The childish vandal(s) on Wikipedia
A lot of the bullying has been rather juvenile, such as the anonymous vandal who changed "Jewish Vegetarians of North America" to "Jewish Cannibals of North Africa" on the Wikipedia page about me. (Whether that was intended to be anti-vegetarian or simply racist is anybody's guess.) The bogus edit was quickly caught by a page-watcher and reverted. The same bully made a few more equally inane edits before disappearing into the void. Somebody else added a claim that I "wrote manuals" for NAMBLA (a pedophile/pederasty group that I have never, ever had any contact with, and I certainly would not write anything for them, not even on contract as an editor.) This was libelous but easily removed, since anybody can edit on Wikipedia.
My reaction to such childish graffiti is to say, "Get off your mother's computer before she comes home and grounds you for life." I mean, who in their right mind would really believe that Adolf Hitler is my "hero and inspiration"? (Yes, some dumbkopf really did put that on the Wikipedia page.) Luckily, Wikipedians are very vigilant about such vandalism and have reverted the page back to the original -- numerous times.
The YouTube stalker
A lot more nasty was the jerk called "mosesmaimon1" on YouTube, who certainly was no Moses Maimonides. He started out by posting this bully-flame on all my YouTube videos:
"Yonassan Gershom is a complete and total fraud. he is no rabbi at all. rather, he is a self-hating Jew, a left wing liberal lunatic marxist islamofascist loving gay homosexual. and those are his good points."
Apparently this ridiculous contradictory diatribe was supposed to deter people from watching my videos on Judaism and vegetarianism, since that's where he put it. "Self-hating Jew" has become a catch-all in the Jewish community for belittling anybody you don't agree with. Similarly, "Islamofascist" is now a buzzword for anybody who dialogues with Muslims or writes anything positive about Islam -- which I have done, both in a chapter about Islamophobia in Professor Richard Schwartz's book, Who Stole My Religion? and in several book reviews on Amazon. Dialogue, tolerance, and understanding are not words in this bully's vocabulary.
When I deleted the comments and blocked him, he proceeded to follow me everywhere on the YouTube site, posting this same junk after every comment I had made -- even the one on the video tour of the handicapped-accessible shuttle bus at Como Park. Go figure. Clearly he was not watching anything I "liked" or wrote, just searching my name to spam it with insults.
Given the references to liberalism, I expected to find a lot of militant ultra-religious right-wing videos linked to his YouTube channel. But when I went there, all I found was secular stuff, most of it meaningless drivel. So does this guy even know enough about Judaism to understand what my books and videos are about? Be that as it may, getting rid of this guy was easy: I reported him to YouTube and he disappeared from my life -- and apparently off the site itself, since a search for his name today brought up nothing.
"Four legs good, two legs bad"?
It appears these attacks are reactions to my stances on politics, vegetarianism, and, most recently, my opposition to using live chickens for kapporos ceremonies. It saddens me to see that Judaism, once a bastion of debate and diverse opinion, has, for some people, now become an Orwellian "four legs good, two legs bad" haven for bullies with atrophied brains. This is especially true of any criticism concerning policies in Israel. It has gotten to the point that a Jew can say "I don't believe in God" and nobody bats an eye, but criticize Israel and they will burn you at the cyber-stake. When I was growing up, I was taught that worshipping the state -- any state -- is idolatry. And isn't democracy all about the right to criticize the government? Apparently not for these guys.
The identity thief: "rabbigershom.com" is NOT ME!
UPDATE: I got the URL back -- and it is mine again. So the bogus site described below is gone, gone, GONE! But for the record, I'm leaving the story up here as a warning: Don't mess with me, because I will fight back!
All of this could be written off as life on the Web, which is what I did for a long time. I've been deleting hate mail for years. But the most recent attack is an actual case of identity theft, using an old website address (that I no longer own) to create a bogus site advertising some escort service in London, which probably doesn't even exist, given that the owner of the URL lives in Russia. The purpose of the site is to hijack searches for my name and misdirect them, apparently to discredit me.
For the record: There once was a website called "rabbigershom.com" but it no longer exists. I took it down when the Minnesota state legislature passed a law requiring all online "nexus" corporations to collect state sales tax if they had representatives in the state -- and that includes Associates accounts. Amazon responded by shutting down all their Minnesota Associates accounts, including mine. Since I had literally hundreds of Amazon book links embedded on over a hundred website pages, and since I was no longer getting paid for these referrals, I retaliated by taking the whole site down. (It was outdated anyway, but that's another issue.)
