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April 12, 2013

Rabbi Michael Broyde Caught Using Fake Identity To Bolster His Own Work

Rabbi Michael BroydeRabbi Michael Broyde, a leading Centrist Orthodox rabbi and law professor, appears to have created a fake professional identity which he used to gain access to members-only correspondence of a rival rabbinic group and tout his own work. The fake identity may also have been used to submit letters to scholarly journals. Broyde also used that fake identity to comment on blogs – including this one.

Rabbi Michael Broyde
Rabbi Michael Broyde

Steven I. Weiss reports for the Jewish Channel:

[Rabbi Michael Broyde, a] leading Orthodox rabbi and esteemed law professor appears to have created a fake professional identity which he used to gain access to members-only correspondence of a rival rabbinic group and tout his own work. The fake identity may also have been used to submit letters to scholarly journals.

Rabbi Michael Broyde is well-known in both the fields of Jewish scholarship and law, and according to veteran British Jewish news reporter Miriam Shaviv, he was also on the shortlist of candidates being considered for chief rabbi of England in recent months, in an article saying that the chancellor of Yeshiva University had called him “the finest mind of his generation.” He is a rabbinical court judge, or dayan, on the largest rabbinical court in the United States, the Beth Din of America.…

Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser has been published in multiple scholarly journals and been a part of numerous online dialogues with other Orthodox rabbis. But Goldwasser does not appear to be a real person. In examining voter registration records, contacting rabbis in areas where he was said to have lived, and in research by yeshiva archivists, no record of his existence has been found…

Lookstein’s letter was published in several locations, including on the Jewish watchdog blog FailedMessiah. In comments to that blog post, an anonymous commenter going by the pseudonym “Archie Bunker” characterized Broyde as “from the extreme left-wing YCT crowd.” The acronym there refers to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a rabbinical seminary founded by Weiss, who also co-founded the IRF; many, and perhaps all, graduates of YCT are IRF members, and some graduates have had difficulty gaining membership to the RCA.

Coming to Broyde’s defense in the comments section was Hershel Goldwasser. In one comment, the Goldwasser character wrote, “Connecting Rabbi Broyde to YCT is just stupid. Everyone knows that Broyde published this vicious criticism of YCT. YCT hates him.” The Goldwasser character then shared a link to an essay Broyde had written at the popular Orthodox blog Hirhurim.

Archie Bunker didn’t find that explanation sufficient, replying “I connected Broyde to YCT because of the kollel [professional study group] he runs in connection with them.”

The Goldwasser character responded to Archie Bunker again: “There is no connection between Rabbi Broyde’s Kollel in Atlanta and YCT except that there is a YCT member learning in it.” That YCT member is Farber, the recipient of the Goldwasser e-mail about being a young man in the 1960s, and whom Broyde is teaching to be a rabbinical court judge.

According to information provided to The Jewish Channel by the publisher of the FailedMessiah site, Shmarya Rosenberg, the IP addresses of both Goldwasser comments match the Broyde Comcast IP that The Jewish Channel has found on many other of Broyde’s signed correspondences, and on some of the Goldwasser e-mails to the IRF listserv.…

This is just a small part of the article. Weiss caught Broyde using a fake name to bolster his own work at academic journals and doing all sorts of similar sockpuppeting elsewhere.

Broyde's career should be over and probably would be – except that Broyde is, of course, Orthodox, and in Orthodoxy, ethics and morals are transient things. When the rabbi breaks the law, th elaw can bend to accomodate it. When you break the law, the law suddenly is inflexible – unless you are a wealthly man or a pwoerful man or have the proper dirt on the rabbis judging you. My assessment may be harsh, but it is shared by literally thousands of Orthodox and haredi Jews who whisper it to each other as each new scandal hits.

Read SIW's entire exposé here.

