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NY synagogue’s invitation to Geller to ‘promote bigotry’ elicits call to cancel event

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Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim fanatic who believes that the US is being Islamicized, is scheduled to speak at the Great Neck Synagogue on April 14. I don’t see a title for her talk– surely it is about Muslims under your bed. But the talk is already getting resistance from the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, comprised of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Economic and Racial Justice and Jews Say No! The coalition is pushing to have the event cancelled.

At last night’s forum on “Jewish democracy” at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York, discussants criticized Geller but disagreed over the wisdom of seeking to cancel a talk given the difficulty the left has had getting invitations to speak. The Forward did a story on the controversy, in which it quoted Rebecca Vilkomerson of JVP:

“Our job is not to be absolute civil libertarians. We do believe in free speech, but we also believe there are limits to that… Our mission statement says we will always take a strong stand against racism and bigotry in all of its forms, and that’s part of this.”

The Forward also quoted Pamela Geller’s email, in part. The full email from her site is below, and gives you a good window on the lurid foundations of Geller’s thinking process. It is staggering to consider that any synagogue would invite her in the first place:

These are not truly Jewish organizations. Their fundamental allegiance is to the political left. They are consistently anti-Israel, and manifest complete indifference — or worse — when innocent Jews are murdered in cold blood by Islamic jihadists, and when the Gaza Muslims celebrate those murders. Jewish history is plagued with these quislings, who are willing tools serving as the public face for supremacists and annihilationists. The left uses these Jews to defame and destroy a Jew who is truly standing up for Israel and for the principles of freedom and human rights that the Jewish State represents. It’s inexcusable. The kapos had guns to their heads. What’s their excuse?

Now here is the JVP letter urging people to write to Great Neck Synagogue to deplore the invitation:

During this Passover season, in which we celebrate freedom from slavery and oppression, hatred is coming to our community. On April 14, the Great Neck Synagogue  is hosting Pamela Geller, founder of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), both designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Geller, along with her organizations, are infamous for equating Islam with terrorism, and their transit ads describing Muslims as “savages.”

As Jews, we remember what happens when a minority is singled out.  We won’t stand by while our Muslim family, friends, and allies are vilified. We can’t watch as our religious institutions amplify the voices which seek to divide us. The willingness of the Great Neck Synagogue to welcome rather than condemn a person who promotes bigotry and racism is an affront to our values and has no place in the world we are creating for ourselves and our children.

We are calling on our supporters in Nassau County and Long Island generally to reach out to the Great Neck Synagogue and ask them not to host Pamela Geller.  Please call the Great Neck Synagogue at (516) 487-6100 or email them at [email protected] and [email protected] and ask them to stand up against Islamophobia by withdrawing their invitation to Pamela Geller.

Please keep the tone of your conversation civil and polite, and please let us know if you made a call or sent an email by dropping us a note at [email protected]. We’d also welcome ideas of other Jewish institutions that may be willing to use their influence with the Great Neck Synagogue to urge it to cancel this event. 

We are reaching out to Muslim, interfaith, and Jewish groups on Long Island and will keep you informed of any other responses that are planned. 

In solidarity,

Amy Helfant

JVP-NY on behalf of the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (Jews Say No!, Jews For Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace)

And here is a letter from Maxine Chiu, whose father was in that congregation, containing the letter she sent to the rabbi in opposition. 

On 2nd April 2013 I sent an e-mail to the Rabbi of the Great Neck Synagogue (NY) as follows:

“I am told that Great Neck Synagogue will be hosting Pamela Geller, the anti-Islam extremist, on 14th April…I am Jewish and am shocked and saddened to hear of this….I grew up in Great Neck and always considered it as one of the most educated, liberal and open-minded communities in America….Ms Geller is as hateful towards Islam as the Nazis were towards Judaism….We do not need more hatred in the world.”