When the time came to renew the domain name, I didn't bother, since the site no longer existed and I was now using JewishThoreau.com for my blog. Never in a million years did I dream that some sleezeball would come along and buy "rabbigershom.com" and turn it into a page for an escort service. But that's what happened.
In the beginning, they actually had my full name and title -- "Rabbi Yonassan Gershom" -- in the title of their homepage (which tells me that it really is an attack on me, not just some other guy named Gershom.) I cried "Fraud!" and got that removed, but there is not much I can do about them using the domain name itself, since there are hundreds of people named Gershom and some of them are rabbis. It would be like trying to copyright "Doctor Smith." Hindsight is always 20/20, they say, and I probably should have kept the URL in my name even if I did not use it. But such things cost money and they probably would have just gone to using dot-net or some such. I can't afford to protect every variation of my name.
Raise your voice and stand by me!
Unfortunately, since I've been on the Web since the 1980s, there are still tons of links on various websites that supposedly go to the old homepage but now point to the bogus one instead. I'm still getting notifications about this from intelligent readers who can see plainly what is happening. If you find one of these phishing links, please notify the webmaster that I'm not that guy, and ask for it to point to my blog at JewishThoreau.com instead. (If you need proof of your claim, just point them to this blog post.) And if you want to go further, go to the rabbigershom.com page and spam their contact email with protests. (Update: Not necessary anymore, because I got the URL back and it now points here. But it was a good tactic.) Stand up to the bullies!
I will not be intimidated!
The motivation behind all of this cyber-bullying seems to be to try to shut me up by intimidating me and/or smearing my reputation. It is significant that none of these people actually debate issues with me or have even met me. I highly doubt they have actually read any of my books, or if they are even educated enough to understand them. As far as I know, none of them have ever come to this blog to discuss the things I wrote here. Of course not -- to do so would mean being confronted by people who actually read the blog, and these cockroaches can't take that kind of daylight. So they just scurry around the Web, posting canned insults and hiding behind their computer screens like the cowards they are. Apparently, when God was handing out morals, these people thought He said "laurels" so now they think they are some kind of heroes. Not!
It is also interesting how many of these libels center on sexuality -- from the accusation that I'm a homosexual (not true, I've been married to my female wife, Caryl since 1980, although I do support gay rights as human rights and have done so since the 1970s), to the escort site phishing off my name and a claim that I promote polygamy (also not true, probably another slur on my dialogues with Muslims, or maybe somebody was dumb enough to actually believe the escort site was real.)
If you can't debate, just post some hate?
This seems to be the mindset lately: If you can't intelligently refute somebody's stance on an issue, just make up some sleeze or circulate lies and hate mail to try and take them down in the public eye. This has become so common that there is actually a service called Reputation.com where you can hire people to watch out for (and refute) attacks on the Web. I can't afford that service, but I'm thankful I've got a lot of loyal readers who are doing the same thing.
As an old man in my 70s, I can often laugh at all this, but bullying is really no laughing matter. Even at my age, it hurts, but I've lived long enough to deal with it. However, when it happens to vulnerable teenagers, it can lead to nervous breakdowns or even suicide -- which has actually happened. Thus my decision to come out and confront this issue, to tell these stories and reveal these lies for what they are. Bullies are bullies, no matter where, why, or whom they attack.
* * * UPDATES * * *
See also: What does Judaism say about bullying? -- a good collection of statements by rabbis from various backgrounds and denominations, on The Free Library site.
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A ripoff report has been filed in reference to the bogus use of rabbigershom.com described in this article. Feel free to read and respond to it.
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A number of insulting and libelous comments were also written as "reviews" of my books on Amazon.com. Amazon graciously removed them, as they violated their reviews policy.
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Rabbigershom.org is not me, either -- but it flips over to a website called B'chol Loshon ("in every tongue") which is a legitimate site promoting diversity within the Jewish community. Their "Rabbi Gershom" is Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the leader of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, and the first black rabbi from sub-Saharan Africa to be ordained at an American rabbinic school.
