Disgraced US Rabi Drops Legal Challenge to Identify Bloggers

By Oliver Luft [United States]
July 21, 2006

A disgraced US Rabi has dropped a legal challenge against bloggers who published details of his alleged sexual misconduct.

Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, former leader of Kehillat New Hempstead in New Hempstead, New York, had filed petitions in an effort to force blog host Google to disclose the identities of those behind blogs Jewish whistleblower, rabbinic integrity, Jewish survivors and New Hempstead news.

He initially claimed the bloggers had defamed him and filed petitions both in Ohio and California, but has since dropped the Ohio petition.

The Rabi - who allegedly sexually harassed a member of his congregation - was expelled last year from membership in the Rabbinical Council of America for 'inappropriate conduct'.

In US Jewish communities anonymous blogs are seen as a source of honest debate where issues that would not otherwise come to light - particularly those in the orthodox communities - can be discussed openly.

However, some critics have dismissed anonymous blogs as lacking the credibility of attributed posts.

Paul Alan Levy, lawyer with Public Citizen who acted on behalf of the bloggers, claimed that when the bloggers filed a motion citing that the Rabi's petition would violate their first amendment right to free speech he immediately withdrew his demand.

"This just goes to show the importance of protecting anonymity, because as soon as Tendler found out that we had filed a motion against him, he withdrew his petition," Levy said.

"He was never prepared to prove that the allegations against him were false - he only wanted his critics' names so that he could go after them. The first amendment demands this kind of protection for citizens using their right to free speech."

Levy also said that the bloggers were pursuing a motion under Californian law that protects against 'strategic lawsuits' and seeking reparation for legal costs.


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