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.
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 â€œShema Yisrael,â€ the rabbi, accompanied by a four-man entourage â€” all of whom had burst into a Great Neck home â€” 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 â€œshrieking Hebrew oaths,â€ the â€œuninvitedâ€ rabbi launched into a â€œlengthy diatribeâ€ during which he told those who chose to remain at the party that they would be cursed with â€œillness, bankruptcy and tragedy for eternity,â€ according to a petition signed by some of those in attendance.
â€œThey just came right in like a storm, inside the middle of the party,â€ 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. â€œThey started to curse everybody, saying â€” â€˜You’re going to have tragedies, everyone who stays here.’â€
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 â€” and the sheer incongruity of medieval-like curses being hurled at well-off Persian Jews in Great Neck, of all places â€” 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 â€œdeep distress, sadness and angerâ€ over the rabbi’s actions. It urged the rabbis making up the religious court to â€œuse your influence to prevail upon your colleague to cease and desist from his unauthorized, illegal and unethical harassment of members of our community.â€
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.
â€œNo one else wanted to even get near it,â€ 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. â€œRabbis don’t want to go on record as appearing like they’re against a colleague.â€
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.
â€œThey [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,â€ Rabbi Aderet’s supporter said. â€œThey don’t want another Five Towns.â€
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 â€œdoesn’t want to get involved.â€ Continue reading…