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A reader emailed me to point out that the slur referring to Hitler might have been connected to the persistent claim that Hitler was a vegetarian. (This is a myth. Although Hitler did sometimes refrain from eating meat for health and hygienic reasons, he also regularly ate meat and was fond of sausage and liver dumplings. Read more...) People who use this argument against vegetarianism base it on the classic false logic of: "Hitler was a vegetarian. Hitler was evil. Therefore all vegetarians are evil." But as Peter Singer once said, Hitler had a nose, but that does not mean everybody should cut off their noses.
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February 26, 2014: Now that I've written this protest, Google's stupid robot is flagging the insult I quoted above in searches for my name. By defending myself, I'm spreading the libel. Can't win for losing. I suppose this is happening because this is a new post that is getting a lot of traffic -- and it's on a Google blog, so of course the Google search engine plays favorites with its own apps. (A Bing search did not bring up that quote.) But since the link brings people to this page where people can read the truth, maybe that's not so bad. Make lemonade out of lemons...
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June 20, 2014: Absurd as it may seem, some of this bullying may really be directed at my vegetarianism! Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a rosh yeshiva (head of a Jewish seminary) in Israel, has gone on a vehement campaign against the entire vegetarian movement. He believes that teaching vegetarianism leads to terrorism and cruelty to people. Yes, I know that is bizarre, and I have written a challenge to it on this blog: Vegetarianism leads to Terrorism, says Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, in which I analyze and refute that stance. His real agenda comes out of Israeli politics and the right-wing settler movement (which he supports.) I doubt that Rabbi Eliezer himself is bullying me but, given the vehemence of his rhetoric, I would not put it past his followers.
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March 19, 2015: The latest bully is a guy who goes by "Jacob" on Amazon and has demanded that I remove "rabbi" from my profile there and -- get this -- he also suggested I remove my photo! He thinks my appearance misleads people because, in his words, I am "fringe beyond fringe" and not a "mainstream Orthodox rabbi." (Whatever that is. Orthodoxy is so splintered into different groups that everybody is "fringe" to somebody somewhere.) Exactly what would he suggest I put up there instead of my own face? At least I'm honest enough to be myself and not some troll named "Jacob" who could be anybody -- he has no photo or other info on his profile page.
Sorry this is happening to you. There are many more of us who appreciate you and your work, even if you don't hear it from us too often.
Thank you for the support, Dan. There are many others online experiencing the same thing -- it has become an epidemic. For some people, the anonymity of a computer brings out the worst. But for others, like yourself, it brings out the best. Peace & blessings!
It would be all too easy to see the bullies as truly representative of modern Judaism.
This makes your work doubly important, showing another way to the bullies and showing the rest of the world that not all Jews are bullies.
As for the result of bullying, in this state, suicide now kills more of our youth than car accidents. But since we do not see reports in the papers we are unaware of the depth of the problem.
Yes, Tony, I'm aware of the high level of bully-related suicides nationwide -- it is horrible. And much more magnified now that people can hide behind a computer, so you never really know who they are. And things go viral overnight, nor so once they are out there it is forever.
As for Jewish bullying in particular, it has become epidemic in the political arena regarding any dissent about Israel. A small percentage of very vocal right-wing people manage to shut down dialogue by threatening to pull funding or boycott orgs, in msny cases bullying universities to cancel speaking engagements of people they don't agree with -- you can read about a lot of this on the muzzlewatch.com blog, which is run by an org called Jewish Voice for Peace(JVP).
I don't agree with every stance that JVP takes but they have done a good job of tracking censorship.
And I have been vilified for even mentioning this org -- thus proving their point.
When Professor Schwartz & I were working on his book Who Stole My Religion? we had two people rescind their support of the book for even mentioning JVP -- in one photo, one SENTENCE, and one footnote -- in a 300+ page book! One of these people sent me extremely insulting, villifying emails that were unworthy of anybody, let alone a respected academic in the community. Not his finest hour, to be sure. But this kind of thing goes on all the time lately. Disgraceful.
I am so sorry this is happening to you, but glad that you are fighting back and standing your ground. I learn a lot from you and would be so sad if you stopped writing. I will do my best to thwart your crazies!
So sorry this is happening to you - and you're right; it's become impossible to have any sort of reasoned dialogue about Israel. Unqualified agreement with all of its policies has become the ultimate litmus test for Jewish identification.
Also, one of the byproducts of the Internet has been the revelation of how ubiquitous mental illness is in this society.
I remember back in the day when we were taught as children that 'sticks and stones could break your bones but names could never hurt you'....well most of us have evolved and no longer glibly say this
....some of us are still struggling with our emotional evolution and it sounds like this character you've mentioned falls into that category.
