Split identities of UK chief rabbi hopeful candidate

By The Jewish Channel, May 2, 2013
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Rabbi Broyde pretended to be Hershel Goldwasser

Rabbi Broyde pretended to be Hershel Goldwasser

One of the candidates to be the British chief rabbi and a leading figure in modern Orthodox Judaism has admitted to creating at least one fake identity that he used to promote his arguments among fellow rabbis.

The Jewish Channel (TJC) reported on April 12 that Rabbi Michael Broyde — who, until the report, had been a judge on the largest rabbinical court in the US — had created a fake alias: Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser.

The Goldwasser character had been used by Rabbi Broyde — also a law professor at one of the highest-ranked law schools in the US — for nearly 20 years to write letters to scholarly journals, join a rival professional rabbinic group and tout his work in various fora.

Rabbi Broyde admitted having created the Goldwasser character in a letter and by email within an hour of TJC publishing its article, although he claimed to have had an accomplice he did not name.

Rabbi Broyde began an indefinite leave of absence from his position as a rabbinical court judge and member of the largest Orthodox rabbinic professional association on the first business day following the publication of the report.

A name now connected to Rabbi Broyde’s candidature to be the new British chief rabbi was also revealed in the report.

The TJC investigation claimed that several of the positive comments on Rabbi Broyde’s internet articles, which had been posted under several names, came from the same internet protocol address as many communications from Rabbi Broyde and Goldwasser. One of those names was David Weissman.

In an article posted last week, Times of Israel writer Miriam Shaviv revealed that a number of her stories written in 2012 on the search for a new UK chief rabbi, including one under a headline saying that Rabbi Broyde was the “frontrunner” for the position, had been reported using a character named David Weissman as a source. The Weissman character had started emailing Mrs Shaviv in August last year, and sent 15 messages in total, “all pertaining to the race for the next British chief rabbi”.

Mrs Shaviv said Weissman had “claimed to be a member of staff at the United Synagogue”, and “for proof of his bona fides, he quoted from Broyde’s application”.

When contacted by the JC, Rabbi Broyde said he was unable to comment.

Last updated: 2:45pm, May 2 2013