Comments

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This particularly bothers me, because he climbs on other people's (Israelis') backs and uses an ad hominem attack against a legitimate position:

"After Israeli women were arrested at the Western Wall for wearing prayer shawls and reading from Torah scrolls, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Washington, D.C.’s National Synagogue, protested at the Israeli embassy. The Golderg character responded on the e-mail listserv in July 2010, again from the Emory IP address, calling the protest “disgusting” and demanding, “Let him come and live here before he protests in the galut [diaspora] against policies of the Israeli government that offend him.” At the time, Broyde was still an Atlanta resident."

scott rosenberg you fake!! please tell us the difference bw centrist and modern!!!

This makes no sense. Rav Broyde would have no trouble getting his work published legitimately. Why create a pseudonym?

He was using a pen name, pseudonym, literary double, nom de plume???

Next thing you know somone will say George Eliot is a woman.

Please tell me how Rabbi Broyd broke the law here. You are saying it is against the law to use a pen-name, that means many established and respected authors have broken the law and should be persecuted as well - yes persecuted not prosecuted as no laws have been broken here. And please explain why his career should be over. and don't stereotype the Orthodox community as have no integrity, no ethics and no morals. To me it sounds as if you have issues with Orthodoxy rather then the Rabbi.

("Who Are You", The Who)

I wrote upon a Jewish blog
My IP gave me away
I thought I could post anonymously
My expertise they sure would weigh
I used a new name in a different place
I thought it was such a breeze
I thought I was in a state of grace
Was preachin’ from my chair

Who are you
Who who who who
Who are you
Who who who who

I used the name Goldwasser
It felt like my own nommen
I felt a little like Geoffrey Chaucer
To push my great ideas again
I sought to be Chief Rabbi
Well, who’d be better than me
I’ve served as a dayan
And I have several degrees

Who are you
Who who who who
Who are you
Who who who who

My alter ego supported my claims
“He’s a genius,” I said
He knows so much about it all
And so well he was bred
But I really am a sewer hole
My ethics are quite amiss
How can I still hold my job and position
I should be quickly dismissed


Who are you
Who who who who
Who are you
Who who who who


Posted by: Ben Meltzer | April 12, 2013 at 02:31 PM

No one said he broke the law. What he did was a breach of ethics. He lied, destroying his image, and hurt everyone who looked at him as a role model.

Anti-Agenda: It's just not THAT bad. I look up to him and I still do.

YOU'RE writing anonymously. :)

Bottom line: People make mistakes. WHAT the mistake is in this case is unclear and being blown way out of proportion.

There are always two sides to every story. When Rabbi Broyde feels like it's time to give his full side of the story I'm sure - if you have any ounce of open-mindedness in you - will see that this is just not that big of a deal.

R' Shmarya, you're usually spot-on when it comes to righteous indignation, but this just aint a big deal. Not even in the same zip code as a big deal. R' Broyde may have chosen a bad debating tactic, but his opinions were always consistent -- no hypocrisy, no plagiarism, no abuse of power. Most folks knows what a real scandal is (you've educated them quite well), and they'll know that this is just a load of nonsense.


Ben,
SR made an ANALOGY (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analogy) between loosing a job and loosing freedom, Once someone makes their living based on their words and they use their words fraudulently people think they are a fraud in everything they say...making it hard to have a career. It is really quite simple

In honor of the long lost "Archie Bunker", here is my send up of the "All in the Family" theme song:

Oy the way Rav Broyde lied
Made up names, unverified
Sock puppets he could not hide
Those were his games

Never knew who you were then
Mike was Hersh and Hersh was Mike
Mister, we could use a guide for your aliases

Didn't need no plagiarist
His paskening was the pits
Gee, Rav Boyde you started this
Those were his games

I'm sorry to all of you -- especially Shmarya -- but if this story is true, then I'm even more impressed with R' Broyde. He knows how to use the Internet to his advantage. He understands that 90+ percent of the dialogue on the Internet is stupidity, and he uses that to his advantage. He's proven that he knows how to play the game and play it well. More power to him.

