Above: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Right-Wing RCA Rabbi Equates NY Jewish Week With Notorious Nazi Propaganda Newspaper
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Last week, FailedMessiah.com reported that right-wing Modern Orthodox Rabbi Steven Pruzansky resigned from the Bergen County, New Jersey conversion to Judaism court he headed.
Pruzansky – whose theology often sounds much more like the hard right wing of the already hard right-wing Tea Party – resigned because he said he objected to women being involved with reforming the Rabbinical Council of America’s conversion standards and practices.
The potential reform and the inclusion of women in planning it was instituted after the man who shaped those standards and practices, Rabi Barry Freundel, was arrested three weeks ago for allegedly secretly videotaping nude women – a large percentage of them converts or young women in the process of converting – as they prepared to immerse in the mikvah (ritual bath) Freundel controlled.
Pruzansky didn’t see what women could contribute to the process being put in place to make women safe. He also objected to very idea of reform of the conversion standards, in large part because he helped Freundel write them. So he quit having anything to do with conversions and wrote about it. also using the occasion to attack Orthodox Jewish feminists.
Pruzanky was enraged by the Jewish Week’s coverage of his resignation, and as he frequently does, Pruzansky lashed out like a small petulant child. The Jewish Week, he insisted, was basically equivalent to the notorious Nazi Party propaganda newspaper Der Sturmer.
“[The Jewish Week] should apologize. But, I guess, to follow their way of reporting, both The Jewish Week’s publisher and Julius Streicher (Der Sturmer) published newspapers that dealt a lot with Jews. Same business, I suppose. That’s bad company to be in.”
Pruzansky is still a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).
He’s also still the top rabbi at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, the largest Orthodox congregation in Teaneck, NJ.
Neither organzation has shown any indication of sanctioning Pruzansky or getting rid of him, despite the fact that this is only the latest in long series of very inappropriate statements, writings and actions by Pruzansky.
What was it that so angered Pruzansky about the Jewish Week’s coverage?
The Jewish Week mistakenly identified the conversion court Pruzansky resigned from as the Beth Din of America. It was, in fact, the Beit Din of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County. (The Jewish Week corrected its mistake the same day it made it.)
But Pruzansky was primarily enraged that the Jewish Week wrote that he had “shared the company” of Freundel on the RCA’s executive committee, as if that implied Pruzansky was a part of Freundel’s alleged crimes.
Freundel and Pruzanky were RCA executive committee members together. The pair also worked together in an unsuccessful bid to challenge to the RCA’s slate of officers in its 2012 election, fighting to stop the RCA from accommodating the liberal wing of Modern Orthodoxy. (That bid failed.)
The Jewish Week says that it “regret[s] the use of the phrase” that so angered Pruzansky, “which was not intended to suggest, as Rabbi Pruzansky inferred, that he was ‘somehow…connected to the alleged malfeasance’” of Freundel.
But despite the Jewish Week’s (quickly corrected) error and its use of one questionable phrase, Pruzansky’s equating of the Jewish Week to Der Sturmer crosses the line from acceptable discourse into unacceptable hate speech.
Yet neither Pruzansky or any of the organizations he is associated with have apologized for it and none of those organizations have done anything to discipline Pruzansky or remove him.
“The lack of a public expression of remorse from [Pruzansky] and [from] the institutions he serves, or is affiliated with, speaks volumes,” the Jewish Week notes.
And none of those volumes it speaks have anything good to say about the RCA, Pruzansky’s synagogue, Modern Orthodoxy or the Jewish community as a whole.
Here is the full text of Pruzansky's attack on the Jewish Week. To be clear, Pruzansky's irritation at the the Jewish Week's bad editing and weak reporting (made far worse than necessary by his refusal to speak to the paper) of this story is largely justified. What is not justified is his manner of expressing that irritation:
(P.S. I was just sent the NY Jewish Week’s article on this matter. Typically, it got almost every fact wrong. [Even the picture is 15 years old, but I thank them for publishing that.] I don’t consider myself Modern Orthodox; I see myself as part of every camp of faithful Jews and try to learn from all of them. I didn’t step down at all from the Beth Din of America, but just from the Beit Din of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County. And I didn’t step down because a committee was formed including women. This decision was made before I knew the makeup of the committee. There are any number of rabbis whose participation would be equally unsettling.
The main reason is, as I elaborated: the negativity associated today with conversion, and the cynicism and distrust fostered by so many (including the Jewish Week) towards the rabbinate. That has nothing to do with women.
Don’t expect a clarification.) -RSP
Update: They clarified, and naturally made it worse. They corrected the text to read that I resigned from the RCBC Beit Din, not the Beit Din of America, but under the wonderful old picture that I am delighted they used, the error remains. Sheer incompetence.
They took out the Modern Orthodox label, and in the text called me a “high-ranking officer of the RCA.” I am not an officer at all, much less a high-ranking one. Does anyone do fact-checking there?
Chronologically they were correct that my decision “followed” the decision to include women on the committee, and my intentions were already known last week (before I knew who was on the committee), so much so that I was contacted and asked not to resign. So they still missed the gist of my argument, which I assume they stopped reading half-way through (once they found they could string together enough phrases to fit their narrative).
I haven’t talked to the NY Jewish Week in more than 15 years. And this is why. They are typical of the sordid state of journalism today. (I know, I know, never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.)
But then the “updated” version contained this doozy: “Pruzansky is still a member of the RCA’s Executive Committee, where he used to share the company of Rabbi Freundel before his arrest.” Huh!! How is that for vicious innuendo? “Share the company of…? I join the meetings almost always by conference call. To that extent, every officer and every Executive Committee member “shared” the same “company.” What in the world is the point of that – except to plant the seed that somehow I am connected to the alleged malfeasance in DC? What a despicable outrageous slander!
They should retract and apologize. It is elementary decency.
And they wonder why I don’t return their phone calls. Simply despicable. And typical from one of the leading publications in the world of Orthodox-bashing and rabbi-bashing.