Rabbi Michael Broyde, who resigned from the largest Orthodox rabbinical association in America in January rather than face an ethical inquiry into his use of fabricated rabbinic identities over nearly two decades, is now leading an effort to launch a rival synagogue to the one he founded two decades ago — just half a block from the synagogue he founded.
Broyde is one of three rabbis serving as a rabbinic council, or vaad, for a new Orthodox synagogue opening at 2003 Lavista Road in the Atlanta neighborhood of Toco Hills; it is half a block from the new building under construction for the Young Israel of Toco Hills, founded in 1994 with Broyde as its first rabbi.
Broyde was replaced as rabbi of the Young Israel of Toco Hills in 2008, with the congregation electing Rabbi Adam Starr, a fellow graduate of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Broyde maintained an increasingly prominent role on the international Orthodox scene after that time through his published scholarship, his role as an authority on specific matters of Orthodox Jewish law, and by serving as a rabbinical court judge on the largest rabbinical court in the United States, the Beth Din of America. Eighteen months ago he was named one of the top 50 rabbis in America. Broyde is also a law professor at Emory University’s law school, where he is also a senior fellow at the university’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion; Emory’s law school is ranked 19th in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
But Broyde resigned his role as a judge on that rabbinical court and faced a significant diminution in his rabbinic reputation when reporting by The Jewish Channel in mid-2013 revealed his use of multiple rabbinic identities to join rival rabbinic groups, obtain access to their internal correspondence, write to scholarly journals touting his own work, and engage in numerous internet discussions. Broyde’s conduct was described by the then-president of the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, as “extremely disturbing.” TJC’s subsequent reporting found that Broyde had provided false claims of rabbinic ordination for one of his rabbinic identities and that Broyde had many connections with another fabricated character, an 80-year-old scholar named David Keter, who had been used to provide false evidence that would buttress Broyde’s published scholarship. An Emory University investigation into the latter declared, “the Committee did not find evidence to substantiate the allegations that Professor Broyde created the Keter pseudonym,” though TJC’s reporting showed that the university’s investigators did not attempt to contact the man who had the most interaction with Keter, editor of the scholarly journal Tradition, Rabbi Shalom Carmy.
In the months since, Broyde’s name has occasionally popped up in news reports, finding that Broyde’s biography continued to claim he was a judge on the Beth Din of America. As recently as this past winter, Broyde was still listed as an instructor of rabbinical judge candidates at an institution Broyde founded, the Atlanta Dayanut Institute.
The new synagogue Broyde is leading, which has been temporarily named the New Toco Shul, is launching without a permanent rabbi, according to an announcement from the synagogue’s president, Yaacov Freedman, a producer at the TV network HLN. Instead, it is being led by a “Rabbinic Vaad” that consists of Broyde and two colleagues who are both rabbis and also affiliated with Emory University. Rabbi Don Seeman is a former assistant rabbi to Broyde and is an associate professor of religion at Emory; according to dozens of sources, Seeman has been a vocal advocate for Broyde within Emory, the Orthodox rabbinate, and the Atlanta Jewish community. Rabbi Shlomo Pill is a PhD candidate in Broyde’s law and religion department at Emory’s law school, and a graduate of Broyde’s rabbinical judge training program.
The synagogue’s announcement declared that it will apply for membership in the largest Orthodox synagogue membership association, the Orthodox Union, “once a permanent board of directors is elected.” The synagogue’s holiday schedule lists four classes to be taught by Broyde in the coming month, two by Pill, and one by Seeman.
The synagogue’s interim board includes a staff writer at the local Jewish newspaper, the Atlanta Jewish Times, Suzi Brozman, and local community members Akiva Gimpelevich, Mordechai DeLuca, Ilana Gimpelevich, Jodi Lewis Lipsitz, and Rhondda May.
The synagogue’s building, a private home, is owned by Miriam and Izahk Abramov, according to Dekalb County property records, and was listed for sale in September of last year for $269,000, according to Zillow.com.