Posted by: Jonathan Graber | April 12, 2013 at 03:35 PM

Rabbi Broyde did not write anonymously, he sockpuppeted for 15-20 years to self-promote and to gain access to places requiring membership. The fact that you say the following shows that you consider him innocent, and we only need to find out how: "There are always two sides to every story. When Rabbi Broyde feels like it's time to give his full side of the story I'm sure - if you have any ounce of open-mindedness in you - will see that this is just not that big of a deal."

Dapper Danny, you have talent! At least we can all agree you are not Michael Broyde.

"Broyde also used that fake identity to comment on blogs – including this one."

Some people do not learn.....

Well may be the guy suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder

Good thing he wasn't chosen as the Chief Rabbi of the UK. He would have most certainly imploded in a very public way.

After all, in comparison with Haredim and their primitive money laundry and taxation/social benefit fraud schemes, this guy is at least smart and creative.

PS: may be the UK Chief Rabbi that WAS elected is actually another virtual identity of this guy? Who knows...

Was in his law school class and section. Michael always - I mean always - to the point of annoying the class had to argue with the professor with what seemed to us less as a true argument and more of a show to demonstrate his intellect and hear himself. Sad. He needs therapy.

...and, in all the fuss, who will say Kaddish now for poor Hershel Goldwasser?
Fictional characters also have feelings and neshomohs (and possibly even rights) and many of the phantasms of Jewish literature have struggled through gilgul to become real - and succeeded.
In a thousand years time, will historians debate whether Rabbi HG existed? Will this be the day of his yahrzeit?

@larry,
the fake is YOU. you did not publish your real damned name menachem mendel . instead, you hide behind a noble secular name 'larry'.

I have just one question. Now that women can become orthodox rabbis -- does this mean that they too get to cover up the abuse of children and sock-puppet themselves? Or is it just men who are allowed to do this? And if the latter, who will speak up for female clergy equality?
Maybe we should just stop having rabbis and go back to the pure wisdom-based meritocracy that the Talmud believed in.

"Broyde also used that fake identity to comment on blogs – including this one."
-----------------
I've got no problem with Rabbi Broyde blogging anonymously under a pseudonym...my guess is dozens of prominent Orthodox rabbis do the same thing...many to further their own agendas.

Where he crossed the line was using a fake identity on a rabbinic listserv that requires individuals to list their real identity.

And while Rabbi Broyde definitely was wrong in doing this, I also hold the IRF (the rabbinic organization he joined under a false name) responsible for allowing this to happen, and not making an effort to properly vet the individual who joined.

This is absolutely no scandal, but an innocuous joke. I have heard Rabbi Broyde lecture, and he's a gentleman.

Anti-Agenda:

Please tell me the following:
(1) Did he plagiarize or advance any ideas that were not his own?
(2) Was he inconsistent with any of his ideas?
(3) Did he offer up actual p'sak under this pen name?
(4) Did he offer any law opinions in law journals under his pen name?
(5) Did he steal any money with his pen name?

The answer to all these questions are "no".

So, it seems that the biggest deal is gaining access to a list-serve that he wasn't supposed to get into. If this is the "big crime"....well, OK.

Bottom line: Besides "smelling bad", I'm having trouble finding the problem, here.

I do thoroughly enjoy new fancy words that sound bad like "sockpuppet" but this situation is essentially made up almost out of thin air and being snowballed by those who have no concept of what a real chillul HaShem is.

Jonathan... there is that whole "Thou shalt not bear false witness" thing, but I guess that is trivial.

He gives a lengthy explanation and apology here:

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

Jay –

He should never be allowed to sit as a dayan again. And if hes still teaching in a university law school, he should be fired.

Jonathan Graber –

Please.

Youd flunk a basic ethics course Broyde repeatedly and maliciously lied, using a device called sockpuppeting to do it. He should be run out of public Jewish life and fired from any universities he is associated with.

As for you, go back to your rabbis and tell them they taught you to think and reason so poorly. They own a large chunk of your stupidity.

I believe the subject Broyde teaches at Emory is actually religion and ethics.

From Emory website: "His primary areas of interest are law and religion, Jewish law and ETHICS, and comparative religious law."

