Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Anonymous Blogging: Woe is Me ...

I sure hope I don't get blasted for this post, but here goes. 

Listen, I get why people blog anonymously. At least, I get why some people blog anonymously. Some people are honest in their fearing for the future of their family, their children, shidduchim, etc. It's hard sometimes to be completely "out" in the sense that everyone knows who you are and can link your face and your name to all that drivel you spill out on the internet every day (a joke, folks), but some people do it purely to be able to get a rise out of people. If you have no name and no face and no community, you can say whatever you want, no matter how far on the fringe it might be from your beliefs, and you can watch mostly innocent folks prowling the internet freak the heck out. Good for you. Except not.

There are blogs I respect for maintaining anonymity, like DovBear, who I'm pretty sure lives in a very frum community and I'm pretty sure is a really great guy who just wants to be able to ask questions and talk about things without the fear of someone claiming he's off the derech or on his way there. Although I don't always agree with the anonymous blogging, I get why he's doing it. For me, I think anonymous blogging is sort of a cheat, a way to blast whoever you want, whenever you want, and you won't face any repercussions. At the same time, everyone out there will take what you say with a grain of salt because to be honest people need to know the face behind the curtain. Look at the Wizard of Oz or that episode of Family Guy with the man-eating fish. But DovBear? I'll let him slide. He's making it work, and he's honest about what he does; he isn't a thrill-seeking shock jock (and if he is, boy he has me fooled).

The reason I'm writing this blog post is because there's a new shock-jocking anonymous blogger on the web, and, well, to be honest I'm a little concerned. This new blogger is a rabbi. An Orthodox rabbi. With a congregation for which he is at the helm. His blog? The Orthoprax Rabbi. Okay, fine, what's the big deal? Well, he says, and I quote from his first blog post, "... while my congregants are all Orthodox, to varying degrees, I am not. I don’t believe in any of it. I am an atheist. I personally don’t keep much of any of Jewish law."


He goes on to talk about how his congregants all like him, how he got a contract extension, etc. That his gig is just a gig like any other gig (comparing it to being a plumber, of all things), and that belief is not important for his job.

What? Are you serious?  Why become a rabbi if you're not preparing yourself to lead a congregation, both spiritually or functionally. They don't want someone to answer black and white questions with some textbook answer, they want a spiritual guide in their rabbi. It's why they hire you.

Listen, this guy can believe whatever he wants and do whatever he wants behind and in front of closed doors, but I have a serious -- SERIOUS -- problem with the fact that he's blogging anonymously, dragging his unknowing congregation through the mud with him. Do his congregants (who all like him!) know how flippant he is about his Judaism (or lack there of) and his disregard for his congregants' well-being on a PUBLIC BLOG?!

I'm guessing no. I'm also guessing that this guy doesn't give a rat's you know what about his congregation, their spiritual well-being, or the future of his children (who he mentions) in the big, fat Jewish world. It's depressing.

If you're going to be flippant and disrespectful to a community who you say likes you, but who probably doesn't know that you're an athiest or how openly willing you are to express yourself and how completely unimportant your job is to you, then blog publicly. Have some self-respect. I guarantee that your community wouldn't like you -- the real you -- as much as you think. Especially if any of those congregants are looking for a spiritual guide (which they are).

Rabbi, if you don't like your job, if you don't believe in it, if you're only doing it for a paycheck, then get a new job, don't take your congregation down and don't mislead them. We all have our moments of questioning, but you seem to have made a big decision to just not search, to not care, and to just dish out black and white answers without any feeling, passion, or self-respect. So go become a lawyer, a plumber, just don't taint your congregation because you're having a spiritual drought.

You, sir, are what's wrong with anonymous blogging. Internet: Take note.

(Hat tip to several folks for also blogging on this, including but not limited to, ADDRabbi, The Rebbetzin's Husband, and Adventures in Jewish Thought.)