The Boca Raton Synagogue fell into the spotlight of the Forward’s series of article about sex abuse at YU when BRS’s long-time member, Richard Andron, was named as a serial, child molester.
After 30 years of abiding Richard (Rick, Ricky) Andron, BRS turned on a shekel and forced his immediate resignation and agreement not to enter their premises or events. Nice PR work, but they never explained why, knowing of his history as they did, they allowed him to conduct activities with children until shortly beforehand including havdalah, singing, and until two years ago, the matzoh shop. This was the misconduct of both Rabbi Emeritus Kenneth (Kenny) Brandon and his hand-picked, protegé/successor, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg.
In September, BRS adopted a civility policy which it asks all its members to sign. It is not clear if they have changed the by-laws. But in any event Effi is pushing it, focusing especially on public criticism of leadership or even other rabbis in the community such as those who have embraced Andron now that he is out of BRS. I am all for civility but I find Rabbi Goldberg’s hypocrisy galling, both in how he explains this policy and how he actually conducts himself.
For starters, I hear he calls me a menuval in private discussions. I get it he does not like me. I have been critical of him and his predecessor and downright acerbic. But in Yiddish, a menuval is not just a nasty guy but he is a sexual miscreant of some sort. He has absolutely no grounds to believe that and if he does he should spit it out, rather than skulking behind closed doors to defame.
This brings me to the what he does behind closed doors. Unlike his mentor/predecessor and Rabbi Emeritus, Kenny Brander, Effi is a pleasant guy in public. But in private he lets loose screaming and shouting at those that choose to dissent. He doesn’t do it to everyone, and he doesn’t do if he can get his way with honeyed word, just when he has to and just to those low on the income and status totem pole of the community. In this respect he is a worthy successor to Brander who was notorious for looking straight through or past the lower status members of the community.
These are rabbis, who in polite managerial jargon, “manage up.” However, in defending the civility policy, Rabbi Goldberg waxed piously with a well-known story about the Beis Halevi (the ancestor of the Rav, Yosef Dov Soloveitchik). The Beis Halevi is travelling in lay clothing and is treated shabbily by an inn keeper who is later embarassed when he recognizes the stature of the Beis Halevi and apologizes. The Beis Halevi refuses to accept the apology until he gets the inn keeper to understand that you cannot apologize for treating an esteemed person like a lay person. You have to treat everyone respectfully. He weaves in other stuff related to the parshah and an excruciating long soliloquy about tolerance for disagreement and mutual respect.
You can accept my characterization of his overly long essay or read it yourself. However be prepared to gag if you know the reality of his conduct and the hierarchical political culture of BRS. On the other hand you can entertain yourself with the thought that this long kvetch is a very telling clue that he is on defensive, or to paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘The Rabbi dost protest too much, methinks!’