He forgot that even if you can get away with it at first, "the end of the ganev is he is always discovered." Because once and be done is never enough for him. How many other names, how much other communication, emails etc were sent in other's names? just wondering.

So MB used a nom de plume, may have used it to promote his work (which is a fine line. Is citing himself in order to advance an argument he would not have wanted to make under his name falling under promoting himself, or merely under using a nom de plume?), and gained access to a members only mailing list under that nom de plume.

Let's analyze: what's wrong with using a nom de plume? So many have done it, and even though anonimity is eroding on the internet, it is de rigeur. In fact, most commenters here use a pseudonym.

Self promotion is a bit trickier, and depends on how we answer to my parenthetical remark above. Was it self promotion for the sake of self promotion, or was that a side effect of him citing himself to make a point?

In my opinion, the latter is OK, but I would draw the line at astroturfing, which includes using a fake identity to have a seemingly third party come to your defense.

The third one is worst, but even that is not really that bad, considering that when the fog clears, the IRF will have done more damage than MB. For instance, no one can join the RCA discussion forum without being an RCA member, and no one can become an RCA member without having his credentials checked out. How exactly did Hershel Goldwasser become an IRF member again?

Using pseudonyms in online fora is common, as is using pseudonyms for writing letters to the editor. Again, if this was not done to create a fake impression (of a third party supporting Broyde), but only in order to be freer to express himself on line, what's the harm.

All in all, some of this (the penetration of the IRF) was not nice, and retroactively turns out to have been more than silly, but should this cost someone his head? Should he now lose his career forever? He has swiftly apologized, which is admirable, and I would recommend that he be interviewed by an ethics panel to investigate whether there was something graver behind this story, or whether that materially impacts his trustworthiness, but barring such revelations, we should be a little more merciful.

For the record, I also feel that witch hunts of politicians are often exagerated. Proportionality is at the order of the day.

Disclaimer: I know MB personally, but I am not very close to him. However, we both belong to the class of "self identified at least somewhat MO/Centrist rabbis."

Let's break down how poorly reasoned and spelled Shmarya's last paragraph was.

"Broyde's career should be over and probably would be – except that Broyde is, of course, Orthodox, and in Orthodoxy, ethics and morals are transient things."
-Transient things? Not only does that comment make no sense, where are morals not transient? The concept of morals cannot be divorced from its current societal norms. Therefore, all morals are transient in some sense. If you were trying to make a different point, write better.

"When the rabbi breaks the law, th elaw can bend to accomodate it. When you break the law, the law suddenly is inflexible – unless you are a wealthly man or a pwoerful man or have the proper dirt on the rabbis judging you."
-Wow where do we begin with this one- the poor analogy or the complete inability to spell. While spelling mistakes don't necessarily mean the author can't think, I'd say here the lack of spelling shows how little thought Shmarya put into his analogy. And in which legal system do the wealthy and powerful not get away with breaking the law? Oh and no law was broken (as pointed out several times).


"My assessment may be harsh, but it is shared by literally thousands of Orthodox and haredi Jews who whisper it to each other as each new scandal hits."
-Again with the poor writing. What does "it" refer to? Does it refer to breaking the law in your analogy? He broke no law. He may have acted immorally, but is that grounds for taking away his life and source of income? I'd think not.

@ Dapper Danny: Last I heard, "Thou shalt not bear false witness" is talking about lying in court. If you had quoted "midvar sheker tirchak" I'd hear that little better.

@ Shamarya Rosenberg: Cut the hyperbole. Everyone can see you foaming at the mouth. If you want to sit and talk the FACTS about this really minor incident - then we can talk.

Saying that he should be "run out of Jewish life" or fired from his university is beyond asinine (for the reasons I stated earlier).

Next time you speed on the highway I'll make sure the cops take away your CAR! (Yes, that's the equivalent of what you're insinuating should happen.)

People have to stop thinking only on emotion and put in at least a LITTLE logic. That's all I ask. Look objectively.

@Pulpit Rabbi:

Well done analysis. Although quick - given the forum - I do appreciate it. (I may use some of your ideas, too, in other blogs I've been trolling....)