I also pointed out that my father, Mr. David Feiner, was a very active member of GNS working together with Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Wolf during the early years of the Synagogue….I went on to say that my father “was a loving, peaceful and open-hearted man and I am absolutely positive that he would never have approved Ms. Geller as a spokesperson….I plead with you to reconsider the decision to have her speak at the Synagogue….Her message is just the opposite of what peace-loving Jews stand for”

 “Thank you for your consideration….Sincerely….Maxine (Feiner) Chiu”

 As of today, 4th April, I haven’t received a reply.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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21 Responses

  1. Donald
    April 5, 2013, 12:08 pm

    The civil libertarian argument is a difficult one for me–if people try to cancel the Gellars, then the same tactic is used against BDS advocates and it’s tougher to complain except on the grounds that our position is morally right and theirs is morally wrong. Which is true, but not the point when it comes to free speech.

    But if I were a member of the congregation I would be vehemently opposed to having a bigot like that speak where I worshipped. What message are they sending about what they stand for? Would they invite a KKK advocate?

    • marc b.
      April 5, 2013, 5:51 pm

      But if I were a member of the congregation I would be vehemently opposed to having a bigot like that speak where I worshipped. What message are they sending about what they stand for?

      that’s the question, though, donald. if geller’s opinions accurately reflect the opinions of the congregants at great neck synagogue, then of course she should be permitted to speak. that just means that the worshipers at that synagogue are racists like her. who would argue that a christian identity church shouldn’t allow david duke to speak?

    • Sumud
      April 5, 2013, 8:54 pm

      Free speech has limits and I have no zero problems with including hate speech in the not-acceptable category. If it helps, think of hate speech as defamation or libel, which it clearly is.

      Personally I think it’s a stupid debate to even have in the first place. Whose bright idea was this:

      At last night’s forum on “Jewish democracy” at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York, discussants criticized Geller but disagreed over the wisdom of seeking to cancel a talk given the difficulty the left has had getting invitations to speak.

      From what I’ve read and seen of Geller she is every bit as bad as the KKK, in fact I don’t think she’d bat an eyelid if Israel started stuffing Palestinians into gas ovens. To draw equivalence between left speakers and Geller is to grant her legitimacy she does not deserve.

      Grow a backbone, please! (not you Donald, the debaters at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah)

      • Pamela Olson
        April 6, 2013, 1:09 pm

        Amen! Calling out hate speech is a TOTALLY different universe from silencing legitimate dissent based on universal values. At the same time we defend ourselves from being called hateful and bigoted with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, we must continue to call out people who are genuinely hateful and bigoted. Comparing ourselves to them is demeaning and frankly ridiculous.

        Keep that starch in your spine, and carry on. Don’t buy into their absurd and false equivalencies.

  2. Citizen
    April 5, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Nothing illustrates more the different interpretations of “Never Again!” than Pamela Gellar’s solely tribal one, and Maxine Chiu’s universal one. The two strands of historic Jewish ethics/morality are thus transported right up to today. Is the problem that the mission to repair the world actually involves all the world’s humans? And, hence, at some point, the goys will demand a say? Perish the thought. Or is it that there’s split on which strategy is best to assure jewish survival in a world that is mostly not Jewish? Or is the division between these two Jews, for example. that one does not have a superiority complex, and the other does?

  3. Kathleen
    April 5, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Chris Matthews has put up some clips of Pam Geller making Islamophobic comments on his program. Basically poking fun. Glad those Jewish groups that you mentioned above are pushing back.

  4. doug
    April 5, 2013, 1:05 pm

    I come down on the side of letting her speak. Getting her tossed just gives credence to her positions amongst the frenzied Islamaphobics. One of the best interviews I ever heard was an interview of an American Nazi Party spokesman broadcast by KPFK. The interviewer was so neutral and skilled that the spokesman let his hair down and said what he truly believed. It was chilling and revealing. Free speech tends to do that. Reveal, that is.

    • Ellen
      April 5, 2013, 6:00 pm

      Agreed. The more you let the Gellars of the world speak out, the more they reveal how absolutely unhinged they are. Give ’em a long leash. It solves itself.

      Sort of like Charles Krauthamer loosing it on Fox TV that even Chris Wallace was speechless

    • Pamela Olson
      April 6, 2013, 1:13 pm

      There’s some argument to be made here for revealing these people for who and what they are. But allowing them to speak at respected community venues when their position is utterly illegitimate gives them a cache they don’t deserve.

