With fake name revealed, top rabbi faces heat
Rabbi Michael Broyde, a high-profile Jewish and legal scholar based at Emory Unversity, has apologized for deception.
April 16th, 2013
12:12 PM ET

With fake name revealed, top rabbi faces heat

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - A top-tier rabbi and expert in Jewish law and ethics is now under the microscope for what many see as his own ethical transgressions.

Rabbi Michael Broyde was outed last week for having created a fake identity that he reportedly used for about two decades.

Broyde has long served on America’s highest Modern Orthodox rabbinical court and was said to be a finalist to become the next chief rabbi of the United Kingdom.

Just last month, he was named one of America's top 50 rabbis by Newsweek magazine. Broyde is a professor of law and religion at Atlanta’s Emory University.

Under the pseudonym Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser, Broyde cited and promoted his own work, wrote and weighed in on articles, gained membership to a rival, left-leaning rabbinic organization and engaged in otherwise privileged online conversations by way of its Listserv.

The story came to light Friday when The Jewish Channel, a cable network, released online an in-depth investigation. The lengthy piece revealed, among other things, how a search to find Goldwasser, who allegedly lived in Israel, led to IP addresses matching Broyde’s.

Broyde initially denied involvement when contacted by The Jewish Channel last week - a move he’d later call “silly and a mistake.” But he fessed up soon after the story’s publication.

In a blog post titled “My Nom De Plume Exposed,” he explained that he and a friend created and used the pen name up until a few years ago, after which he said it was used by others.

He later told a reporter with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he wouldn’t name the friend who was also involved because “he has more at stake to lose than I do.”

In his blog post, a written apology spoke for both of them.

“No malice was ever intended and our participation was always intended to foster vigorous conversation about ideas and approaches to halacha (Jewish law) that we thought needed to be addressed,” he wrote. But he also added that there’s an “old practice” of using pseudonyms when discussing these sorts of matters.

"There were many fine reasons for creating this pseudonym, and this one was suggested to us many years ago. Basically we were told that given the level of unpleasant discourse in our Orthodox Jewish community, some things just need to be said pseudonymously.

"But, yet, it does strike me as somewhat inappropriate for me, and I particularly regret joining any professional organization pseudonymously.

"I publicly express here my apologies to those who were deceived by my pseudonymous writing."

By Sunday night, it was clear that, at least in his corner of the Jewish world, Broyde’s standing was shaken.

The Beth Din of America, the top rabbinical court affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America, issued a statement that Broyde had “requested an indefinite leave of absence from his role” as a member and judge, a request the court accepted.

By Monday, the council said he’d also asked for leave from its membership. In a written statement, the council called his behavior “deeply troubling” and said, “We will continue to investigate this matter in order to determine further appropriate action.”

Meantime, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, the more liberal group Broyde once joined as Goldwasser, also weighed in, dubbing his actions “shocking and saddening.” The fellowship suggested in an online statement that given Broyde’s infiltration into “a sacred and safe space in which our members can share ideas and thoughts,” he should issue apologies directly to those with whom he’d corresponded.

CNN reached out to Broyde on Monday, but he said he could make no comment.

The question remains as to whether any of these developments will affect Broyde in the secular academic world.

Officially, Emory University said in a written statement: “The allegations regarding the conduct of Professor Michael Broyde are concerning to the Law School. We are currently reviewing the matter and plan to issue a statement once our inquiry is complete.”

But unofficially, Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, said he suspects Broyde will feel less of a blow on campus.

Joining a rabbinical organization's Listserv under a false name is wrong, but it may not be "an academically sanctionable offense," he said.

In the academic community, what Broyde has done may be seen as "bad, but not fatal,” Wolpe said. “People should recognize this is clearly a breach of academic ethics. … But there are far worse things he could have done.”

Yes, he submitted work to a journal under a pseudonym - which on its own isn’t unheard of, but he did so without disclosing that fact to an editor. And, yes, in a world where citing someone else’s work is a form of “academic currency,” he cited his own, Wolpe said. But he didn’t plagiarize, nor did he steal someone else’s research. Those sorts of actions are tenure-breaking.

“The guy is still a genius when it comes to Jewish law. He’s got an expertise that is valuable. I think this is something he will recover from,” Wolpe said. “But his heart is in the Orthodox community, and to be sanctioned by them would be the real blow.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Ethics • Judaism

soundoff (320 Responses)
  1. Below me

    Lets see this rabbi writes some articles under a fake name and then promotes them... While priests molest children and Muslim clerics promote terrorism, violence against woman and the like.... Putting it in perspective, it doesn't seem like a big deal!

    April 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      or a valid comparison

      April 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " Why does the cover-up continue to this day ? Why did the L.A. Archdiocese claim to have turned over 30,000 pages of docu-ments when they only turned over 12,000 pages ? Where are the other 18,000 pages ? Why are the 12,000 pages so badly redacted as to be virtually unreadable ? When will full disclosure be forthcoming ? "

      April 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  2. truth truth truth 2013

    Marc do you believe in JESUS he died for our sins on the cross? Marc you may not believe me but read Romans thru Hebrews and maybe GOD might let you see the truth if you will not harden your heart.

