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Orthodox feminists slam NJ rabbi for rape comments
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Orthodox feminists slam NJ rabbi for rape comments

An Orthodox women's group is calling for the ouster of a Teaneck rabbi from a synagogue conference after he penned a blog post dismissive of the problem of rape on college campuses.

Two weeks ago, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Bnai Yeshurun, one of the largest modern Orthodox shuls in America, suggested on his blog that many campus encounters characterized as rapes more likely were consensual sexual encounters in which the woman decided to call it rape only later because the man subsequently decided he wasn’t interested in an on-going romantic relationship.

“There have even been occasions when the woman who later claimed she was ‘raped’ spent the night, or several nights thereafter, with her beau, only to realize weeks later after their breakup that she had been assaulted,” Pruzansky wrote. “If indeed there was a ‘rape culture’ on American campuses, no intelligent woman would want to attend college. The fact that more women attend college today than men itself belies the accusation.”

Pruzansky said in an interview that the brouhaha over his blog post is due to a culture of political correctness that seeks to “conceal obvious truths,” and that the main thrust of his argument was the problem on campuses isn’t rape culture but “a culture of promiscuity and entitlement” surrounding sex.

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance has called on the participants of a one-day educational conference scheduled to take place at Bnai Yeshurun in June to withdraw their participation unless the venue is changed or Pruzansky, one of the featured speakers, is forced to withdraw.

Asked how he would respond to JOFA, Pruzansky laughed.

“They don’t have that power and someone should tell them that,” he said. “Part of the problem we’re dealing with is that the professional activists are sensitive to certain code words, and if you use the words in a way they don’t prescribe for you, then you have run afoul of their political correctness. What is ironic is people want rabbis to be leaders, and when they try to lead they cut them off at the knees.”

The Rabbinical Council of America, the centrist Orthodox rabbinical association on whose executive board Pruzansky once sat, said in a statement, “While Rabbi Pruzansky raises some important points regarding sexual behavior on college campuses, the RCA rejects the tone and much of the substance of his recent comments regarding rape.”

This is hardly the first time Pruzansky’s words have prompted an outcry.

Before the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Pruzansky referred to the Israeli prime minister using the word Judenrat — a reference to the Jewish councils that were often accused of doing the Nazis’ bidding during the Holocaust — and blasted Israeli Jews who supported peace accords with the Palestinians as turncoats. 

In 2014, The New York Jewish Week complained that Pruzansky had compared the weekly to the Nazi paper Der Sturmer; Pruzansky replied that he was using an intentionally absurd comparison to highlight The Jewish Week’s use of what he called “vicious innuendo.” 

Following condemnation of his comments by the Orthodox Union and others, the board of Bnai Yeshurun said Pruzansky agreed to submit his writings to editors prior to publication. 

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