A source tells me the new owners are two orthodox business people, one from the midwest, probably Chicago, and the other from the west coast, probably Los Angeles. The Only Simchas website claims the buyer is Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz (SYR). I am guessing they are right. I speculate that one other likely buyer is Morris Esformes, a very successful Chicago area nursing home operator. They are both the kinds of philanthropists who would buy an entity for some goal other than profit. Esformes was willing to buy all of Rabbi Elimelech Meisels’ seminaries at a loss to get him out and clean up the sex abuse scandal. He withdrew because the conditions for the sale would have blocked him from cleaning up the place. If the buyer is from Cleveland, my best guess is that is Mendy Klein, who has thrown himself into work against sex abuse but wants to do it within the framework of the orthodox establishment. He has committed a million dollars to the cause and I could easily see him spending more than that.
Last year I noticed something uncharacteristic for the vitriolic Shmarya Rosenberg involving his coverage of Rechnitz. He backtracked on his usual style and an earlier post. In October 2014 he ran the headline “Major Haredi Philanthropist Accused of Being “Serial Violator” Of Nursing Home Regulations, Laws.” He then pasted in an article from the MarinJ.com website with the allegations.
For good measure he threw in derogatory (but true) information about Rechnitz’s father-in-law, the late R. Yisroel Belsky:
Rechnitz … a son-in-law of haredi Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, the rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas who has been accused of repeatedly protecting haredi pedophiles. Belsky is also allegedly linked to the Jewish divorce electric cattle prod extortion scandal.
But then in November he offered up a defense against those allegations in his post: “Haredi Mega-Donor’s Nursing Homes May Be Better Run And More Transparent Than Report Claimed.” He proceeded to paste in an extended defense written by Rechnitz’s attorney and closed with a note:
I’ve seen some of this data and other evidence, and from that I think Rechnitz is largely, maybe even completely, correct.
Rechnitz was attacked in 2015 by the Sacramento Bee. This time Shmarya didn’t even paste the full allegations and pretty much went straight for the Rechnitz rejoinder. Uncharacteristically for Shmarya, the post was titled: “Newpaper Exposé Of Haredi Mega-Donor’s Nursing Homes Was “Hit” Piece That Distorted The Facts, Spokesman Claims.” Neither of these more positive articles included any reference to R. Belsky.
Some people speculated he was bought off, others that he was threatened. Very few thought he was persuaded. I have known him to be persuaded and change his coverage but it was rare for him to be so positive even when he changed the substance of his position and coverage.
So why did he sell his site? It was widely known he was in dire financial straits. It is possible that the purchase offer carrot was coupled with threats of lawsuits of one sort or another. His site is unlikely to be profitable. So he did not have many choices of buyers. Apparently, these buyers have promised to continue running articles about sex abuse though they also promise to be more positive about the orthodox community. Who knows what they mean or whether they will keep their promises. Thus far, we have only this vague statement of the intentions of the new owners.
You are probably wondering what the future holds for “Failed Messiah”?
Who are the new owners?
We are a group of people dedicated to protecting the reputation of the Orthodox Jewish community.
A community that keeps to our tradition, and sets our standards high to protect the sanctity of G-d’s name. This can be accomplished in two ways.
Firstly, we will present articles and conversations that speak to what Hashem truly wants from us.
Secondly, we will continue to pursue and expose people that create a desecration of G-d’s name.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish Shmarya Rosenberg tremendous success on his new endeavor in combating poverty issues. We would also like to recognize his efforts in building up this web site.
While some may not agree with his approach, he was able to bring many taboo issues to the forefront of the community, particularly in the area of child abuse, forcing the community to address them. For this the community owes him a debt of gratitude.
We agree firmly that all posters shall be given the opportunity to speak their mind. We ask that it be done without abusive language or language that degenerates specific races or behavior.
To support this we ask that commenters refrain from using multiple names to please pick your handle or name and stick with it !
Please rest assured that in the future, your confidentiality will be guarded and maintained.
What is notable is their special focus on sex abuse as the only specific area of coverage they praised and and committed to continue. I hope that the promise is kept in a significant manner.
In the meantime they put up their first new story, “Miami Prosecutors: Murdered Rabbi Raksin DNA Inside Getaway SUV.” It is a word-for-word copy of the same article with a different title posted a day earlier by Miami-CBS. Shmarya pasted heavily but he would acknowledge his source though often burying the reference. I would advise the new owners to at least do that. Otherwise the joke will be that they bought the name and the <CTRL>-V command.
Thus far I have focused on the transition, as best I understand it at this point. But this is a milestone for blogging about the orthodox world. It reveals the power of money and the sad fact that the burden of exposing problems falls on a group of us who are uncompensated and routinely reviled and insulted.
Shmarya Rosenberg was no saint. He was angry, nasty, impatient, and fueled by hostility to much that characterized the orthodox world. But I believe he tried to be accurate and usually succeeded. There is a lot of scandal that is covered up in the orthodox world which needs to be changed. He contributed to that and worked himself to the bone for twelve years doing the work of two or three people under constant severe economic strain. I personally was inspired to start blogging by his coverage of sex abuse (along with the blogging of UOJ). During my early period he generously mentored me and for that I am grateful, whatever strains may have later developed. On the balance, I think the world is much better for his efforts, and certainly, the cause of truth was often served. Thank you, Shmarya and good luck going forward.