    April 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Bob

      ttt2013, how is it again that your omnipotent being couldn't do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus' death a "sacrifice", when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers?

      Pretty pathetic "god" that you've made for yourself there.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

      April 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      Maybe none of it is true? I could be all alone in an uncaring and hostile world, clinging to my few comforting illusions like a child with a worn-out teddybear. I believe, O God, help thou my unbelief.

      April 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Bob

      ttt2013, grow some courage and answer the questions for a change. No more dodging, you coward:

      How is it again that your omnipotent being couldn't do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus' death a "sacrifice", when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers?

      Pretty pathetic "god" that you've made for yourself there.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

      April 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Church Of Suicidal

      Jesus didn't die for me. Egwene al'Vere did. Long live the Amyrlin Seat.

      April 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      "how was Jesus' death a "sacrifice", when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son " It's like the Star Trek transporter which actually destroys you and makes another one just like you somewhere else. You don't realize that you are a zombie, you just keep on walking around.

      April 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  3. truth truth truth 2013

    Marc search the scriptures and find about the elect Jews, i gurantee you want be laughing then. Typing difficult with this keyboard

    April 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      Look up "electric jews" on YouTube. I saw the Electric Jews warming up for K. Friedman back in '76. Helluva show.

      April 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  4. truth truth truth 2013

    Marc look in the scrirtures and find about the elect Jews, i gurantee you want be laughing then.

    April 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      Those jews were elected by votes from Mutt Romney. True story. He wanted them to lend him some money afterwards.

      April 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  5. truth truth truth 2013

    I say this with this love the law can not save you, only JESUS can and for the elect Jews that believe on JESUS it is blessing that GOD love you and the gentiles so much that the gentiles have been grafted into the wild olive tree. I have a question for the Jews who are still under the law, how can the gentiles be saved if we are not under Jewish law.I love you my fellow Jewish brothers thru the seed of Abraham but JESUS is the only way to the Father. If you do not believe in YAHWEH this does not apply to you.

    April 17, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Marc L from NY

      You're funny lol.

      April 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      Holy God, my seeds of Abraham just came up! I think they are turning into triffids. How the hell did this happen?

      April 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  6. Fladabosco

    A rabbi walks through the sanctuary and a man is praying and weeping. "What's the matter?" says the rabbi. "I want to get married and start a family but my mother hates every woman I bring home."

    The rabbit thinks and says "why don't you try to find a woman just like your mom?" and the man agrees.

    Two weeks later the rabbit again sees the man praying and weeping. Didn't he find a woman who was like his mom?

    "Yes, I did" the man says "and I brought her home. She looked like my mom, she acted like my mom and she even cooked like my my mom."

    "What happened?" the rabbi asked.

    "My father hated her" said the man.

    April 17, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  7. davis@bwana.endjunk.com

    Oy vey !!

    April 17, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  8. prettychainsaw

    Pretty much everyone at a certain level games the system. Professional Athletes will use whatever works, and won't get them banned. Politicians and musicians use page view generators and fake twitter followers to make them seem more relevant. I would be shocked to learn that this man is the only academic who uses questionable methods to promote his work..

    He didn't steal from anyone, he pushed his own work into the conversation. Once it was there, it had to stand or fall on it's own merit.

    Creation Scientists do this sort of thing all the time, to try to make their views mainstream, but their views do not stand under the scrutiny they're given, and they fall apart laughably.

    April 17, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Akira

      Professional Christians do the same thing, so I'm unsure as to what you're driving at. Everyone uses technology to further their agenda. You're doing it here, aren't you?

      April 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • prettychainsaw

      No, I've turned into Mike Broyde now.

      April 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  9. Sane Person

    A religious person doing something immoral? This is unheard of!!!!

    April 17, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  10. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Gotta love religion.... its so HONEST.

    April 17, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Mick Jagger

      You're in need of some restraint?

      April 17, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  11. James PDX

    I guess he needs to find Jesus. Mexican gardeners are really good listeners.

    April 17, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Rabbi Barry Goldwasser

      I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I got a plastic Jesus, riding on the dashboard of my car . . .

      April 17, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • sam stone

      "I was so pleased to be informed of this that I ran 20 red lights in his honor. Thank you Jesus, thank you lord"

      April 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  12. Hugh Jass

    My name is real, but my hugh jass is phony.

    April 17, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  13. dishonest_jew

    Oh my, a dishonest rabbi. Looks like he missed his calling as a lawyer.

    April 17, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  14. windu

    Wolpe with his whole "what's the big deal, could have been worse" statements heads the center for ethics. LOL

    Of course, this is Emory, whose President thinks the 3/5 compromise is a great model to follow. You're batting 1000, Emory!

