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

(page 2 of 2)

Just last week, the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, resigned his post after bloggers revealed that he had plagiarized parts of at least two books and lied about his academic credentials. Over the last few days, the New York media have been abuzz about the possible reentry into politics of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat who resigned after tweeting a lewd photo of himself and then lying about it.

In Broyde’s case, the rabbi appeared to lack the sophistication for a successful Internet ruse. Confronted with evidence that the man who posted online and wrote to journals as Goldwasser was a false persona that Broyde had concocted, Broyde initially denied the charges. Asked why his personal Internet Protocol addresses matched those of correspondence from Goldwasser, Broyde reportedly said he didn’t know what IP addresses were.

Using the fake name, Broyde gained access to the Rabbinic Fellowship, a grouping of liberal-minded Orthodox rabbis founded in 2008 by Rabbi Avi Weiss, at a time when the organization was in its infancy and did not have rigorous membership standards. After the formalization of membership procedures the following year, efforts were made to verify Goldwasser’s identity. When the effort failed, Broyde’s alter ego was booted from the organization.

Prior to that, Goldwasser had engaged in several intellectual debates with other rabbis in Jewish publications. He was even mentioned in the preface to the 2009 Koren prayer book as one of the rabbis who had aided in its publication.

Pressed about the Goldwasser character by The Jewish Channel, Broyde initially offered several biographical details, including that Goldwasser had been a friend of Broyde’s father at a yeshiva in the 1950s and subsequently had moved to Israel.

Ultimately, Broyde confessed and issued several apologies – sort of.

In a letter to the past president of the Rabbinic Fellowship, Rabbi Barry Gelman, and in a posting to the blog Hirhurim-Musings, Broyde apologized and noted several times that his behavior was “inappropriate.” But he also downplayed his actions.

In the Hirhurim post, Broyde admitted that he had erred in using the fake name to join a professional organization, an action for which he said he was “truly and genuinely sorry.” But on the wider use of a pseudonym, Broyde wrote that he did not find this particularly harmful, noting that writing under an assumed name has a long history in Jewish discourse.

The wider rabbinic community has seen the matter quite differently. RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin told JTA that he found the charges against Broyde “disturbing.” The Rabbinic Fellowship said Broyde had violated the group’s “sacred” space.

“As a prominent dayan of the BDA, rabbi and posek, Rabbi Broyde’s actions are all the more saddening and shocking,” the fellowship said in a statement, using the Hebrew terms for religious judge and decisor of Jewish law. “Honesty and yashrut [integrity] must be the hallmarks of all Jews and especially all who occupy positions of leadership in the community.”

Broyde declined to be interviewed for this story.


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!
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • 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.