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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. Big Man

    Jews shamefully changing names to further business profiteering or for fraud is nothing new, at least here in US. Been going on since late1800's.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • lol??

      How did you determine motive?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Big Man

      Motive? I just make stuff up. I wet the bed until I was 17 and I have a lot of issues with authority. Don't make me cry.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  2. Leopold31

    And of course, in all these comments, everyone is using their "true" names, right?

    April 18, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      My mom hated me, so she named me Hugh.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  3. Mark

    Given the fact that most of the stuff in the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) never happened or was greatly exaggerated, who cares? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_Unearthed

    April 18, 2013 at 1:52 am |
  4. Sheila

    This is extremely overblown! So they guy wrote comments under a fake name. He's a very known rabbi in the orthodox world and an intellectual who probably enjoyed playing the other side in arguments without being in the public eye. Despite his breadth of knowledge, wisdom and experience he is extremely simple and humble. We must not judge that he was out for pride or recognition.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:18 am |
  5. Internet

    Wait, you're telling me that someone used a fake name on the internet? No way.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:09 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      Way.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  6. Reality

    To the best that anyone knows, Abraham and Moses did not exist making this guy's transgressions a "so what".

    April 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
  7. KL

    Actually, he never told the truth. He was exposed. Some people are pathological liars and get a thrill out of it, the truth always comes out. Odds are he will profit from this like others who pull these stunts.

    April 17, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  8. FreddyCanuck

    This guy should be removed from every position of authority he holds. The guy lied! He misled and misrepresented himself under the guise of his "other self". Such a lack of discretion and foresight is alarming when you consider that he is considered a leader in the Jewish society.

    I always love it when they first deny and then say they decided to be truthful. Of course they decide to be truthful when they're caught! The guy has questionable morals and needs to be seen for what he is - a stinking liar!

    April 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  9. Fred

    Same thing happened in France few weeks ago.
    The Grand Rabin of France lied about his diploma among very serious other things :
    http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2013/04/09/bernheim-nouveaux-plagiats-premiers-lachages_3156604_3224.html?xtmc=rabin&xtcr=10

    April 17, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  10. Joel

    Its always sad to hear stories like this, but life goes on. Where does he go from here? For me life began anew when I received Yeshua as Messiah and Savior. It was then that I knew forgiveness of sins. His peace remains with me to this day having placed me in a right relationship with the Father by the atonement of the Son. Michael Broyde or anyone else can find new beginnings through Yeshua/Jesus. May you know His peace and forgivenss. Shalom

    April 17, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • tonto Hurvitz

      Yeshua is another name for Jesus. You are asking that Jews accept Jesus as their savior. In other words, you're saying their current beliefs as Jews aren't "good enough". Tonto thinks you should be free to believe in whatever you want and extend to other faiths the same courtesies.

      April 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • janet

      Joel...thank you for your response and witness for Yshua. i am also a Messianic Jew and agree with you with all my heart that everyone, including and especially the Jews...need their Messiah.

      April 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Joel

      You know, now that I think about it, it sounds really childish and simple-minded to order all the Jews to abandon their Covenant with God and submit to a Messiah they consider false. Sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. Nothing wrong with using fake names, either.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • lol??

      joel sayz,
      ".......it sounds really childish and simple-minded to order all the Jews to abandon their Covenant with God ......."

      Who's ordering? You might just remind them to face their divorce, though.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • lol??

      janet, the Messianic Jew, are you trying to create a schism?

      "Gal 3:28-29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye [be] Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

      April 18, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Science

      lol??.........................can I puke the info here too ?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Joel

      Tonto, I have found peace in the Messiah of Israel. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other way my friend. If there were many paths to God as some often like to say then sure, go ahead, believe as you will, but the truth of the matter is that there is only one bridge to God The Father and that is Y'shua The Son. You may find many people who will tell you what you want to hear, sorry, I'm not one of them. I will tell you the truth. There is peace in Yeshua. Shalom

      April 18, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Joel

      Janet, thank you for your kind response and witness for Y'shua. He is drawing His elect in these last days from among HIs Jewish people, and from all the nations. Shalom

      April 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @joel

      And let me guess. All those who don't believe as you get to be tortured forever.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Joel

      Hawaii, you don't need to guess. Its all there in black and white in the New Covenant/New Testament. It has not been hidden from us. Search the scriptures and see what you find there.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @joel