Understanding someones emotional illness and accepting them does not mean denying their 'behavior'
This behavior needs to be noted and negated (for the record)...hopefully this can be done without too much upset on our part...the same way we would forgive a 2 yr old for dirtying his diapers
Anonymous: I agree these people have maturity problems and even emotional problems. And some really need to get a life. But just the same, forgiveness is not amnesty. Bad behavior must be confronted or it just gets worse. Peace.
Glad you are still around. Wondered what happened to you. When I went to your site I had bookmarked it was gone and no indication as to where. As thatTv series "ROOTS" said, "KUNTA KINTE, I FOUND YOU!"
Anyway, I don't always agree with you but I like checking in to see what's up.
Aren't you a little young to be living just on SSA? Can't find a job? Does your wife support you? Do you even have a wife? If not why not? No indictment, I don't either!
Loved your STAR TREK book.
Have you tried VPN Security encryption?
I don't get the "JEWISH THOREAU" thingy but different strokes, etc.
Well, i'll be checking in again.
Matthew, I am 66 years old, keyna hara ("no evil eye.") My wife Caryl is 71 (also keyna hara.) In addition to SSA I also do freelance editing jobs. Regarding a regular 8-5 job, I'm too over-educated for anything around here in rural Minnesota, plus there are the personality quirks of having ADHD and Asperger's --read the articles under "autism" on this blog (scroll down the right sidebar to find the index.) I may be a genius but I am socially inept around the water cooler --and it seems that is more valued nowadays that actual skills.
The "Jewish Thoreau" stuff reflects my current interest in nature, ecology, and "Live simply that others may simply live." Thoreau is one of my favorite authors, has been since high school --way back when students actually read the classics...
And FYI, Matthew -- isn't it a bit rude (not to mention judgemental) to pull the "get a job!" line on me?
The content of this blog post should make it pretty clear why I have not been hired by the Jewish community lately. And I quit doing New Age speaking engagements when I got tired of people being disappointed that the author of the book they loved is a jabbering autistic nerd with poor eye contact -- and then berating me because my mannerisms are "not spiritual." Sorry, folks, but I can't play the mellow guru on a cushion who stares hypnotically into your eyes.
When I got the Asperger's diagnosis a few years ago, everything fell into place -- but late for my career. I gave away most of my life in volunteer projects and underemployed jobs, so my SSA is a pittance. I was NEVER fired for not doing my job right, but WAS let go numerous times for "you just don't fit in around here." Who's fault is THAT?
So nowadays I'm a recluse who lives on a farm with his wfe and animals, and communicates through writing and not personal appearances. Writing IS my job. That and taking care of my handicapped wife. Peace.
It's very strange....reading this comes almost as a relief (though I'm very sorry you are going through this). My computer and/or Facebook account was hacked, I believe in October of 2012 and used to send e-mails, Facebook messages, and other offensive material--in some cases to people I knew, in others to strangers.
Through most of the period I thought of what was happening merely as some sort of quirk of the Internet/Facebook. I found out otherwise when I was arrested in May after whoever it was used my account to post material that was regarded as threatening on someone's Facebook page (long story). I was not convicted of anything but am out a lot of money and had one h*ll of a year--just hoping it is behind me.
Anyway, I thank you for coming forward with your story. There are those who do not believe mine, and frankly, it all does seem a bit far-out on first glance. The perception of anonymity does bring out the absolute worst in some people. The saddest thing is authorities like web-hosting services, Facebook, etc. seem to have no interest in enforcing their own Terms of Service or pursuing the bullies.
David -- so glad to hear from you again -- although I wish it were for better reasons. Your identity theft case was certainly worse than mine. So far, mine has not cost me anything but a lot of annoyance and frustration. But this sort of thing has become more and more common lately -- and disturbing.
I think that not being believed is worse than the actual offense sometimes. But I think that the more of us who come out and tell our stories, the more it becomes obvious that the problem is real.
Take care, my friend -- and thank you for sharing your story here.
