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April 14, 2013

Broyde Says He Did No Wrong

Rabbi Michael BroydeWhen asked if he considered what he had done to be lying, Broyde replied, “It’s a technical untruth, so I guess you can call it lying. But it’s a well-accepted social convention.” Broyde also said that he didn't understand why what he did was wrong and admitted that he might do it again.

Rabbi Michael Broyde
Rabbi Michael Broyde

Rabbi Michael Broyde, a law professor and prominent rabbinic judge, was caught by Stephen I. Weiss of the Jewish Channel sockpuppeting – bolstering his own arguments and writing by using fake names to post comments. Broyde also used a fake name to join competing rabbinic associations and to attack opponents. And now, despite his apology issued late Friday, it turns out Broyde isn't really sorry after all, as Ha'aretz reports:

…Broyde, 48, spoke exclusively with Haaretz as soon as Shabbat ended in Atlanta, where he lives with his wife and their four children. In an interview during which he ranged from sounding befuddled about the fuss to defensive and at other times contrite, he downplayed the seriousness of his deception.

“I don’t understand the issue. That’s the truth,” he said.

He and a friend began using the Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser identity in the early 1990s, writing to Jewish journals using the name, he said. They used the name to publish in Jewish scholarly journals as diverse as Conservative Judaism and the RCA’s Tradition.

“It started as an intellectual adventure to see if we could write together on some things. We were good friends, partners on many different topics,” Broyde said.

He would not identify the friend, saying, “he has more at stake to lose than I do.”

Asked if they both had access to the Hershel Goldwasser email account, Broyde paused before saying yes. He said they stopped using the Hershel Goldwasser name “three or four years ago,” but that since then someone else has been using it. “When you have a pseudonym you can’t complain when someone else uses it,” he says.

He has, Broyde admitted, “sockpuppeted” since then, using other names to post compliments of his own blog essays. One, from “David Gold,” complimented a January 2013 essay written by Broyde on a Torah-focused blog called Hirhurim. “What a thoughtful and interesting piece by Rabbi Broyde,” wrote Gold.

The Jewish Channel article reports that there are three different names that posted laudatory comments under Broyde’s Hirhurim essays between 2011 and 2013, all of them originating from the same IP address, or unique identifiers indicating that they came from an account Broyde owns.

Asked if he will continue to sockpuppet, Broyde said, “I don’t know. I haven’t in a while. I haven’t given it any thought.”…

Lest you think Broyde is alone in not taking his lying and manipulation seriously, Broyde claims no one else of significance in his world does either.

When The Jewish Channel article appeared, Broyde said that he immediately went to speak with the dean of Emory Law School. Dean Robert Schapiro “listened attentively,” said Broyde, "but I don’t think at its core it is an Emory matter.”

But it gets even worse – Broyde claims that he has not heard from anyone at the Beth Din of America, on which he sits as a dayan (rabbinic judge) , the Rabbinical Council of America, or his employer, Emory University, since the scandal broke.

And then we have this. When asked by Ha'aretz if he considered what he had done to be lying, Broyde replied, “It’s a technical untruth, so I guess you can call it lying. But it’s a well-accepted social convention.”

And you wonder why so many people distrust and dislike rabbis?

Comments

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When you see the yarmulke, count your silverware.

It's very simple. Midvar sheker tirchak. It might be social convention and even tradition to write pseudonomously - minhag hamakom of the internet, let's say - but when confronted about an identity, one should always 'fess up cheerfully and avoid lying. The Torah does not say lo tshaker; it says "distance yourself from a false word" - and make a s'yag for the Torah etc. It's one thing to go on a forum about cars and use a false name or create literary characters, quite another in the world of Torah - a person should be extra careful when speaking from a position of spiritual authority... (hizharu b-divreikhem). v-lo kol harotzeh...etc. v-d"l.

Lo K'darkah
you put it very nicely.
though as u say, " minhag hamakom of the internet, let's say ".

While I respect this website for its tackling taboo issues like Rabbinic child abuse this is ridiculous. As far as crimes go who cares about this one? I'm sure everyone in academic circles does simular things. While it doesn't necessarily justify it why don't you stick to more imporatant issues. Good for Rabbi Broyde for showing some spunk

He is a big fan of the Muppets, so he doesn't see what's wrong with being a sockpuppet.

All the more thankful that Shmarya works to root out sockpuppeters on his blog.

