Allegations of plagiarism against Rabbi Gersh Lazarow, senior rabbi of Temple Beth Israel (TBI), have widened, with the rabbi now accused of plagiarising passages of a document he co-wrote in the course of one of his assignments while studying for the rabbinate.
Late last year, The AJN reported that Rabbi Lazarow allegedly plagiarised major sermons, drashes (commentaries) and articles, dating back to 2012.
However, a paper on shechitah, co-written with a fellow student at Hebrew Union College (HUC), now an ordained US rabbi, has also come under scrutiny.
In a section on the ethics of shechitah, solely under Rabbi Lazarow’s byline, extensive passages were allegedly almost identical to an article authored by a US animal rights advocate.
The AJN understands the shechitah document was the basis of a verbal presentation he gave as part of his coursework. Although posted in the online archive of the HUC library, where it was described as a “thesis, dissertation”, an HUC spokesperson told The AJN the article “was not a thesis or dissertation in the traditional sense” but was only posted in that category for administrative purposes.
The passages under scrutiny were allegedly copied from an article written in 2005 by animal rights advocate Michelle Hodkin and published by the Michigan State University College of Law. The AJN has sighted both Rabbi Lazarow’s and Hodkin’s article.
Responding to the latest allegations, Rabbi Lazarow told The AJN on Wednesday, “As I have previously stated, I am wholeheartedly committed to owning my actions and making teshuvah for my mistakes. I continue to support the ongoing investigation being undertaken by the appropriate bodies, and out of respect for that process, I cannot comment publicly on the allegations.
“At the same time, I want to make clear my disappointment that these matters continue to be ventilated in the media, rather than allowing the ongoing investigations to take their course.”
He added, “It is my sincere hope that those instigating these media reports will give some thought to the profound impact their continued actions are having on my wellbeing and the pain and hurt they are causing my family.”
Meanwhile, TBI and Rabbi Lazarow are believed to be finalising an announcement on his future with the synagogue, after he stood down in November, amid the plagiarism accusations.
The congregation has since appointed Sydney’s Rabbi Gary Robuck as its interim rabbi on a 12-month contract.
In June 2021, before the plagiarism allegations were made, Rabbi Lazarow resigned from TBI over tensions within the synagogue but rescinded his resignation and was accepted back, apologising to TBI members during a crisis forum.