So glad I've rediscovered you, and reading a little further on your style, thoughts and personality quirkiness, I'm more endeared. What a refreshing honesty you exhibit. Maybe the point of having Aspi is to remind us how shrouded we 'normals' are in double speak and plain dishonesty. You speak for the 'elephant in the room' that none seems to want to address.
blessings and peace to you both
FYI: The old dot com link is still out there on Patheos at http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/The-Jewish-Origin-of-the-Vulcan-Salute?offset=1&max=1 [accessed 11 APR 2014]. I added a couple of comments as a heads up about the London escort service, and to redirect them to your current blog site. Hopefully the web admin person will straighten this out.
Thank you, Pastor Jack. That link was to an excerpt from my book, "Jewish Themes in Star Trek, appended to an article I did for Patheos. I still have the HTML for all the Star Trek pages on my old site, and eventually I'll re-post them somewhere legitimate.
Thanks for a very interesting blog. What else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect approach? I’ve a undertaking that I am simply now operating on, and I have been at the look out for such info.
I'm glad you enjoyed my blog. I do not know what info you were searching for, but since you provided a link to another escort service (yes, I followed the link and yes, I read German), I hope you are not planning to steal somebody's identity to advertise it. That would be very bad IDEA!
This is an odd place to leave your contact about reincarnation, but if you see this OK, so be it. I'm really not doing anything with that anymore, I retired from it 15 years ago and have moved on to other things in my life. However, if you live in the USA or Canada and want a phone consultation with me, you can schedule one through The Happy Rooster Store on ebay. There is a charge now (I have bills like everyone else) but there is also the option of a sliding scale.
UPDATE: rabbigershom.com is mine again. the bullies did not renew it and I got it back today. For now it is just
parked. Not sure what i will do with it. But at least the offensive bogus site is gone. We won against the bullies. Thsnk you to everyone who supported me.
Hi Rabbi Gershom,
Hope all is well. I am a professor in the Sciences on the East Coast who's a baal teshuva and recently married. I'm writing anonymously because I want to protect my web presence. I've read your book "Reincarnation and Judaism: The Journey of the Soul" and I've also read a lot of the "metapsychology" literature you mention: Brian Weiss, Michael Newton, etc. As for Jungian type, I'm an NF secondary NT blue-green aura soul searcher. That may explain why I love this stuff. I imagine I also have slight Aspbergers as well which I've worked very hard on. I applaud you for being so brave in your works.
I have been searching for a couple of years to seek answers to the following questions and I hope you can help:
1) Is doing a past-life regression hypnosis halachically mutar? If you know any discussions of this at all, please provide references to sforim if possible.
2) Is doing so a risky thing? Are we supposed to know about previous lives? On the one hand, if hashem revealed such therapy, he probably wants us to put it to good use. On the other hand, there is all sorts of things that are assur e.g. witchcraft, etc. The therapeutic benefits seem quite wonderful and I'm weirdly drawn to this and it haunts me.
I have asked many, but they do not seem to know what I'm talking about! This is not a common sheila.
I'm not asking you to poskin, don't worry. I'm just asking if you have information.
Regarding whether past-life regressions are permitted, that would depend on which rabbi/rav you ask. Generally speaking halachach is very lenient for things connected to healing. I know for a fact that there are orthodox/hasidic rabbis who refer people to my books, so obviously they are not forbidding it. I do not know of any classical text discussing regression therapy as such, since older texts only hint at these things and such therapy is relatively new.
As I explain in "Jewish Tales of Reincarnation," there were Rebbes who had the ability to read past lives and used it. One of the reasons I did this book was to collect a lot of classical references and midrashim into one place. It is still in print and can be found online if you have not already read it.
If it is just a matter of curiousity, however, it might not be a good idea to be regressed. I believe that we remember what we need to know in this life, and the rest is not necessary to know. Also, Some Chabad rabbis believe that instead of accessing your own lives, you are tuning into the group soul of the Jewish people. This could be overwhelming. Read more at http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/257259/jewish/Haunted-by-Souls-of-the-Past.htm
If you do decide on a regression, be sure the therapist you choose is open to Judaism and not just using stereotypes. Some of the old esoteric traditions (and even some New Age ones) have negative ideas about "Jewish karma." You might want to read the intro to my upcoming new edition of "Beyond the Ashes" which discusses this issue: https://app.box.com/shared/stp3kfd3o7
Regarding references to reincarnation in sforim this article on Aish
h give a pretty good overview (after first discussing Resurrection & moschiach, so keep reading) http://www.aish.com/jl/l/a/48943926.html
I myself am no longer doing this work, not since 2000, so am not in the loop anymore to make referrals.
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