Actually, this is a big deal in academic circles, where credibility is everything. Academics who do this are discredited by their peers. The president of Emory may not see this as an Emory issue b/c it seems Broyde (he really doesn't deserve the title of rabbi) did this only with this Jewish writing and not his law scholarship. But the Jewish world should recognize that someone who misrepresents himself and clearly has serious ego issues should not be trusted.

Dan Kaufman, NO ONE in academic circles publishes in scholarly journals under falsely concocted identities. For one thing, publishing under a fake name would mean not getting credit toward tenure, promotion, and pay raises.

Very occasionally someone is caught plagiarizing (like my buffoonish late colleague Stephen Ambrose or Martin Luther King, jr., for that matter) or fudging data, but this is not acceptable. People made excuses for Ambrose and King, but academic dishonesty is considered to be a serious matter and is not condoned. There have been a few instances where people deliberately submitted fake articles to try to expose problems with the peer review system, but those were "sting" operations that were immediately disclosed by their perpetrators.

I belong to a number of professional lists in my field, and no one posts there under an anonymous handle. In fact many people sign all their posts with their academic ranks and affiliations. There is one list I belong to which includes many "amateurs" (most of them loonies), and some of them do use handles, but that list is heavily moderated. The moderator approves all submissions before posting and vets new listers.

In any case, there is a huge difference between merely using a pseudonym and creating one or more fake identities to cheerlead for one's real self. I post here under the initials MM, and that is well within accepted internet behavior. But I do not create other identities and post under names like Shprintze and Shmuel for the sole purpose of pointing out how brilliant MM's postings are. This latter is what Broyde did, and it is unethical, a form of academic dishonesty. It is not illegal as far as I know, but it is not acceptable in the academic world, and if Broyde genuinely doesn't understand that, he ought not to be teaching ethics, and if he does understand that and did it anyway, he ought not to be teaching ethics.

There is a pattern that every time some ethical lapse is noted here, fraud, tax evasion, and so forth, the apologists cry, "Everyone does it. Everyone cheats on their taxes. Everyone lies on loan applications. Everyone makes false declarations in order to get food stamps and Section 8." Well, everyone doesn't, and if you live in a social circle where everyone does in fact do these things, you live in the midst of a criminal enterprise, a deeply unethical community.

Further non-apology http://torahmusings.com/2013/04/my-nom-de-plume-exposed/

Followed by a sincere, full-throated mea culpa; but by now the guy's already got credibility issues: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/rabbi-michael-broyde-identity-deception-apologies-and-forgiveness/

I think the truth is that many people are easily influenced by dumb comments on blogs. People lie in these comments sections all the time but people believe them. The pleasure of hearing bad about someone makes you want to believe it all the more. Broyd could have just as easily asked his son or any other colleague to write a comment favoring what he had to say, and it would have been a truthful sentiment coming from another person. But he did it himself probably just to save time. Many people can get so upset about doing things like this, but when the masses can possibly have their opinions so easily influenced by a couple of comments on a blog, I think it makes sense to sockpuppet or have some friend write in support of an article to prevent these same simple minded people from being influenced by equally silly negative comments. Truly intelligent people are guided by knowledge and facts wherever they come from. In other words, if many people can be so easily influenced by a second or third commenter that this will change their entire opinion on an issue such as women's prayer groups, then that's their own fault for being so simple minded, and it only makes sense for authors to do this to prevent the masses from blocking their ideas based on their own sheeple mentatlity. Its a way of giving new ideas a fighting chance in an otherwise foolish and hostile environment. If I found out Shmarya sockpuppeted on his own blog I really wouldn't care about that either. You want to sockpuppet or have a friend of relative write in support of you, I don't think there is anything truly immoral about that other than influencing the simple minded people who could just as easily be influenced in other ways.

MM, your posting is brilliant, and I'm no sock puppet.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/health/for-
scientists-an-exploding-world-of-pseudo-
academia.html?hp&_r=1&

Men who look for honor seldom get what they are achieving.

Rabbi said: What is that right way which a man should choose for himself? Whatever is an honor to him that does it and an honor to him in the sight of men.
Mishnah, Avoth 2:1

It seems to me that Rabbi Broyde should pursue a life of virtue more than he is a life of honor, which in the final analysis--is a disappointment waiting to happen.

Nm. As I said as far as crimes go this is miniscule in my mind. Never said that because everyone does it that it is right. You are missing my point. All I said is go after child abusers. To ruin somone's career over this is horrible and wrong. Just because Haaretz picked this up doesn't nake this a capital crime. Focus on other issues.

