July 1, 2006 | Issue 26

Synagogue Rabbi’s Approval Rating Sinks To 29 Percent

article pic NEW HEMPSTEAD, NEW YORK — [TheKnish.com] Approval for Rabbi Yehoshua Broncowitz of Congregation Bais Yisaschar in New Hempstead sunk to a new low of 29 percent this week according to the findings of a new poll released by the Congregation’s Sisterhood. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 45 percent.

In the survey of synagogue congregants performed by members of the sisterhood in one on one discussions during the kiddush celebrating the Ginzberg Bar Mitzvah, less than one third of respondents (twenty-nine percent) said they approve of Rabbi Broncowitz’s performance, forty percent said they disapprove, and the remaining thirty-one percent said that the cholent was too fatty this week.

The survey results reflect the latest controversy surrounding the appointment of Rabbi Broncowitz’s brother-in-law as gabbai and the sustained unpopularity of the carpeting in the shul’s hallway.

The poll was dismissed by a board member who refused to be quoted by name. “People are frustrated at the rising membership dues, but are not angry at the rabbi. On the contrary, they admire his bold leadership and the stand that he took on the threat of Indian hair shaytels.” Earlier in the year, Rabbi Broncowitz announced that husbands of women who wear wigs from India would no longer be called up to the Torah.

Rabbi Broncowitz’s popularity began to slip shortly after he joined the synagogue three years ago. His first act was to ban Triangle-K certified flavored cream cheese from Sisterhood events. This was followed by a ban on the scotch aged in sherry casks used by the Kiddush Club. But his most controversial act involved shushing talkers during leyning and the reading of the Haftorah.

“This guy is really harming my shul experience,” said Jeffrey Levy, one of the guys who sits in the back row, on the right hand side. “I wait all week to daven a little and catch up with my friends. Who the hell does he think he is anyway?”

Another factor contributing to the rabbi’s unpopularity is the ongoing rumor that he plans to raise the height of the mechitza from fifty inches to sixty inches. According to Dr. Morris Abelow this would be the final straw. “We have been putting up with this guy for a while. But a higher mechitza is off the charts. If I wanted to daven in that sort of place, I would go to the Yeshiva up the road or the Chassidishe shtibul on Broad Street. Or to the local mosque, for that matter.”

This is not the first time that Congregation Bais Yisaschar has faced controversy. Nearly twenty years ago the former rabbi of the shul admitted to using his discretionary fund to pay for a cocktail party held to raise awareness about the dangers of shatnez, the so-called “Alms for Hostesses” affair. And Sheldon Goldberg, the most recent past president, became embroiled in a scandal after repeatedly going to get a quick heter from the former assistant rabbi, Mordechai Lewin.

Many members speak of replacing the rabbi and his gabbai brother-in-law, but acknowledge the difficulty in openly challenging the rabbi, in light of that fact that the rabbi’s father, Rabbi Aharon Broncowitz, once served as the shul’s rabbi, and continues to see many of the congregants in Florida during the winter, who often play bingo at his Florida shul.

One member, who refused to provide his name because he has a yahrtzeit coming up, described himself as “totally fed up.” “If this keeps up,” the member said, “I might be forced to do something drastic, like start to daven hashkamah.”


Pencil Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein is a part time freelance journalist and the full time Rosheshiva (dean) of Yeshiva Chipass Emmess. His detailed analysis of the inner workings of the Sanhedrin during the Second Temple era is being developed as a new reality series to be aired on FOX on Friday nights. He may be reached through his Yeshiva's website at http://www.geocities.com/npoj8/index.html


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