One thing you're forgetting is that - for the past 3 years - the pen name that RMB was using - was actually not RMB! So, much of the "self-promotion" and/or "arguments with himself" I suspect were not even done by him. Few are mentioning this part of the story.

Also, for the rest of the comments out there: When one can't win on the facts, I've noticed a degradation of the comments to basic insults. Insults both at RMB and at anyone who comments in his favor. The fact that most post anonymously just exacerbates this situation.

Let's keep this an open conversation on facts and analysis. I will likely not comment any more to insults or anything like that.

Full disclosure: I daven in the same shul as RMB and proud to sit next to him. I am not a member of the RCA, ever a law student, a family member of RMB.......nor am I a Rabbi. I am, in fact, just a regular dude from the community here in Atlanta, GA.

Jonathan Graber –

He used fake names to attack opponents and praise himself. He did on blogs and in academic journals. He has lost his credibility and he should be removed from public life both inside and outside the Jewish community.

If Broyde was a politician, he would probably have been forced to resign by now.

Jonathan Graber –

Does your last comment mean that "regular dudes" in the Atlanta Orthodox community do not know right from wrong? Or are you a very special "regular dude"?

Since everyone else is weighing in, why not me as well! I am neither Rabbi Broyde's intellectual nor his religious equal--nor would I suspect are many others. That being said, my disclaimer is that he is my friend and I am his. While knowing neither the hashkafah nor the biases of other posters, it appears that those who disliked him in the past now feel energized in their beliefs and feelings.....and those who have previously liked him, still do. It's just that we now all have a forum through which to spew our vitriol or our understanding (choose one but not both). The lashon harah club is now in session; please take a number.

@ Shamarya: I will not comment on personal attacks on me or my community - or anyone. I stuck to the points and used logic and facts while you and the rest devolve to insults. If you can truly enter a debate with ideas and substance I'm happy to continue talking. Your vitriol is truly a massive chilul HaShem.

"Oy meh haha lanu?"

Jonathan Graber –

You are truly pathetic, and saying so is not an ad hominem attack on you. You lack even a basic understanding of ethics, just as Broyde does.

The seal of God is Truth – the Talmud.

I can lie and misrepresent as much as I want because I'm smart – Rabbi Michael Broyde and his followers.

There is a stira there you are missing, Graber.

Sandy Hartman, your friend Broyde is a stinkin' liar intellectually and religiously. And here's the fallout - I don't believe you are are who you say, I don't believe what you say and though he will need friends when he is fired and defrocked, he can make them up as he has made up you.

"It's just that we now all have a forum through which to spew our vitriol or our understanding (choose one but not both)."

Yes, and this is reason enough to totally negate anything and everything that has said about your 'friend'.

@ DH- I will wait for the day (probably in a few weeks) to see how ticked you are when the status quo resumes.

@ Nigritude - What?

But anyways: I found this nugget in the comments on the original article that started this "issue" (see comment #28):

>>>

Food for thought.

Sorry: Here is the full comment--

It is gratifying to see that neither the author nor the respondents have wasted their time watching “National Treasure”. If they had, they would know that this is Ben Franklin’s pseudonym, used for similar purposes as R. Broyde’s creation of Hershel Goldwasser. (sadly, they are not erudite enough to have read “The Papers of Benjamin Franklin” either).
They probably aren’t Stephen King fans. Otherwise they would know that he ran several novels under the name of Richard Bachman in order to compete with himself, motivated by profit (creating an entire biography of Bachman in the process).
They may root for the NY Knicks, but are ignorant of the fact that the name stems from the pseudonym Deidrich Knickerbocker (again complete with false bio)created by Washington Irving – also to build book sales.
The list goes on.
But what of the Halachacists?
Most prominent, of course, is the 13th century luminary Rav Shlomo Ben Aderet (Rashba) who wrote the Mishmeret HaBayit – his scathing work attacking his contemporary, Rav Aharon HaLevi for having had the audacity to critique the former’s work. He did not at first accept responsibility for writing it.

