NEW YORK (JTA) – The board of directors of Rabbi Steven Pruzansky’s Teaneck synagogue is taking steps to oversee the rabbi’s controversial blog and tighten shul security.
In a letter sent to congregants on Friday, the board of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun said Pruzansky had agreed to submit his writings to editors prior to publication and that the process would be reviewed periodically by the synagogue board.
The shul also said security patrols by Teaneck police have increased in recent days to ensure the safety of the synagogue, its members, and Pruzansky and his family.
The letter was sparked by a Nov. 21 blog post titled “Dealing with Savages” in which Pruzansky called Arabs in the Land of Israel “the enemy,” advocated their emigration or deportation, and suggested that the mosque atop the Temple Mount be moved to Saudi Arabia. JTA first reported the post on Sunday, shortly after the rabbi deleted it due to “unspecified threats,” he said.
“The Executive Board met with the Rabbi earlier this week and has been in communication virtually non-stop since last week. We fully appreciate the gravity of the situation for our Shul and the extended community,” the board said in its letter.
“As the Board of Directors has said in the past, the public writings of Rabbi Pruzansky are his personal thoughts, views and opinions and not those of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, its Executive Board, Board of Directors or members,” the board said in its letter to members. “Bnai Yeshurun is in no way affiliated with the Rabbi’s blog postings and has never had editorial control over them whatsoever.”
The new editorial oversight arrangement for Pruzansky comes in response to the harsh spotlight his recent posts have cast on his 800-member Orthodox shul, Teaneck’s largest.
In his own letter to congregants, Pruzansky expressed regret for writing “in a manner that many deemed harsh” following last week’s deadly terrorist attack at a Jerusalem synagogue that left five dead, including four Jewish worshippers.
“I probably have suffered sporadically over the years from lack of a resource that all other writers have — a good editor,” Pruzansky wrote. “As such, I have agreed (upon recommendation of the shul leadership) to form a panel of people that I trust that will review my writings — not to censor the ideas, but to make certain, when necessary, that they are conveyed in slightly-less colorful ways.”
Pruzansky’s Nov. 21 post was hardly his first foray into controversy. Over the years, he has used his blog and his sermons to castigate those he deems harmful to the Jewish people — not just Arabs, but Israeli leaders, too. In 1995, weeks before the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Pruzansky called Rabin a Judenrat — the term used to describe the Jewish councils that did the Nazis’ bidding during the Holocaust.
Earlier this month, Pruzanksy got into a public spat with the New York Jewish Week in which he seemingly compared the newspaper to the Nazi publication Der Sturmer.
Pruzansky’s Nov. 21 blog post focused on why and how Israel should deal more harshly with the Arab population living under its control.
“There is a war for the land of Israel that is being waged, and the Arabs who dwell in the land of Israel are the enemy in that war and must be vanquished,” Pruzansky wrote. “Israel has to act, especially as the violence has spiraled out of control … At a certain point, the unrestrained behavior of unruly animals becomes the fault of the zookeeper, not the animals.”
The post prompted a rare statement from the Orthodox Union repudiating rhetoric that resorts to “wholesale demonization, advocates for the collective punishment of Israeli Arabs, or calls for the destruction or dismantling of Muslim holy places.”