So now he doesn't deserve the title of "Rabbi"? Hyperbole. If you knew 25% of the Torah he knows I think you'd reconsider that statement. Being mevazeh talmidei chachamim all of the sudden becomes something OK to do (and somehow less egregious than writing in a pen name) - if it's on an anonymous blog.

Not to sockpuppet Dan Kaufman's post... (although I actually do know someone by that name :) I totally agree. As fas as we know he did nothing illegal. The laws as well as the ethics of the internet are evolving a lot more slowly than the internet is. In hindsight, this may have been silly for someone of his stature, although I'm not sure how long ago it became silly...as Shalom pointed out he easily could have asked a friend or relative and then it would be fine...If someone, on the other hand, asked a friend or relative to molest or steal or cheat or threaten...well that would not be fine. His career should not be over. Sometimes we get the luxury of learning from other's mistakes. He should apologize for this behavior and we should all move on, back to trying to expose and prevent the molesters, real fraudsters, thieves and various other lowlifes we come here to read and agonize about.

Tablet magazine appears to allege that Rabbi Broyde may have commented on the YU child abuse scandal (that also has implicated Rabbi Broyde) using the fake identity of David Weissman in a Jewish Week article:

http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/129385/top-rabbi-admits-fake-identity

A cursory look at the Jewish Week comments raises suspicions regarding several of the other comments:

http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/needed-independent-investigation-yu-high-school-scandal

Harry Weissberger

Hillel Gold

Miriam Goldstein

It is a very serious matter if a leading dayan in the modern Orthodox world is "sockpuppeting" on a major abuse scandal in an effort to sway public opinion by attacking a critic who wants a fully independent investigation (I do not want another Richard Joel report that whitewashes the scandal by protecting the names of people at YU who protected the child abusers at the expense of children as was done at the OU/NCSY with the Lanner report). Why would a powerful dayan with ties to his powerful friend Rabbi Lamm be allegedly commenting that Richard Joel should be conducting the investigation? This smells. Particularly in light of the allegations against Rabbi Broyde in the recent Forward article:
http://forward.com/articles/168012/yeshiva-officials-rabbis-knew-of-alleged-abuse/?p=all

http://forward.com/articles/168012/yeshiva-officials-rabbis-knew-of-alleged-abuse/?p=all
...
In 2000, former student Twersky said he approached Michael Broyde, a Modern Orthodox rabbi who had just left a position at Beth Din of America, the official religious court of the RCA. Twersky asked if he should bring charges against Finkelstein in the beit din, and said that Broyde advised him that the allegations were “not flagrant enough.”

Broyde said he does not recall the exchange with Twersky “in any way, shape or form.”

“I don’t even know who Mordechai Twersky is,” Broyde said. “If he said he was sexually assaulted, I would have said to call the police.”

Twersky said Broyde ought to remember him; they were in the same constitutional law class at Yeshiva College in 1983. During the late 1990s, Beth Din of America retained Twersky for public relations work that involved “working closely with Broyde on the marketing materials for their newly established rabbinic court,” Twersky said.

Although he denied knowing about Twersky’s allegations, Broyde, a member of the RCA’s executive committee, said he had heard rumors about Finkelstein. “There had always been a rumor out there that there were kids who said this going back I don’t know how long,” Broyde said.
...

Jewish Week article (Needed: Independent Investigation On YU High School Scandal, Mon, 12/24/2012, by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld who wrote “The investigation should not only be limited to Yeshiva University. One former student claims in the Forward that he shared his accusations with Rabbi Michael Broyde of the Beth Din of America who dismissed his charges without giving him a proper hearing. We need to know whether or not this accusation is accurate.”).

Here are the suspicious comments:

http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/needed-independent-investigation-yu-high-school-scandal

1) Submitted by Harry Weissberger (not verified) on Sun, 12/30/2012 – 09:35.
I did not understand this opinion peice. Why shouldn’t YU do the investigation? If something happened in Rabbi Herzfeld’s shul before he was the rabbi, would any one doubt that he should look into it first? Rabbi Lamm’s comments need to be addressed, and Rabbi Broyde’s view is straightforward — he tells people who come to him about abuse to go to the police and not to bet din. That seems reasonable.

2) Submitted by Hillel Gold (not verified) on Sat, 12/29/2012 – 17:55.
I also thought that this piece was of little value — his attack on Rabbi Broyde was just dumb if one actually read the Forward and his attack on President Joel was without basis. YU should do the investigation.

Hillel

3) Submitted by Miriam Goldstein (not verified) on Fri, 12/28/2012 – 05:53.

