July 19, 2024
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CBY Members Get Erev Shabbos Emails

Teaneck–Right before Shabbos last Friday, two emails were sent to the members of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun (CBY). In one, the Board of Directors informed the membership of what they are doing to prevent future incidents like those generated by a blog post written by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, CBY’s rabbi. The post went viral and the reactions have come in from around the globe. There have been reports from Rome and China about reactions to the post, which the rabbi wrote in response to the massacre at Har Nof. Security at the shul has been ramped up. The board’s email to the membership was followed by an email from Rabbi Pruzansky. Both emails appear below.

The first is from the board of directors.

Dear Members,

Over the past number of weeks our Shul and the entire community have come under the spotlight as a result of Rabbi Pruzansky’s blog postings.

As the Board of Directors has said in the past, the public writings of Rabbi Pruzansky are his personal thoughts, views and opinions and not those of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, its Executive Board, Board of Directors or members.

Bnai Yeshurun is in no way affiliated with the Rabbi’s blog postings and has never had editorial control over them whatsoever.

The Executive Board met with the Rabbi earlier this week and has been in communication virtually non-stop since last week. We fully appreciate the gravity of the situation for our Shul and the extended community.

As part of our discussions with the Rabbi, the Rabbi has agreed to utilize the services of editors before publication of his writings. The Executive Board will review the results of this new process periodically to ensure that it is effective.

Aside from our internal discussions, conversations with local and national law enforcement have occurred and are ongoing. Those discussions have included safety and security issues for the Shul, its members, the Rabbi and his family. We have been assured by the Teaneck Police that patrols have been increased and that there is no cause for alarm.

We are confident that our Shul and its members will build on its strengths to resolve the current situation and move forward.

Please reach out to any member of the Executive Board or Board of Directors with any questions and concerns you may have. We appreciate the broad spectrum of voices in our community and value each and every one of them.

Respectfully,

The Executive Board of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun

This letter from Rabbi Pruzansky followed:

Dear Friends:

Please allow me to address the recent controversy involving myself and what I think is a prudent way to move forward.

As many have noticed, I have a penchant for writing, and occasionally writing provocatively. I do regret that, writing in the aftermath of the horrific massacre in Har Nof, I wrote in a manner that many deemed harsh, even though that was not my intention. I recognize that not everyone among the officers or membership agrees with every point and appreciate that, but that my effectiveness in conveying my message here–that there must be an efficient deterrent to savage acts of violence against Jews and others–is lost on many readers when language is used that many find confrontational rather than illuminating.

I probably have suffered sporadically over the years from lack of a resource that all other writers have–a good editor. All writers need another set of eyes or two in order to ensure that errors are avoided and rhetoric that distracts is eschewed. Certainly my three books have all undergone vigorous editing. As such, I have agreed (upon recommendation of the shul leadership) to form a panel of people that I trust that will review my writings–not to censor the ideas, but to make certain, when necessary, that they are conveyed in slightly-less colorful ways. It is clear that there are members of the media who do not like me and routinely pick apart my words and place them in the worst possible light. That is why extreme caution has to be used in conveying those ideas, and those editors will be most beneficial to me.

I cherish my freedom of speech, as we all should, both in shul and outside of shul. I recognize that my primary obligation and the focus of my endeavors were and are the membership of CBY, and have been so for more than twenty years. I regret anything that is said, written or done that places the shul in a negative light, even if happens unintentionally and against my will. I understand that my words can influence the public debate on important issues of the day. To me, that too is an essential function of the rabbinate that is too often neglected.

And, certainly, it should be clear to all that when I write, the views expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of friends, family, shul, organizations or other affiliations I might have.

Rest assured that I will continue to teach Torah and speak out on issues of importance to Jewish life and the world, and to do so in a way that is responsible, effective and enhances the shul’s reputation.

Additionally, please know that our security measures–enhanced in the last two weeks in the wake of the massacre in the shul in Har Nof–provide us the safety, protection and peace of mind necessary to continue utilizing the shul’s facility with full confidence.

We know that CBY will continue to be a makom Torah that inspires, enriches and intensifies our spiritual lives, and I feel most privileged to be part of that makom Torah.

Shabbat Shalom to all!

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

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