Alas for R. Broyde – none of his illustrious predecessors were caught using the same IP address.
So Please – Silence! Dogood!

Comment by Silence Dogood — April 14, 2013 @ 5:02 am

The link that Shmarya has provided to the Steven I. Weiss article is most illuminating. Here, in my view is one of the most appalling excerpts:

"'For those who are interested in some history.' The Goldwasser character says that the responsum came out of an episode in which 'Rabbi Feinstein was walking with a group of young men on the boardwalk' of Long Beach, New York. The Goldwasser character declares, 'I was one of them,' though the story took place in “the early 1960’s,” whereas Broyde was born in 1964. The Goldwasser character writes of how Feinstein 'screamed at us all' when one of the young men in the group glanced at a woman in 'a revealing bathing suit.' The Goldwasser character then describes Feinstein telling him and his fellows the core lesson that Feinstein would later publish, 'which is that you can walk on the boardwalk only if you do not stare at the women.'
- - - - -
This, from a person who is supposed to be a 'dayan'. The man is an inveterate liar.

(For the reading impaired: there was no such person as 'Goldwasser' that was around to bear witness to any event involving Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.)

Jonathan Graber | April 14, 2013 at 10:33 PM,

huh??

@ Shmarya: I learned a lesson a long time ago that if one can't win on facts/logic etc. the next resort is to insult/degrade.

I have stayed clear away from that and stuck to the facts as we know them and to whatever logical argument is out there.

Meanwhile, others like yourself have devolved into an ethics quagmire of rabid hatred, lashon hara (even on me! - for G-d's sake) etc. that rivals any other action like writing in a pen name or getting onto a list-serv that you shouldn't be on.

Tiyuvta d'Shmarya Tiyuvta.

Jonathan Graber –

As i said, you see nothing wrong with a dayan, rabbi and law professor who teaches ethics lying and sockpuppeting to benefit himself and hurt his opponents.

I understand that.

You believe what you believe because you are ethically blind.

You may not realize this, but you are.

@Shmarya - You know nothing about me (other than a few comments on this site) to make that judgement. I know it's a serious flaw in your character to judge people on such little information but you should cut the hyperbole and stick to facts.

Jonathan Graber –

I have stuck to the facts. You just do not like what those facts prove – that you are unethical and a-ethical.

Reasonable minds can disagree on the RMB issue. I'm happy to continue that conversation but you are simply hijacking the conversation and devolving it into baseless attacks of personal character. Perhaps the unethical (or a-ethical) is a beast that lives in you.

Jonathan Graber –

You are the one who claims that Rabbi Broydes lies – used to bolster himself, his work and his reputation – are insignificant, and as, you say, are his lies used to attack opponents.

I am the person who says your position is unethical and amoral.

As usual with people who apologize for criminals and miscreants, you show no concern for the people Rabbi Broyde hurt either directly or indirectly through those lies. To those who defend criminals, there are rarely any victims. Immoral, amoral, unethical and a-ethical – but you are too lost to understand that.

Incorrect.

It is your blindness on this matter that makes you the lost one. RMB apologized a few times now and even some on the IRF side are already accepting it. By going for the jugular every time someone does a minor infraction is simply crying "wolf".

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but you actually do good work in other areas and expose some pretty horrific things in our community. For that, I am grateful.

However, your seemingly misplaced revulsion this matter is simply over the top, in my opinion. Sure - be upset and demand apologies and discuss the moral implications of such things. Like I said, reasonable minds can disagree on this.

In the end of the day just don't cloud your good work by picking small fights and stooping low to insults.

dh - Sad to report but Sandy Hartman is my name, though I doubt "dh" is yours. Talk about using a nom de plume (remember the "glass houses" adage). By the way, why on earth would you take an important issue (both sides of it) and personalize it by calling names, whether to me or Rabbi Broyde or anyone else who doesn't agree with you. Try to keep it on a higher level. It may make your opinions more likely to be accepted and acceptable.

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