of their split, Schneier was making around $800,000 in total compensation, including a half million dollar salary and mortgage payments toward his $3 million, 5,000-square-foot Westhampton Beach home.
In 2006, Schneier took his fourth walk down the aisle, wedding Rubinstein at the now-closed New York Synagogue, which Schneier also ran. The small 25-person wedding was the start of a celebrated union that included the gift of a 400-pound endangered Asian lion to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo to commemorate Schneier’s 50th birthday.
Once again, infidelity came between the two when Rubinstein hired a private investigator to look into Schneier’s activities.
The couple divorced in 2010 after Schneier was photographed in the Holy Land with synagogue member Gitty Leiner, during what Schneier had told his wife was a business trip.
In 2013, Leiner and Schneier married, producing a daughter they named Brooke, now two. What came next appears to have been the last straw for his congregation. When his infidelity again broke up his marriage in 2015 and his wife and baby daughter left him, his Orthodox community could no longer stomach Schneier’s behavior.