In his latest rant, anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein posts about being ostracized at his synagogue for his political views. His diatribe includes the following conspiracy theory regarding the “leaking” of the news his son had an upcoming bar mitzvah.
The story I’m about to tell is based on very strong circumstantial evidence concerning what and how it happened. Though I do not have a smoking gun, it’s highly likely that these events happened very close to the way I described them.
— Anarcho-Zionist (@AnarchoZionist) January 19, 2014
My son is about to become a bar mitzvah. A few weeks ago, during a spirited Twitter debate, an anonymous pro-Israel tweep named @AnarchoZionist disparagingly referred to my son’s upcoming bar mitzvah. I was shocked. There had been no previous public mention of the event. Not by me. Not by the synagogue. How did this sockpuppet know about it? And why was he using my son’s religious event to attack me?
What hurt about this in particular about this was that the only reason we belonged to the synagogue was in order to give our children a good Jewish education, including a bar mitzvah. This tweep, using information gleaned from inside the synagogue, was depriving me of the last bit of nachas I could get out of Beth Shalom.
I wouldn’t even have written this post and discussed publicly my experience at Beth Shalom, had this insult not happened. Except for recording that video, I’d kept quiet about all the incidents I recounted above. I have written a post criticizing a Borodin High Holiday sermon, but my criticism dealt with the substance of her remarks and offered my own alternative vision of American Jewish life, not my personal sense of grievance.
Returning to the Twitter debate, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been engaging in debate on Twitter at the same time with Hen Mazzig. It’s highly likely @AnarchoZionist had learned this private information from Hen Mazzig (or directly from an inside synagogue source). I did further research and discovered that both Mazzig and @AnarchoZionist followed each other. That would allow them to share Direct Messages with each other, including the news of my son’s religious ceremony.
But how would Mazzig find out? That wasn’t hard to figure out either. I remembered that Marjie Cogan, the trusty synagogue receptionist had sabotaged the Twinning project. Then I remembered that only five days before the Twitter attack, I’d brought the Bar Mitzvah announcement along with my son’s picture to the rabbi’s assistant. In the office at that time was Marjie Cogan. She also prepares the newsletter where the announcement would be published. Cogan, who’d worked for Rob Jacobs when he was at the Anti-Defamation League, likely leaked the information Mazzig or directly to @AnarchoZionist. For the record, Rob Jacobs denies that he or anyone on his staff was involved in this incident:
No one on my staff sent out anything about your son’s bar mitzvah.
I complained to the synagogue president about this violation of my and my son’s privacy. I presented the evidence to him of what had happened. I told him that it was unconscionable for a synagogue employee to leak such information leading to such a public and hurtful exposure.
He agreed that what had happened was wrong and said he would try to find out what happened. But Cogan denied any involvement when questioned. After I insisted that he examine her e-mail traffic and phone logs, he responded that there were no incriminating e mails and that the phone system didn’t allow such tracking. It appeared they wanted to do as little as they could get away with to determine what happened. They didn’t have a major problem with an employee who’d sabotaged a project endorsed by the rabbi, and may’ve served as a conduit for personal, private member information to be leaked publicly.
I told the president that if anything like this ever happened again, I would take whatever recourse was available to me to address it. I also insisted that Cogan not have any further access to any of my family records nor that she act in any way that would violate my family’s privacy.
If Cogan was the initial leaker, were her actions coordinated with someone associated with StandWithUs, or was she trying to win someone’s approval? There are precedents in the world of Israel advocacy for spying on “dissident Jews” and relaying private information about them to pro-Israel groups. Electronic Intifada wrote about just such a projectat UC Santa Cruz, in which a student affiliated with perennial pro-Israel campus gadfly, Tammy Rossman-Benjamin, infiltrated a student tour of Israel-Palestine and wrote an extensive report about the private political conversations of participants.
Further, in the 1980s the ADL engaged in a comprehensive campaign to track, spy on, and monitor both anti-Semitic groups and those considered anti-Israel. This project included black bag jobs, break-ins, etc. into the offices of Palestinian groups and others. This is where our Jewish paranoia can take us if we don’t control it.
That’s a hell of a conspiracy theory!
But I have a theory of my own.
You see, Silverstein actually tweeted about his son’s bar mitzvah plans on Jan 8, 11 days before the @AnarchoZionist tweet.
In other words, his son’s bar mitvah plans were not “private information” as Silverstein claims in his post. He broadcast them to the Twitterverse!
For some reason, this tweet does not seem to be available any more. Which means at some point, Silverstein consciously deleted it. The question is, did he delete it with today’s post in mind, so he could spread his conspiracy theory and besmirch some Zionists?
Either way, this is the latest example of why he cannot be trusted about anything.
Update: This just happened:
He’s profiting from the “occupation”!
Update: Silverstein has replaced the post with the following notice after admitting his error.
Last night I published a post dealing with my relationship with my local synagogue, the local StandWithUs pro-Israel loyalists, and a Twitter user who used my son’s impending bar mitzvah to insult me.
I made an error believing that an employee of the synagogue leaked private information about the event to the Twitter user. After correcting and updating the information in the post , and adding an apology, I republished it. Though all the information in the republished post was accurate–on reconsideration, I realized that a significant portion of the post dealt with old history, some of which I’ve even already recounted here. What wasn’t old history, my discussion of the growing dysfunction and irrelevance of many American synagogues, can be saved for another post. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when this will be appropriate to republish. Until then, I thought it best to remove it and leave this explanation in its place.
I apologize of course to those I wrongfully blamed and to those who may be confused by this unusual situation. The post of course, lives on, and can be easily found by those who travel the dark places of the pro-Israel internet.
Update: Mike posts:
In an expectorate burst of bile, Silverstein lashed out at his Rabbi and her husband, the President of his synagogue, the late David Brumer, and for good measure threw in Rob Jacobs and Hen Mazzig of StandWithUs.
In his fevered frenzy Silverstein convinced himself that nefarious forces had cooked up a conspiracy to leak the date of his son’s Bar Mitzvah to an online nemesis who goes by the name of Anarcho-Zionist. (Why a grown man knows or engages with anybody by the name of Anarcho-Zionist is a question for another day.)
As despicable and petty as those attacks were, what stood out for us in his pages long manifesto was the cruel targeting of Marjie Cogan, the hard working and dedicated receptionist at Congregation Beth Shalom. Silverstein identified Ms. Cogan as the ring leader of his imagined Bar Mitzvah-date data leak. He accused this gentle woman of releasing his sensitive private information, an accusation that if true would have likely resulted in her dismissal from a much needed job. Silverstein went so far as to demand an electronic search of the poor woman’s computer and phone records.
It was later revealed that it was Silverstein himself who had published his son’s Bar Mitzvah information on his own Twitter feed in early January. Once the truth came out Silverstein quickly cleaned up his original post removing all reference to his unwarranted assault on Ms. Cogan’s reputation. He briefly posted a half-hearted apology about his mistake. But at no point did Silverstein publicly and directly apologize to Ms. Cogan or the other members of his cooked up conspiracy.
Unbounded by morality, Silverstein retaliates mercilessly against those who have called him on his reckless behavior. He has threatened to reveal the home address of a critic of his and has revealed the sexuality of a pro-Israel activist despite the man’s pleas for Silverstein to leave his private life private. This all from a man who was offended at the thought of an unauthorized leak of his son’s Bar Mitzvah date.