An event featuring a controversial American rabbi has been moved from a synagogue to a private home following a public outcry in the central Israeli town of Modi’in.
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Steven Pruzansky, the rabbi of one of the largest Orthodox congregations in the United States, had been invited to speak at Hameginim, one of several Orthodox synagogues in Modi’in, on Monday evening. Pruzansky, who holds extreme right-wing views, has drawn considerable fire over the years for his offensive remarks about women, Arabs and liberals.
After details of the event were published on an internal mailing list in January, a group of local women, most of them English-speaking immigrants, lobbied the synagogue to cancel the event through a letter-writing campaign.
Asked why the event had been moved, Michael Brunert, chairman of the congregation, said: “I will not answer that question.”
But other sources in Modi’in said the official explanation they had been given for the change in venue was that the synagogue was undergoing renovations. The local residents protesting Pruzansky’s appearance had threatened to hold a demonstration outside the synagogue during his planned appearance.
The long-time rabbi of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, N.J., Pruzansky is a former vice president and executive member of the Rabbinical Council of America. Most recently, he stirred controversy when he blamed promiscuity for the rising incidence of rape on college campuses.
Leading the campaign against Pruzansky’s visit was British-born science writer Josie Glausiusz. "The fact that Rabbi Pruzansky's talk was moved from a public forum to a private home has shown me that so simple an act as writing a letter can have a powerful effect,” she told Haaretz.
“In the current political climate, I believe it's more important than ever to speak up and protest when we encounter prominent members of the Jewish community spreading myths about rape on campus or advocating the expulsion of Arab citizens of Israel. By doing so, we've helped raise awareness of Rabbi Pruzansky's scurrilous views in Modi’in, and I hope among the members of Hameginim as well."
Glausiusz said that the congregation chairman had turned down a request by her and others outraged by Pruzansky’s upcoming appearance to meet and discuss the invitation.
Located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Modi’in has a relatively large population of English-speaking immigrants.