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Rabbi Pruzansky Apologizes for Blog Post Characterized as Incitement

Teaneck–Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun apologized this week for comments on his blog that were widely disseminated and viewed by some as further incitement of an already agitated population grappling with the latest, particularly grisly, chapter in Palestinian terrorism.

In a clarification his original blog post, which was deleted, at http://rabbipruzansky.com, Pruzansky said that an article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), and run in the New York Jewish Week, among other publications, mischaracterized a number of his remarks, most notably that he had referred to all Arabs as ‘savages.’

“Let me be absolutely clear: The ‘savages’ referred to in ‘Dealing with Savages’ (the title of the initial blog post) were terrorists such as those who perpetrated the horrific massacre in Har Nof last week,” he wrote. He also condemned those who ‘support the savages,’ those who “raucously celebrated the dismemberment of four rabbis and the death of the Druze police officer.”

Pruzansky said that the article “sought to portray me as a raving lunatic who hates all Arabs and perhaps all non-Jews, and wishes ill upon all of them. God forbid,” he wrote. He added that his first post and the subsequent clarification sought to engender serious suggestions for tactics that Israel might use to deter terrorism. In an interview with JLBC, Pruzansky said he opposes the reactive action to terrorist acts, and like Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, would prefer proactive measures to prevent the terror from happening in the first place.

“There is a complacent feeling that today many people in our world have, that we grieve, we mourn and then we hope for the best. That pervades fear and it’s no way to live. That has to change. There has to be change. There have to be other measures to prevent these attacks. I am open to suggestion,” Pruzansky said. “We have to deter them, not punish them.”

A particularly disconcerting aspect of the terrorists’ current tactics, he said, is that “up until they act, they (terrorists) are innocent civilians. Until they strap on a bomb, or start shooting or pull out a knife.” Pruzansky shared how these lone wolf terrorists are striking at the heart of Israel by building fear and “leave people to wonder if they are going to encounter these forces of evil in a mall, a movie theater, a train platform, a shul, a school, etc. We should not succumb to these fears,” he said.

Pruzansky said that he hopes Israel will begin ‘thinking out of the box,” in reaction to the terror attacks, which are done not just to kill, but also for its own sake (to perpetuate fear). “The society itself has to reign in these unruly elements,” he said.

At home, however, Pruzansky reported that increased security measures have been put in place at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun following the attack in Har Nof. “We have not had threats in a direct way, but we began taking steps a while ago and implemented new security measures this week.”

Pruzansky noted that these steps have been taken with the full support of law enforcement, who are involved and alert to any potential threat to the community. He also noted that he feels safe and believes the community and the shul is, in itself, a secure location. He also doesn’t think we should change our actions based on what happened in Har Nof.

“I don’t subscribe to the notion that everything we do provokes terror.” He added that he feels the need to speak out because he wants to protect Israeli and Jewish lives, including those of his children and grandchildren, many of whom live in Israel. “Every Jew is supposed to protect Jewish lives,” Pruzansky said.

Pruzansky also reacted to how recent characterizations in the media have sought to paint him as an extremist or a pariah. “My issues with Gary Rosenblatt (editor of the Jewish Week) go back almost 20 years now. Our views are different. The paper was pro-Oslo, pro expulsion from Gaza, and they never said they made a mistake, and there is no accountability for their mistakes. I was outspoken from the beginning, and there was resentment on those lines. Ultimately it’s the substance that bothers them,” he said.

Local Orthodox rabbis also reacted to the rabbi’s remarks on NorthJersey.com.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Ahavath Torah told NorthJersey.com, when asked, that he could understand Pruzansky’s frustration, but disagreed with his conclusions. “Rabbi Pruzansky’s statements reflect the frustration that he feels and that many of us feel as we view the unfolding events in the Middle East,” Goldin said. “However, his conclusions and recommendations certainly do not represent my view nor the view of many others in the Orthodox Jewish community.”

Rabbi Lawrence Zierler, who until recently headed the Modern Orthodox community at Teaneck’s Jewish Center, told NorthJersey.com: “I would distance myself from this language. The rabbis have developed a very different approach. People at the margins add insult to injury when they use intemperate language. It pains me that people would take so readily and quickly to the blogosphere, and it is unfortunate that people would write in such a manner.”

Pruzansky told NorthJersey.com that he deleted the offending blog post because of “unspecified threats.”

“Everything I wrote was entirely reasonable, but they didn’t report that,” he said of the JTA report. “I wrote that Arabs who are peaceful should be allowed to live side by side with Israelis.”

By Elizabeth Kratz

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