By Josh Robin (NY1)
August 8, 2012
Shmarya Rosenberg, who is considered one of the most influential people in the city’s Jewish community, lives in the Midwest and is all but a heretic among the people he writes about on his well-read blog. Even more unbelievable, it's only increased his readership. NY1's Josh Robin filed the third report of his "Tangled Web" series from St. Paul, Minnesota.
Expose blogger Shmarya Rosenberg's website, "Failed Messiah" (failedmessiah.com), is simultaneously a supposed sacrilege and a must-read.
"My role is to expose the bad," Rosenberg says. "A lot of the rabbis read me, or have people read it for them, and print stuff out."
With standards looser than mainstream publications, on "Failed Messiah" one will find topics that other Jewish media may not cover, such as child abuse and even a rabbi suspected of phone sex.
Rosenberg says he covers the stories religious authorities want suppressed.
"Jews that never had choices before now have them. If you can get on the Internet, and can understand some English, you can find information on pretty much anything," says Rosenberg. "And that means you can find out whether or not a story you've been told is true."
His personal story is also unique. Shmarya Rosenberg was once in Chabad, a Hasidic movement based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was then excommunicated from his synagogue.
He had posted a letter from the group's now-deceased leader that seemed to show indifference to Ethiopian Jews.
Not surprisingly now, with his blog, the nicest thing some say about Rosenberg is that he is a self-hating Jew.
Tangled Web Extra: Rabbi Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs For Agudath Israel Of America
NY1 interviews Rabbi Avi Shafran, the Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America, a Manhattan-based organization that represents Orthodox Jews.
"These are things that attract certain kinds of people, the way that certain kinds of things attract flies," says Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel of America.
But radio host Zev Brenner says the vitriol may only help Rosenberg.
"Even if a rabbi says it, it will increase people's curiosity," says Brenner.
In some cases, it also increases seething anger towards the man, who runs his blog from his home in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Rosenberg says he is routinely threatened, so much so that he arms himself. He is also in contact with law enforcement. It is enough to make Rosenberg regret that he didn't start blogging anonymously.
"What's going to happen to this website when Shmarya's found dead," reads one recent comment posted on his site.
Rosenberg kept NY1 from his apartment, meeting at a Chinese restaurant. He noted he did not eat shellfish.
He says his site has been hacked, but he won't stop.
"I'm not going to give in. I'm not going to give in to that kind of crap," he says.