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Michael Broyde, A Leading Orthodox Rabbi, Leaves Religious Court After Deception
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Rabbi Michael Broyde, a prominent Orthodox rabbi who admitted to creating a fake alternate identity, is no longer a member of the Beth Din of America.

Broyde, who admitted last week that he had used a false name to gain access to a rabbinic email list and to write letters to various journals, requested and was given an idefinite leave of absence, the court said Monday.

“Rabbi Broyde has admitted to behavior that the Rabbinical Council finds extremely disturbing,” said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, the president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the court's parent body. “We have determined and announced by the Beth Din of America, our affiliated rabbinical court, that he has ceased to serve as a dayan [judge] immediately and indefinitely.”

A law professor at Emory University and a senior fellow at the Atlanta school's Center for Law and Religion, Broyde is considered one of the Orthodox world's leading judicial authorities and an expert on the intersection of religious and secular law.

On Friday, an investigation by The Jewish Channel revealed that Broyde had used a pseudonym to gain access to an email list maintained by the liberal International Rabbinic Fellowship and to tout his own work in various forums. Under the name Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser, Broyde published letters in journals and engaged in online debates with other rabbis. He also gained access to private deliberations among IRF rabbis.

After initially denying the charges against him, Broyde quickly changed direction and issued several apologies.

"I realize that being an IRF member through a pseudonym was inappropriate," Broyde wrote in a letter to a past IRF president, Rabbi Barry Gelman. "I am sorry. Please understand that no malice was intended and my participation was not intended to interfere with the growth or success of the IRF.

But in a subsequent interview with Haaretz, Broyde seemed to downplay the seriousness of his misdeeds.

"I don’t understand the issue," Broyde said. "That’s the truth.”

In a separate apology posted on the website Hirhurim-Musings, Broyde again acknowledged the "error in judgment" and said "it does strike me as somewhat inappropriate for me, and I particularly regret joining any professional organization pseudonymously."

He also noted that writing on Torah issues using a pseudonym is an "old practice" and has support from religious sources.

In its statement, the Beth Din of America said "Rabbi Broyde was instrumental in the growth and development of the Beth Din, and served as its Menahel (Director) from 1997 to 1998.  He has been at the forefront of efforts to apply Jewish law and halachic principles to the resolution of disputes. We thank Rabbi Broyde for his numerous contributions to the Beth Din over the past many years."

Last Update:

04/18/2013 - 15:34
Rabbi Michael Broyde, Rabbinical Council of America
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Too much is being made of this episode. Yes, there was a lapse of good judgement - his participation in the newly formed rabbinic association is an example. Yet, we all recognize that humans are severely flawed - even all rabbis. Rabbi Broyde has offered contrition. That in my estimation is sufficient. Actually, what was his most significant flaw in this entire episode? Given his contention that the rough and tumble Jewish blogosphere necessitates posting anonymity, he would have been better serves entitling his Hirhurim essay "My Nom de guerre Exposed".

I hope none of Broyde's “socks” sent out any satirical emails, because that would be a major crime with international repercussions. At any rate, since there is actually a Herschel Goldwasser who lives in New York, maybe the authorities should have Rabbi Broyde arrested and charged with “identity theft”? After all, he used the name of another to influence a debate, thereby obtaining a “benefit.” For details on exactly how the Internet cops get these cyber-socks in New York, see the Raphael Golb trial website:

Read the trial transcripts. See how Raphael Golb’s Dead Sea Scroll socks were exposed by the prosecutor, one after the other. Strange detail, though: the prosecution was allowed to argue that Golb made “false accusations,” but Golb was blocked from introducing any evidence that his accusations were true, because “neither good faith nor truth is a defense to the crimes charged.” Great stuff! Hopefully they will get Broyde on this too, and every other sock anyone is using out there.

Who did he damage? Whose reputation did he intend to smear?

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