      I did, and I found that it wasn't true. That the bible is a book, written by men with no divine influence. It is full of immorality, divisiveness, calls to hate, kill, or shun all those who do not follow it. The bible is crap, and the god it proposes is not only unjust, but that character is one of the most evil pieces of shit I've ever read about.
      I'd tell you to actually read the entire thing, but I'm pretty sure you'll only take the things you like and ignore the rest completely.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  11. Ra

    Does someone really need to be an expert in jewish law, ignore science, hate Germans, evens ones born after WW2, treat your wife like an underling and brainwash your children. Bam, your a jew. Don't even get me started on being Kosher, even jews can't get together on that quagmire of silly rules.
    Constantine was a genius to create the New Testament, he knew Religion was fantastic for control. Human sheep it creates, just say baaaaaaaa.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • spocksbrain

      Im not orthodox and I don't hate Germans. But I do have a very low opinion of ignoramuses like yourself.

      April 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • FreddyCanuck

      Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you for saving me all the trouble of saying exactly the same thing. Now I can spend my time agreeing with you. However, the Thought Police may try to track both of us down and denounce us for being anti-Jewish. Good luck to both of us.

      April 17, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • Albert Einstein

      "hate science" I think you might need to check your brain fluid levels or something.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  12. Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

    This is about as interesting as finding out Stephen King uses a different name.

    It's still all fiction.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Ra

      The books King wrote with a "pen name" or pseudonym were decent in my opinion. It's the kind of author you read for fun, when you want something more serious I prefer Voneggut or Asimov, both gone now 🙁

      April 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

      I hope my statement did not come off an insulting. I enjoy Stephen King's books. My statement was meant to imply that even though he uses a different name, his books are still fiction.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • isaac Asimov

      I'm in atheist heaven, watching you all on tv in my new android body while I read antipope's new Laundry book.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  13. Ra

    Religion is for weak minded fools who are afraid of death.
    "Please reward me for kissing your ass God, and forcing my children to do the same!" Pathetic humans. Anyway.....

    BOW!!!
    YIELD!!!!!
    KNEEL!!!! (before Zod)
    AND GIVE ME YOUR MONEY, ERR UMMM, I MEAN DONATIONS.

    April 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • hotpatata

      I'm not a believer either, but I don't go online berating those who are. My least favorite aspect of organized religion is that many of its adherents too easily condemn the beliefs of others, often with hostility and an unjustified sense of superiority. Which is exactly what you are guilty of. Stop.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • glennrobert

      Yes, Asimov as a genius and and a non-believer. His history of the old and and new testament is very interesting. It is not a review of religion.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:07 am |
  14. squidburns

    At least he wrote his own stuff, that says something... like this guy has too much time on his hands to write!

    April 17, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • FreddyCanuck

      How do you know he even wrote his own stuff. He says that others are using the name after he gave it up. Perhaps there were/are multiple people using the name to disseminate views that support their own positions on things. Maybe this is just another method that these particular Jews are using to take over the world!

      PS: If the Jews do take over the world (or just more of it), I do hope they don't cancel Family Guy.

      April 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  15. truth truth truth 2013

    Pseudonyms just want to have fun. I'm going clubbing with Ru-Paul.

    April 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      I mean Rand Paul.

      April 17, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  16. Pale Horseman

    As this is the same with Christians not following Jesus, the number of Jews that lie amazes me. Under the law in the Torah, you do not lie. If the sytem becomes corrupted, then God will not save any Jews that do not follow the laws under the Torah. Remember the Torah Laws superseed traditions like Kol Nidre, so don't expect Kol Nidre to bot out your sins. You behavioral patterns of lying is all God needs to see that you are a liar and should be erased from creation.

    April 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Pale Horseman

      And don't forget about the tradition of Bo Nidle. Do you follow that one as well?

      April 17, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Pale Horseman

      Notice everybody the Pale Horesman the replied is a parrot using mimicry. Bo Niddle is the parrots attempt at confusing the information. The next post after this one will probably be the parrot as well.

      Kol Nidre is a Jewish Tradition where Jews think they have atoned for their sins, but that is not in the Torah. Actually, it is in conflict to Leviticus 26 which is punishments for violating the laws in the Torah.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

      "Sin" is just a word made up for controlling sheep. Your rant has no bearing on anything based in reality.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Pale Horseman

      This is not the imitator as he has run away and notice his character was not one to help people, but confuse them. My post here shows my character is to help reduce confusion, so you can know the difference between us from our character.

