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The Curse That Rocked Great Neck

Today I’m reposting my Jewish Week story for this week, because it is perhaps one of the craziest stories I have ever written. Enjoy, and feel free to leave comments below.

The Curse That Rocked Great Neck

Rabbi Mordechai Aderet: Party crasher frightens guests.

Rabbi Mordechai Aderet: Party crasher frightens guests.

Like biblical plagues raining down on them from an angry God, the white-bearded, black-hatted rabbi laid a string of curses upon the unsuspecting suburban partygoers. Banging a siddur on a table and screaming “Shema Yisrael,” the rabbi, accompanied by a four-man entourage — all of whom had burst into a Great Neck home — lit into those gathered for an evening of celebration, mixed dancing and traditional Iranian fare in honor of a little girl’s first birthday.

After “shrieking Hebrew oaths,” the “uninvited” rabbi launched into a “lengthy diatribe” during which he told those who chose to remain at the party that they would be cursed with “illness, bankruptcy and tragedy for eternity,” according to a petition signed by some of those in attendance.

“They just came right in like a storm, inside the middle of the party,” said a woman who attended the December party but, like many others contacted by The Jewish Week, asked to remain anonymous because she fears for her safety. “They started to curse everybody, saying — ‘You’re going to have tragedies, everyone who stays here.’”

Guests and their children were allegedly so frightened by the rabbi’s intrusion that many left, while others stood shaking and crying, according to those in attendance.

After the rabbi left, rumors began circulating around the community about the presence of naked women at the party. Those in attendance suspect the rabbi and his men of spreading the reports.

The actions of Rabbi Mordechai Aderet — and the sheer incongruity of medieval-like curses being hurled at well-off Persian Jews in Great Neck, of all places — have sent shockwaves through the local Jewish community.

Other rabbis in the community seem stunned by Rabbi Aderet’s alleged behavior. Those at the party drafted an emotional memo to a Great Neck bet din detailing their “deep distress, sadness and anger” over the rabbi’s actions. It urged the rabbis making up the religious court to “use your influence to prevail upon your colleague to cease and desist from his unauthorized, illegal and unethical harassment of members of our community.”

And the bet din, run by Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Haim, in turn circulated a letter among Great Neck rabbis that referenced the incident, but without mentioning Rabbi Aderet’s name, according to those who saw it. Only one rabbi is believed to have signed the letter.

“No one else wanted to even get near it,” said the one signatory, Rabbi Yamin Levy, who is vice president of yeshiva affairs at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and serves as a part-time rabbi at a Great Neck congregation, Beth Hadassah. “Rabbis don’t want to go on record as appearing like they’re against a colleague.”

Reached by phone, Rabbi Ben-Haim said he would not comment on Rabbi Aderet, then hung up. Rabbi Aderet refused to speak with The Jewish Week himself but asked that the paper call one of his main supporters who would speak on the rabbi’s behalf.

In an indication of how controversial Rabbi Aderet has become in Great Neck, the congregant tapped to speak for him would not agree to use his name, saying that his business might suffer from the association.

“They [the partygoers] exaggerated the event in order to take revenge against Rabbi Aderet and the Orthodox Jewish community because they don’t want Great Neck to become Orthodox,” Rabbi Aderet’s supporter said. “They don’t want another Five Towns.”

The supporter, who accompanied Rabbi Aderet to the party, claims he was invited, though he could not produce an invitation. Partygoers say Rabbi Aderet was not invited and that invitations were sent out to all of those on the guest list.

Rabbi Aderet’s supporter suggested The Jewish Week call Rabbi Avraham Cohen of Torah Va Danesh, an Orthodox synagogue in Great Neck, for comment. When reached, the rabbi said through a secretary that he “doesn’t want to get involved.” Continue reading…

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Sharon Udasin is a staff writer at The Jewish Week. Follow her on Twitter or e-mail her at sharon@sharonudasin.com.

14 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sharon Udasin » Blog Archive » The Curse That Rocked Great Neck

  2. themiddle

    3/11/2010 at 12:26 pm

    Later today I plan on spilling a drop of wine on my forehead and saying a prayer. I’m sure, ABSOLUTELY SURE, that after this, I will become healthy, good looking and very wealthy.

  3. Tom Morrissey

    3/11/2010 at 12:30 pm

    Good-looking’s a stretch, let’s face it.

  4. themiddle

    3/11/2010 at 12:35 pm

    You may be right. Maybe I’ll use an entire cup of wine, not just a drop.

    Besides, doesn’t the very wealthy part help to remove the stigma of bad looks?

  5. Tom Morrissey

    3/11/2010 at 1:01 pm

    Good point. Money will completely make up for all that hair on your back.

    • themiddle

      3/11/2010 at 1:13 pm

      Not to mention the hump and the warts.

      Where’s a good rabbi when you need one?

  6. Sharon

    3/11/2010 at 1:34 pm

    Maybe Harry Potter can take care of this?

    • themiddle

      3/11/2010 at 1:39 pm

      Sharon meant to write:

      “Maybe Angelina Jolie can take care of this?”

  7. Tom Morrissey

    3/11/2010 at 2:46 pm

    She’s a lot butch-er than Harry, that’s for sure.

    • themiddle

      3/11/2010 at 3:20 pm

      Uh…

      *The Middle packs up and runs away*

  8. Sharon

    3/11/2010 at 3:25 pm

    Hahaha, I don’t even know what to respond to this.

  9. themiddle

    3/11/2010 at 3:33 pm

    Sharon, just so you don’t become upset that we’re ruining any chance of a discussion, this was an interesting and well-written article. It really is a crazy story, but one that is totally believable.

    I think the most salient part of it, for me, was the description of the evolution of this Persian Jewish community from a typical Sephardic-like one that we would consider traditional, to one that is splitting in the polar opposite directions of secularism and ultra-Orthodoxy. One would imagine that these changes are coming about after centuries in which this community was almost entirely on the traditional side.

    In fact, these changes reflect our changing times, where the middle ground is being lost in Jewish communal life. Reform, Reconstructionist Jewish movements and the ranks of the unaffiliated are swelling in size, as are Orthodox, but at the expense of the Conservative movement which is watching its members leave either for more secular lives or for more observant ones. One can even see pressure on Modern Orthodox to become more “machmir.”

    It’s almost as if the only way to overcome the questions of modern life as they relate to faith, is to either give in to secularism or to give in to Orthodoxy that shuns the disruptions of modern life in terms of practice and observance.

  10. Larry

    3/12/2010 at 6:54 am

    Great Neck? i would have believed that a Nurse or a designer Purse could rock Great Neck…but a Curse?? never

  11. Pingback: What the Bleep: this week's news | TC Jewfolk

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