Rabbi Michael Broyde's Rapid Fall From Grace

Modern Orthodox Scholar Tarnished by 'Sockpuppet' Scheme

menachem wecker

By JTA

Published April 16, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Until last week, Michael Broyde was considered one of the most respected Orthodox rabbis in America.

A professor of law at Emory University, the author of dozens of books and articles, and a leading authority on the intersection of religious and secular law, Broyde was sought after regularly to render opinions on matters of ritual practice and Jewish ethics.

He was among the handful of members of the Beth Din of America, the centrist Orthodox community’s religious court. He reportedly was shortlisted as a candidate to replace Jonathan Sacks as the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom. The chancellor of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Norman Lamm, said Broyde possessed “the finest mind of his generation.”

Now Broyde’s reputation may be irrevocably tarnished amid revelations that for 20 years he used a fake identity to publish scores of letters in scholarly journals and online correspondence. Broyde also admitted to using the false name “Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser” to gain membership for a time in the International Rabbinic Fellowship, an association of liberal Orthodox rabbis.

The revelations were first reported last Friday by The Jewish Channel’s website. After initially denying the charges to The Jewish Channel’s reporter, Broyde quickly owned up once the article was published, sending an apology about an hour afterward to the Rabbinic Fellowship.

However, as the story was picked up by Jewish media around the world, Broyde downplayed the importance of the deception and told Haaretz he didn’t understand why the issue was such a big deal.

Now the Beth Din of America has placed Broyde on indefinite leave and the Rabbinical Council of America, the court’s parent body, is considering further measures. The Emory Law School has launched an “inquiry.”

Meanwhile, Broyde’s reputation as a scholar and ethicist has taken a beating that could be irreparable.

“The allegations regarding the conduct of Professor Michael Broyde are concerning to the Law School,” Emory said in a statement Monday. “We are currently reviewing the matter and plan to issue a statement once our inquiry is complete.”

Broyde is the latest in a string of scholars and public figures to be undone by the conventions of the Internet age.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.