I think David Weissman’s comment is correct. Whatever YU should have done, Shmuel Herzfeld’s comments are just off point, and not very helpful.

4) Submitted by David Weissman (not verified) on Thu, 12/27/2012 – 07:41.

This whole editorial is somewhat silly. Not really wrong, just biased and with little content. Let me give two examples — when he speak about Rabbi Broyde, he does not quote the whole story in the Forward, which seems to have spoken to Rabbi Broyde and quotes him as saying two things: (1) He does not recall any part of this conversation and thinks it did not happen, and (2) he tells people to call the police when abuse allegations come up. Rabbi Herzfeld’s quoting half the story makes it of no value. Second and even more extreme is the idea that President Joel should not be allowed to conduct the investigation. What nonesense — there is no real claim that he is biased at all. Rather, Herzfeld is claiming some abstract idea of “bias” as if the President of YU is part of the problem. This whole peice seems to designed just to smear YU. Very sad.

David Weissman

Orthodox Jewish ethics. God must be pleased how His commandments are now only suggestions and recommendations, and even then only if convenient for a frummer's agenda.

Kaufman, you miss the point. No one said that this is a crime. What Broyde did and has admitted to is a major breach of PROFESSIONAL ETHICS. And, yes, that is exactly the sort of thing that ruins careers. Academic dishonesty per se is not a crime, but when it comes to light the academy does not tolerate it.

Plagiarism, for example, has just toppled a couple of German government officials and a Chief Rabbi of France--not crimes, but not tolerated. And I on several occasions detected student plagiarism, failed the offenders, and prevented them from graduating.

Broyde has violated professional norms, and that sort of thing is punished by loss of professional credibility.

Certainly, breaches of professional ethics are not as serious as child molestation--very few things are. But that does not mean someone gets a pass on bad behavior simply because he hasn't raped a child.

The level of ethical obtuseness around here is simply breathtaking.

MM, thank you for all you've posted here.

It is indeed astounding to see the ethical acrobatics that Broyde's defenders here are going through. Truth is a straight smooth path that requires no complicated excuses. Frum 'truth' is another story; lots and lots of 'explaining' is necessary.

BTW, when submitting an article to a medical journal, one of the editors of a journal told me that they have phenomenal software that can detect if I used 5 consecutive words from another article from any textbook or journal. If such is found, I would be rejected and blacklisted.

It is a serious mistake of fact to assume that the matter is being disregarded by Rabbi Broyde's colleagues within the Rabbinical Council of America. However, when a matter like this one can be addressed internally, whether among rabbis or among people in any association of people with common interests, a more Jewishly proper way of proceeding is internally, not by further subjecting a person or his family or loved ones to unnecessary public opprobrium on the internet. If this kind of tragic situation enveloped someone you love, you would be grateful that the association of people with common interests chooses to address the matter internally. Do not blame all rabbis for this shame. It is a personal tragedy.

Thank you, WSC, for your kind words--and WSC is not me posting under another name :-).

If there are any who genuinely do not understand why sockpuppeting in an academic context is unacceptable, let me direct you to the case of Norman Golb and his son Raphael and the Dead Sea scrolls. In this case sockpuppeting was ruled to indeed have risen to the level of a crime for which Raphael Golb was sentenced to incarceration:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/nyregion/online-battle-over-ancient-scrolls-spawns-real-world-consequences.html?pagewanted=all

What Broyde has admitted to does not rise to the level of crime IMO, but essentially the difference between what he did and what Raphael Golb is more a matter of degree than of kind. Golb did a lot more sockpuppeting than Broyde and with a lot more venom. Broyde's efforts were directed AFAIK toward enhancing his own reputation, while Golb was bent on harrying those whom he felt failed to show his father sufficient professional honor and respect.

What the hell is the difference MM? why this moral equivicating?

Well the first fake name is the hardest name,
don't it bother me any more?

Cause when I look like a another mad hatter,
I call the Devil's tune.

Take a fake with me, let me know your real name
Oh oh how easy to get with the BT's oldest virus.

Come hear Rabbi Michel's shtick,
simple minded lis.

Got some things to lie about,
here beside the rising fame.


I got me a Bais Din, I get to call the tune
Will you pay pay me, won't you junket me?

Oh ho what I do know about all you suckeroos.

Dave, huh? Where did you get that from?

I just want to say that I am not the above Dave.

