Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rabbi Michael Broyde's bizarre alter ego Herschel Goldwasser

TJC Update, 1:00 PM: Broyde has written a letter admitting to having created the character, and apologizing for it.]  A leading Orthodox rabbi and esteemed law professor appears to have created a fake professional identity which he used to gain access to members-only correspondence of a rival rabbinic group and tout his own work. The fake identity may also have been used to submit letters to scholarly journals.

Rabbi Michael Broyde is well-known in both the fields of Jewish scholarship and law, and according to veteran British Jewish news reporter Miriam Shaviv, he was also on the shortlist of candidates being considered for chief rabbi of England in recent months, in an article saying that the chancellor of Yeshiva University had called him “the finest mind of his generation.” He is a rabbinical court judge, or dayan, on the largest rabbinical court in the United States, the Beth Din of America. Broyde is also a law professor at the U.S. News & World Report 23rd-ranked law school in the country at Emory University, where he is also Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion. His Emory biography declares that he “has published more than 75 articles and book chapters on various aspects of law and religion and Jewish law,” including in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and the Emory Law Journal. The author or editor of several books, he is a prominent figure in rabbinic circles, where his detailed arguments and strong opinions regarding matters of practice and communal standards have produced alliances and opposition. He was also the founding rabbi of the Young Israel of Toco Hills, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser has been published in multiple scholarly journals and been a part of numerous online dialogues with other Orthodox rabbis. But Goldwasser does not appear to be a real person. In examining voter registration records, contacting rabbis in areas where he was said to have lived, and in research by yeshiva archivists, no record of his existence has been found over the course of The Jewish Channel’s investigation. Yet the Goldwasser character’s name and e-mail address have been used to publish correspondence that frequently touts Broyde’s work. The Goldwasser character has generated correspondence over nearly 20 years. Going back to the early 1990s, the Goldwasser character has published letters in such well-regarded journals of Jewish thought as Tradition and Conservative Judaism.[...]


  1. According to some of the comments on Hirhurim, the initial impetus may have been OK under the netiquette of the time, but he kept it going after it wasn't. Even so, if he had left it as an alter ego publishing scholarly opinions, still maybe not so bad.
    He is claiming that he's not the only one posting under that name, but not making specific disavowal of any particular postings. But the sock puppeting lauding postings made under his real name.... and the credit to "Goldwasser" in the Sacks siddur... Oy. Even if they were made by others sharing the pseudonym... Oy.

  2. More details: He says he hasn't used the Goldwasser identity, which he and a friend made up, in 3 years. However, according to Haaretz:

    "He has, Broyde admitted, “sockpuppeted” since then, using other names to post compliments of his own blog essays. One, from “David Gold,” complimented a January 2013 essay written by Broyde on a Torah-focused blog called Hirhurim. “What a thoughtful and interesting piece by Rabbi Broyde,” wrote Gold.

    The Jewish Channel article reports that there are three different names that posted laudatory comments under Broyde’s Hirhurim essays between 2011 and 2013, all of them originating from the same IP address, or unique identifiers indicating that they came from an account Broyde owns.

    Asked if he will continue to sockpuppet, Broyde said, 'I don’t know. I haven’t in a while. I haven’t given it any thought.'"

    "In a while" apparently means "since earlier this year."

  3. great job at pravda censorship, DE. Makes me sick!

    1. I dont think Pravda would have allowed comments like this one.

  4. Rabbi Hershel GoldwasserApril 15, 2013 at 12:47 AM

    R' Broyde is one of the greatest Rabbis of the generation, or perhaps even of the last generation.

  5. I hope none of Broyde's “socks” sent out any satirical emails, because that would be a major crime with international repercussions. For some insight on exactly how the Internet cops get these cyber-socks in New York, see the Raphael Golb trial website:

    Read the trial transcripts. See how Raphael Golb’s Dead Sea Scroll socks were exposed by the prosecutor, one after the other. Strange detail, though: the prosecution was allowed to argue that Golb made “false accusations,” but Golb was blocked from introducing any evidence that his accusations were true, because “neither good faith nor truth is a defense to the crimes charged.” Great stuff! Hopefully they will get Broyde on this too, and every other sock anyone is using out there.


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