English-speaking immigrants from the Israeli town of Modi’in are mobilizing to prevent an appearance by a highly controversial American rabbi in a local synagogue.
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Steven Pruzansky, the rabbi of one of the largest Orthodox congregations in the United States, has been invited to speak at Hameginim, an Orthodox synagogue in Modi’in on February 13. Pruzansky, who holds extreme right-wing views, has drawn considerable fire over the years for offensive remarks he has delivered against women, Arabs and liberals. He regularly makes his views known in a personal blog.
The longtime 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.
In 1995, Abraham Foxman, then-national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who had been a longtime member of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, left the synagogue in protest at inflammatory remarks made by Pruzansky against the government of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, including use of the term “the Rabin Judenrat.” Pruzansky came out strongly against former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 10 years later over the evacuation of settlements in Gaza.
He has delivered especially vicious attacks against former U.S. President Barack Obama, referring to him as the “affirmative action president” and describing his campaign strategy as “pandering to liberal women, Hispanics, blacks, unions, etc.”
Leading the campaign in Modi’in against Pruzansky’s visit is British-born science writer Josie Glausiusz. In a letter she sent on Wednesday to leaders of the Hameginim synagogue, on which several of her supporters are copied, Glausiusz urged the synagogue to cancel the event with Pruzansky.
“Rabbi Pruzansky’s views are deeply insulting to women, to Arab citizens of Israel, to Holocaust survivors, and to the family of Yitzhak Rabin and all those who mourned his murder,” the letter said. “He should not be offered a public platform in Modi’in to air his offensive views. I call upon you to rescind your invitation to Rabbi Pruzansky to speak at your synagogue.”
Glausiusz and her supporters have requested that their friends copy and paste the letter, which has been posted on social media, and send it to the synagogue with their signatures as well. Neither she nor the other women copied on the letter are members of this particular synagogue.
Located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Modi’in has a relatively large population of English-speaking immigrants.
Speaking with Haaretz, Glausiusz said she became aware of the invitation to Pruzansky through a notification on an internal Modi’in mailing list. The notification said that Pruzansky would be interviewed at the synagogue event by Hameginim’s congregational rabbi, Adi Sultanik.
“I’m so fed up with people like this being given a public platform,” she said. “As a woman and an Israeli citizen, I feel it is important to speak out against someone with such offensive views.”
Contacted by Haaretz, Michael Brunert, the chairman of the congregation, said he was not the person who extended the invitation to Pruzansky. “But if these people who are protesting are not part of my synagogue,” he said, “then what the hell does it have to do with them? If they were members of my synagogue, I’d be happy to discuss it with them.”
Elana Sztokman, a prominent Orthodox feminist who also resides in Modi’in, countered that it was her right to protest the event even if she was not a member of the synagogue. “The biggest lesson we’ve learned having Donald Trump elected president of the United States is how important it is to speak out against hateful rhetoric,” she said. “A few years ago, I might not have gotten involved if it weren’t my shul, but today, any attempt to give legitimacy to those who spew hate must be stopped.”
Pruzansky did not respond to a request for comment.