Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meh-ness II Society

This isn't the way I thought I'd come out of my paternity leave from this blog. I know RCA Rabbinical Court Judge Rabbi Michael Broyde by reputation only, but somehow his case has broken through to the mainstream media, specifically CNN, "the most busted name in news," as commentator Yonatan Leibowitz put it. Oh, hold on a minute: he goes by Jon Stewart now, and he actually legally changed it in 2001, in his third year at his third eponymous show.

The real John Stewart

This is relevant because Broyde's mistake was creating (along with a friend) his own stage name, as it were: Goldwasser.  He used this online identity for years, and it gave him a lot of access.

Now, let's be clear. Broyde did 3 things that were very clearly wrong:
  1. He submitted an academic article for publication under this pseudonym without notification.
  2. He joined another rabbinical organization (IRF) under this pseudonym.
  3. He denied this initially when he was caught.
Is any of this criminal? No. Is any of it academically sanctionable? Probably not. Is any of it ethically questionable? Most definitely. But from the associated furor, you'd think that Goldwasser had been molesting, raping or embezzling.

Not Goldwasser, but his Grandpa was!
But what kind of presidential name is "Barry"?

I bring these crimes up, because they're, y'know, actual crimes, some of which are being committed or have been committed serially by those calling themselves rabbis. Last week I spent an hour being questioned about a former neighbor, pastor and principal of mine who is being investigated for actual crimes. He's the latest in an unfortunately long line. Three out of five Jewish educational institutions I've worked for over the past 15 years have had sex scandals involving high-ranking rabbis (which I am assuredly not) right before I got there or soon after I left. Those are some scary numbers.

So did Broyde do something wrong? Yup. But ultimately it seems to be an extension of something we've all done: maintaining different e-mail accounts and usernames, choosing different identities for use among coworkers, family, friends or fellow fans of Rabbi Yochanan/ Reish Lakish slashfic. It crossed into some ethically gray areas, but as long as there are real predatory Jewish clergy out there--or as I call them, Rabbis of Unusual Sinfulness (R.O.U.S.'s)--how about we concentrate our fury on them?

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