JTA — The owner of the Washington Commanders football team, Dan Snyder, was unable to appear for a deposition on the sexual harassment scandal surrounding his team on July 6 or 8 because of a trip to Israel to observe his mother’s yahrzeit, the ceremony marking the anniversary of her death, his rabbi claimed.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform had summoned Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to appear as part of an investigation into the Commanders’ work culture and Snyder’s response to several complaints.
In a letter obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Snyder’s attorney Karen Patton Seymour said that the owner was traveling to Israel, but would be available for video testimony on July 28 or 29. After Snyder missed the first hearing on June 22, claiming that he had asked for a delay, the committee had offered the dates of July 6 and 8.
“Given that these plans are part of religious observances honoring his mother’s memory on the one-year anniversary of her passing, Mr. Snyder’s trip to Israel cannot be rescheduled,” Seymour said in the letter.
Multiple women employees in executive positions with the team have accused their coworkers of sexual harassment. According to a document released in June by New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney, the House committee’s chair, Snyder conducted a “shadow investigation” to discredit their allegations, which involved hiring private investigators to intimidate witnesses.
The NFL fined the team $10 million and Snyder stepped down from day-to-day operations after the investigation was announced last July.
In a letter to Maloney, Snyder’s rabbi, Sholom Raichik, wrote that the Snyder family had been planning a trip to Israel over the course of the past year. A yahrzeit is usually marked with a ceremony at home and occasionally the synagogue, but Raichik said this year’s anniversary coincides with the completion of a commissioned Torah scroll by a scribe in Israel to honor Snyder’s late mother, Arlene Snyder.
Republican Representative James Comer of Kentucky, who is a ranking member on the Oversight Committee, was also sent the letter from the rabbi.
Raichik wrote that the services he and Dan Snyder planned for the Israel trip will “encompass most of July and into August.”
Raichik also said that representatives from the Snyder family informed Maloney on multiple occasions about the yahrzeit observance and offered several alternative testimony dates, “including appearing remotely from Israel.”
“I understand that many of these Jewish traditions may be unfamiliar to you and your staff,” Raichik wrote to Maloney. “The staff’s insistence that Mr. Snyder disrupt his observances to participate in proceedings before your committee reflects an insensitivity to sacred Jewish traditions.”
A committee spokesperson told JTA that Snyder failed to appear voluntarily at the Committee’s hearing in June and refused to allow his attorney to accept service of a subpoena.