It's very sad. A dear friend of mine (who is a depressive and bi-polar) lost his position, reputation, money and eventually even his home because, after he lost his mother, wife and son within one year (yes - you read that correctly) he had a nervous breakdown and was accused of abnormal behavior by co-workers.
About a half-year following the accident which took three of his loved ones, I received a phone call from one of his neighbors at about one in the morning. I got dressed and sped to Hotze Plotz (name of real town withheld) and found him several blocks from his house, stark naked, crying and shouting jibberish. The police came and arrested him (despite my protestations) and made the situation much worse, charging him with public indecency and resisting arrest. It turns out my friend couldn't sleep for months and was ingesting entire boxes of sleeping pills at a time, to no avail. He was institutionalized and has never fully recovered.
All the years he spent in college and several graduate schools, earning degrees and advancing in his profession came to nothing. Such a waste.
I have never forgiven G-d for what he did to my friend. He was the sweetest, gentlest soul - and brilliant. I just don't know why G-d made his life a living death.
For this reason it's hard for me to join the chorus of sinless souls and condemn Michael to oblivion. He was dishonest and he made mistakes. He didn't kill anyone. I don't want to see anyone who has worked hard but has made mistakes to lose his life. I've seen it up close. It's a heartbreak.

Rabbi Broyde didn't do any crime
Mistakes or not mistakes, who doesn't make mistakes?
I am with you Rabbi!!!
Only jealous and low life guys wants to get you dirty

Adams, apparently you didn't read the article about Golb carefully. Here's the difference: Golb was charged with "identity theft, aggravated harassment, criminal impersonation, forgery and unauthorized use of the computers in an N.Y.U. library." Broyde published articles under a fictitious name. Golb published articles under someone else's real name (identity theft). Broyde used his sockpuppets to praise himself. Golb used his for relentless attacks on specific individuals (criminal harassment). Broyde used Emory's computers which presumably he was authorized to use. Golb used NYU's computers without authorization according to the charges. AFAIK Broyde did not commit any crimes which would warrant incarceration, while Golb did. Broyde's acts were unethical. Golb's acts were unethical and criminal.

The differences should be obvious. At no time that I am aware of did Broyde use his sockpoppets to try to ruin someone else, but only to pat himself on the back. Sorry, but I don't see any moral equivocation on my part.

Isidore, your anecdote is beside the point. Sadly your friend's successive losses caused a major mental breakdown. The arrest is not what ruined his life. He was already suffering severe mental problems which caused him to run amok in the street before the police ever entered the picture. That said, in general police do not have the proper training and resources to deal with mentally ill persons, and the arrest no doubt made a bad situation worse. But even if the police had mever become involved, your friend was seriously ill.

And Broyde has certainly not lost his life. That is beyond hyperbole. According to your argument, if someone makes a mistake, as long as it isn't killing someone, then he should just get a pass. I don't think so.

Your friend was an innocent soul who was broken by tragedy. In no way is that analogous to a rabbi and law professor who deliberately violates professional ethics and gets caught. Whatever punishment he receives, and it is unlikely to go much beyond public embarrassment and perhaps the loss of his position at Emory (although that seems doubtful), he is not going to lose his life.

JWB-

great comments!

if the sockpuppeting extended to defending and protecting child abusers this rises to a far more serious level. and i am already disgusted by what he's admitted to .

I AM SUCKPUPPETING but i don't do it for my carrier benefit
just to have fun
is this kosher?

MM rightly compares Michael Broyde with Raphael Golb, but his effort to distinguish the two seems tendentious. For example, he states that Golb "harried" certain academics. That is a loaded term. Golb criticized what he regarded as the unethical conduct of certain individuals in allegedly plagiarizing his father and in manipulating museum exhibits in a one-sided manner. Throughout his trial, the prosecution was allowed to argue that Golb used his socks to make "false accusations." Golb, on the other hand, was blocked from introducing any evidence that his accusations were true, on the grounds that "neither good faith nor truth is a defense to the crimes charged." There is a small scandal right there, which perhaps merits some attention from the Jewish blogging community. So we should be cautious about reducing what happened to a "harrying" of one's mild-mannered adversaries. Incidentally, the Golb case is now heading up to the New York Court of Appeals in Albany, where we can expect some interesting arguments. See the Raphael Golb trial website for documentation of the case:

http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

P.s. As pointed out in the very NYTimes article linked by MM, there is considerable doubt as to whether Raphael Golb's acts were indeed criminal. Many of the comments appended to the article make the same point. (The article is also clearly inaccurate in certain respects which are not really relevant to the discussion here.) The Tablet article on the case actually seems to do a somewhat better job of raising the key issues at stake:

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/121361/dead-sea-scrolls-go-to-court

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