    April 17, 2013 at 7:53 am |
  15. Big Brother

    Just the tip of the iceburg. Big brother is watching your every move. We thought GPS and facebook were so great, think again. We liked airport security, think again. Every purchase at the drugstore tracked now. Big brother is watching.

    April 17, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Science

      Get an estimate on your garage door, and with permission they will have one with pictures and never have stepped on

      April 17, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • Huebert


      I think you may need to get some sleep.

      April 17, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • midwest rail

      And some new material...

      April 17, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Science

      Guess what just had gagare door replaced . The company never stepped on the driveway until they repasced the door !

      They had covered every inch of the door in the pictures !


      Brother had same done !

      April 17, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • Science

      Oops replaced !

      April 17, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • Science

      By the way email estimate weith pictures !

      April 17, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • fvroqnz

      "We liked airport security"

      When was that?? This statement alone makes one fear for your grip on reality.

      April 17, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Science

      Oops dang thumb emailed with pictures................. key is they asked for perrmission ! The technology is out there !

      Hopefully it will help catch the Boston Bomber !

      April 17, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Science

      By the way you can watch eagles having babies on line in the wild . Go figure

      April 17, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Science

      Surf with cookies off !

      or clear daily !


      April 17, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      Eat your heart out, Big Brother. Ha ha ha ha ha! Watch all you like, if you dare.

      April 17, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Science

      Forgot no fairy in the sky watching !

      April 17, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Science

      And it looks like cameras caught them, one still missing ?

      April 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  16. Pseudonymity

    I haven't been reading all the comments as most of them center on simply mistrusting the guy because of using a pseudonym, but if I'm the first to address this then I'm sad at the unwillingness of you all to look deeper into this. Could it be that he truly believed the elements of Judaic law that he was involved in and discussing, but wouldn't be allowed to be in said position to discuss them because his actual bloodline wasn't pure enough by hardline Jewish standards to attain the position that he was able to attain by using his pseudonym? I'm no fan of religion, I think in future generations the human population will look back on religion and think "what were we thinking?", like we do about slavery now, and will soon about gay marriage and marijuana use, but I think its fair to address the fact that maybe this guy had things to say as far as his beliefs go, and in order to infiltrate a highly exclusive, bloodline-oriented community such as hardline Judaism, he had to engage in some deception and did it extremely well to the point that they're just finding out now after 20 years. If this is the case, instead of railing against him and his "deception", any true thinker should be discussing the "pure-blood" exclusionary aspects of a highly influential faith that would require someone with such obviously, to those who believe in said faith, powerful and influential things to say to have to take on a pseudonym in order to express himself at the level in which this guy was involved.

    April 17, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • Pseudonymity

      Although when I think about it further, I realize that I'm probably too full of my own prejudices about "bloodlines" and have too many weird Elders-of-Zion notions about what Jews do in their synagogues to actually comment intelligently. Either that, or I am a sock puppet.

      April 17, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  17. jewlies

    John 8:44
    King James Version (KJV)
    44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

    April 17, 2013 at 1:57 am |
    • Fake Name

      Get a life.

      April 17, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • windu

      Let me guess: You're quoting your book of fairy tales to prove some other tribe's book of fairy tales and that whole tribe are "evil"? Did I get it right?

      April 17, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  18. Futureman1

    Calm down people,

    Many people throughout history have done the same thing and none more prolifically than Benjamin Franklin. Starting as a young man Franklin wrote letters to every publication he could disguised as women, farmers, merchants, soldiers. None as himself. And surprise, I myself was not born with the name Futureman!

    April 17, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • Woof

      Have you used "futureman" to promote you work and gain access to rival organizations to get secret information?

      April 17, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  19. Bostontola

    A leader should exemplify strong character. Hiding behind a pseudonym and then denying it doesn't qualify. I wouldn't follow a person with such weak character.

    April 16, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • Acegirlshusband

      So, tell me: is Bostontola your real name?

      April 17, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Dash Riprock

      He doesn't follow himself, so there! Nya nya nya! He only looks in the mirror at the weak character.

      April 17, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Bostontola

      I never denied it or used it for self promotion. I'm not a religious leader.

      April 17, 2013 at 7:56 am |
  20. craig

    Ethics seem to be a really fungible idea lately. Most of the time it's in the financial or political communities. I'm not sure this is more troubling, but it's certainly not any claim to fame, and this whole situation reminds me of Lloyd Blankfein testifying before Congress, when he said (paraphrasing) that "what we did isn't against the law." Technically he was right, but ethically he couldn't have been more wrong. In this case, it sounds like the same thing. He didn't "technically" plagiarize...since he wrote the material he was using as a source, but it's a pretty presumptuous position to cite yourself as a source while writing as somebody else. In short, regardless of everything else, you're hiding the truth...and I don't think any university should consider that ethical. In the most simple terms, he lied when it was to his advantage to do so. Is that a good qualification for a teacher?

    April 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
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