How sorry is Rabbi Michael Broyde about being Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser?

Writing for Ha’aretz, Debra Nussbaum Cohen appears to have landed the first interview with Rabbi Michael Broyde, following The Jewish Channel’s expose revealing that the prominent ethics scholar had created a fake rabbinic persona that he used to praise his own work, debate others and infiltrate a rival rabbinic group. According to Nussbaum Cohen’s account, he doesn’t see what the big deal is:

Broyde, 48, spoke exclusively with Haaretz as soon as Shabbat ended. 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.

But Broyde, a professor of law and the academic director of the Law and Religion Program at Emory, sounded more contrite in the apology that he sent to a past president of the upstart International Rabbinic Fellowship, a liberal Modern Orthodox whose listserv he joined using the name Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser. Broyde is a prominent member of the more establishment Rabbinical Council of America. 

The IRF’s reaction to the apology: It’s a start, but…[[READMORE]]

The International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF) expresses its deep disappointment and dismay at the actions of Rabbi Michael Broyde, who acted deceptively in order to join our organization and its confidential listserv, which is a sacred and safe space in which our members can share ideas and thoughts. These actions included submitting a fictitious written application, as well as repeatedly lying in response to inquiries made by IRF leadership and individual members.  As a prominent  Dayan of the BDA, rabbi and posek, Rabbi Broyde’s actions are all the more saddening and shocking.  Honesty and yashrut must be the hallmarks of all Jews and especially all who occupy positions of leadership in the community.

We acknowledge Rabbi Broyde’s public apology to the IRF. At the same time we recognize the continued feelings of hurt and betrayal legitimately felt by some of our members who engaged with exchanges with Rabbi Broyde’s fictitious persona. In addition to the general apology to the IRF as an organization, personal apologies are due to the specific individuals that he interacted with.

Prior to the formal incorporation of the organization, when the IRF lacked a formal membership committee, R. Broyde joined the IRF as a provisional member under an assumed name and participated in the closed listserve under that false name.  In November 2009 following the adoption of our organizational by-laws and the formalization of our membership procedures, all members were formally vetted and their applications were re-evaluated. Suspicions arose regarding one particular name and whether it was a real person.

Vigorous efforts were made to contact that person and verify his identity but these were not successful. Subsequently, in 2010,  that person was dropped from the rolls of the IRF and excluded from the listserve.

The membership application process since 2009 has included the requirement of  submission of a semikha certificate and written references from rabbis known personally to the IRF leadership.  We will reevaluate these procedures again at our upcoming conference in May to examine if other steps are necessary to further ensure the integrity of our membership process.

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