      Rodrigo you are right with "sin"not being based on reality which the church has used to corrupt the species.

      When Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.", he showed us how to have a great grasp on reality and how to not deviate from reality.

      The churches showed us something different; "sin" not being based on reality which we can see in the churches and church members who don't have their minds based in reality.

      [Teachings of Jesus]
      Let us use "the way, the truth, and the life" to model the way that is "not sin", so we can know what is "sin".

      The Way: The way Jesus said in Mat 21:31 is "the way of righteousness" through "repetance". Righteous Judgement in Lev 19 is finding the mathematical optimal point that does not favor one side over the other, not the poor over mighty and not mighty over poor. Mathematical optimization is how the 98.6 degree temperature is regulated and maintained by the design of how our creator made humans. If you are too hot, then your body sweats to cool you off. If you are too cold, then your body shivers to generate heat. Repentance is error correction. If you are too hot for too long, then you have to 'repent' and find a place to cool off so that you don't die and vice versa.

      The Truth: The truth is another word for logic. In Mathematical Logic class, you learn that a truth value can be true or false, and in probability class you may learn that truth is from 0=false to 1=true with everything in-between. The truth, the logic, is the foundation for mathematics and science which is how we get a working model for reality.

      The Life: The life is something that has to be valued logically if you are alive. If you harm life in the system of life that you depend on, then you will harm yourself logicallly. So adding value to life is healthy and taking value from life is unhealthy, logically.

      April 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Pale Horseman

      Any pale horseman who isn't bone idle is a fake.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • isaac Asimov

      Wait, are you saying someone used your phoney name besides you? How could that possibly happen during a discussion of false names? What are the ODDS?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Pale Horseman

      " If you harm life in the system of life that you depend on, then you will harm yourself logicallly. " This means, of course, that if you peel a carrot, one day a carrot will peel you. Remember, never harm yourself illogically; always be logical.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Pale Horseman

      You are wrong imposter and notice again from my character how people can tell the difference.

      First of all, a carrot being peeled is unlikely to be alive, and a carrot does not have cognition like some people all of us can read.

      If you harm life in the system of life that you depend on, then you will harm yourself logicallly. An example of this is if you do enough damage to the life in your team, you screw yourslef over because you depend on your team. If you damamge enough people in your city, then you screw yourself over because you live in that city with others. If you damage enough people in the world, then you screw yourself over because you live in that world with others.

      [Life]
      Life occurs in reality and all actions can both add and subtract from our life and the lives of others at the same time; life is not a Zero-Sum system (one or the other). Logically, if we subtract from the life of others throughout the system (community, city, state, country, ...), then we weaken the system of life we depend on. This is the logical foundation of why laws are made for the life and the logic of the morality and the logic to the reason why "Perception Management" is wrong.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Pale Horseman

      "First of all, a carrot being peeled is unlikely to be alive" Oh wait, what was I thinking? Of course carrots are alive. I must be as dumb as a rutabaga.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Pale Horseman

      If you screw over everyone on your team, the owner will trade you to another city and you will probably get a higher-paid contract. If you damage enough people in your city, the FBI will hunt you down like a mad dog. If you rant and rave on the internet, everyone will laugh at you and you can be the only person left posting on an empty site . . . .

      April 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  17. Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

    You can't trust anyone on or involved with a 'religous court".

    April 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  18. truth truth truth 2013

    I didn't really say those things. It was me.

    April 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  19. RD

    Seriously, isn't the internet the place where pseudonyms and testing philosophical positions (and often changing them) are supposed to happen?

    April 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • RD

      No, it is supposed to be a happy and secure place where everyone is on their best behavior. Wait, did I say that out loud?

      April 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  20. truth truth truth 2013

    Well, time to strip naked and go wandering around Seminole County, Florida again. Toodle-oo, fellas, I'm letting it all hang out. Wooo! Daiquiri time!!

    April 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      Stop using my name.

      April 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      I will if you will too.

      April 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013b

      please stop plagiarizing my name

      April 17, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      Sure, but first admit what a ridiculous, childish idiot handle it really is.

      April 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      But I am all about the truth! What's so childish about believing in universal truths?

      April 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • .

      Well, first they have to be true.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
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