Once in a while, an eccentric person walks into the press center in Jerusalem, going from one news agency to another, telling you that he is something that he is not. Sometimes he tells you that he has met Moses or Jesus, sometimes he tells you that he has seen the Messiah. Sometimes he tells you that he is the Messiah. The standard attitude to these visiting sources from outer wherever is to write their stories on a proverbial yellow pad and show them the door.
A few years ago, a certain Rabbi wandered the press center, claiming to represent all Orthodox Rabbis in North America. He was carrying stationary to prove it, he said. He carried with him a number of proclamations from all the “leading” Rabbinic authorities around the world – that Israel must immediately annex Judea and Samaria, expel the Arabs, and declare that any Jew who was not an observant Jew to be declared invalid to participate in the government of Israel. I wrote down his story and showed him the door. This Rabbi was persistent, insisting that I organize a press conference for him. I only got rid of him when he realized that press conferences cost money, and, well, he did not have any money to pay for it. He left me his card and his letter of reference from some unknown Rabbinical organization. And then I noticed something funny. He was carrying Rabbinic stationary with most of the Rabbis on the letterhead who are no longer of this world.
I thought that was that and that I wouldn’t hear from this joker again. When I got home that night, I was more than surprised to turn on the radio newsreel and hear this Rabbi giving press interviews to the Voice of Israel. he had managed to convince the night editor of Israel radio that HE was the voice of American Orthodox Jewry. And then I saw him pop up on a few of the wire services. And then he was featured in a few Orthodox-owned newspapers. He only stopped his schvung when he could no longer pay his hotel bill. I know because a friend of mine was the hotel manager who called the next day with an amazing story: a Rabbi was staying at the hotel wanted the Chief Rabbinate to pay his bill but they nothing about him, so the Rabbi mentioned that the reporters at Beit Agron press center vouch for him.
The hotel sent him packing, which is what the press should have done, but he was so articulate, so genuine, and he made such a good story.
The Rabbi made one more visit to the press center, this time leaving his picture because he wanted a “shiduch” – a match made in heaven for this devil who was 40+.
I didn’t hear from this “Rabbinical source” for quite awhile. I can’t say that I missed him.
And then, the night of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, that same Rabbi was on all the prime time radio and TV programs in New York, and quoted in the New York Times, expressing joy and praise at the news of Rabin’s death. Once more, the Rabbi was saying that represented the biggest organization of American Orthodox Rabbis.
In the aftermath of the assassination, the same Rabbi, again on a roll, went one step further, claiming to know one Moshe Gross, a Rabbinc student who had raised half a million dollars for the YIGAL AMIR LEGAL DEFENCE FUND. A cooperative media in shock picked up on the Moshe Gross story and published it all over the world. The New York Times, the Israeli consulate in New York, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and many others publicized the fund as fact, although nobody had met Gross and nobody had seen any bank statement. The Rabbi had a way to convince people. He simply faked another voice, claiming to be “Gross in hiding”, and gave tens of interviews to hungry reporters who were ready to hear about an Orthodox Jewish conspiracy to kill Rabin & protect his killer.
The Rabbi went one step further – he fabricated a tape recording on a telephone line in Brooklyn that advertised the fact that Yigal Amir sought a “shiduch”, a match that would marry the assassin while he served his life sentence. That tape played on Israel radio and Israel TV, with the number for young eligible ladies to call.
And, you guessed it, women who called the line got a call back from the horny single Rabbi who was “available”. If you can’t love the nut you want, love the nut you’re with.
After some reporters smelled a rat, the Rabbi again disappeared from the public eye.
Well, the Rabbi resurfaced.
While discrete discussions were underway in the Israeli Knesset to try to organize a compromise between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Knesset members over new proposed religious identity legislation, the same Rabbi Of Fraud appeared in the office of one of the major wire services in New York at the end of a work day, with his Rabbinic proclamation that declared that anyone who was not Orthodox was simply not Jewish. The release was carried on all major wires, having an immediate international lightening effect, and the story was headlined up as a serious news item by the hundreds of member syndicates of New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and many others, as it reverberated to the Israeli news services, and bounced back to the US with seeming Israeli verification, as the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jewish movements shried with justified anger and repulsion.
Later the next day, the three authentic Orthodox organizations in the US and Israel denounced the initiative. However, the damage was done. As my grandmother used to say, you never get more than one chance to make a first impression.
Any Orthodox denial of the story simply gave the news item more attention and credibility, as the wily Rabbi continues to flood the wire services and every possible media outlet with faxes of his Rabbbinic decree with his proclamation of excommunication… to a media and public that is ready to believe and swallow this garbage.
The Rabbi plays the stereotype of Orthodox Jews that the Jewish and Israeli public would like to believe, and the Rabbi knows how to play the press for what it is worth.
What will it take to convince the reps of the non-Orthodox Jewish movements of fraud? Does it matter? One of my colleagues who fundraises for the Movement for Conservative Judaism in the US confides to me that he makes his best money when Orthodox Rabbis mouthe off like this, and that he expects the money to flow thanks to a certain Rabbi with diarreaha of the mouth.
Media Research Analyst
Beit Agron International Press Center,
Fax: (+972-2) 623-6470