Alana Shultz, a former program director at Congregation Shearith Israel, reportedly the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, is suing the Upper West Side synagogue for allegedly dismissing her because she had premarital sex.
In a 13-page complaint filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court, Shultz claims that her employers terminated her position with the Orthodox synagogue, known as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, upon discovering that she was 19 weeks pregnant when she got married last June.
"After working tirelessly at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue for the last 11 years I am beyond saddened they’ve forced me to file this lawsuit, which I hope will help other women avoid what they did to me during what should be a time for celebration and joy,” Shultz said in a statement.
According to the complaint, Shultz told her supervisor, Barbara Reiss, about her pregnancy before she left for her honeymoon. When she returned to work, the congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, “had his head turned to the side, looking away from her,” when she was told that her position was being terminated due to "restructuring."
The complaint also notes that after hiring a lawyer, the congregation offered to reinstate her, which she declined.
Shultz’s lawsuit claims that Congregation Shearith Israel, founded in 1654, “failed miserably in their attempt to merge traditional Judaism with modern civil laws.” She is suing on the grounds that the synagogue violated the Family Medical Leave Act and New York City and state human rights law.
Shultz served as the synagogue’s program director from 2004 to 2014. According to the synagogue’s website, she has a master’s degree in Jewish studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and also serves as an adviser for crowd-funding site Indiegogo.