      Canceling the event might make Islamophobes foam at the mouth, but allowing her to speak at legitimate venues (I would imagine) makes Islamophobes sit back with a satisfied expression on their face that their hateful views are tolerated and even encouraged by “polite society.”

  5. Cliff
    April 5, 2013, 1:34 pm

    Personally, I think the hate that people like Gellar spreads is good for anti-Zionist, post-Zionism and whatever else ‘non’-Zionism there is.

    People who already hate Arabs and Muslims and Palestinians and think Palestinians are from Syria/teach their kids to hate/suicide bomb/never miss a blah blah to miss a blah blah and all the rest, are going to continue to believe so.

    Gellar won’t make a difference. I think the more hate in the organized Jewish community, the better. It will escalate the situation and normal people will stand in disgust and shock at how tribal, tribalists are and have become.

    Mountains out of ant-hills describes the Zionist Jewish reaction to Palestinian this and that.

    Whilst they down-play, ignore, or whitewash the vastly larger murder of civilians by Israelis, over the decades.

    Hypothetical crimes by Palestinians or a hypothetical 1ss is worse to these haters than the apartheid present and the monopoly on destruction and murder by the Israelis IN THE PRESENT (past, and forseable future).

    We’re talking about people who are true believers.

    If you have no common ground with someone, like in the most basic concepts of human decency (don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder people) – then there’s nothing to discuss.

  6. hophmi
    April 5, 2013, 3:51 pm

    Has it been cancelled? I can’t find it on the Great Neck Synagogue website.

  7. matt
    April 5, 2013, 4:28 pm

    Last night the “Young Friends of the National Museum of American Jewish History” in Philadelphia held a fundraising event called “Activism and Justice: An Evening with the Inspiring Simon Deng” (http://www.nmajh.org/CalendarEvent.aspx?eventid=65). Deng, as you probably know, is a recurring character in the Geller/Spencer anti-Muslim crusade. Here he is speaking at the Geller-sponsored “Islamic Apartheid” conference at Temple last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tBWhK_iUh4. YouTube him and you’ll find other videos of him participating in Islamophobic/pro-Israel events sponsored by Geller and others.

  8. Abdul-Rahman
    April 5, 2013, 4:29 pm

    Zionist propagandists go on and on calling the Jews they oppose (i.e. Jews who stand for justice) supposed “kapos”. Apparently these Zionists in question, like the absolute moron Geller, are either just ignorant of (or should I say likely willfully ignorant of) the history of Zionists and the Zionist movement in the 1930s in the lead up to WW2 and then during WW2 itself.

    Reality:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gUwqKBfUgs
    Lenni Brenner *** Zionist Deals with Nazis and Fascists (part 1)

    “51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis” edited by Lenni Brenner

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2002/12/23/51-documents/

    http://www.amazon.com/51-Documents-Zionist-Collaboration-Nazis/dp/1569804338

    Kind of makes these Zionist trolls spewing about supposed “kapos” especially ludicrous.

    • Citizen
      April 6, 2013, 11:50 am

      @ Abdul-Rahman
      KAPOS historically were members of a target community (Jews) who lived in state-sponsored forced ghettos or concentration camps; their role was to police their own community under the directions of the German (Nazi) state. They got perks for doing so that the rest of the targeted community did not; and to be fair, they had more opportunities to help their community than the rest of the community, whether or not they ever tried to do so. I mean the German guards and administration could not be everywhere always, same as they can’t be in any prison or jail.

      Given that, a person who identifies/labels any Jew today who openly criticizes Israeli policy or conduct a KAPO seems berift of both history and logic. The two powerful sovereign states directly involved in Israel’s policy and conduct regarding the Palestinians are the US and Israel. It’s hard to logically process a conclusion that
      magically turns those jews critical of Israel and its enabler the USA for partnering the long oppression of the basically helpless native Palestinians–turns those critical jews into KAPOS.

  9. DICKERSON3870
    April 5, 2013, 5:56 pm

    ● RE: “NY synagogue’s invitation to Geller to ‘promote bigotry’ elicits call to cancel event” ~ Weiss

    ● MY COMMENT: They had better be very, very careful. Pamela Geller’s personal attorney is the notorious white supremacist David Yerushalmi! ! !

    ● SEE: “DAVID YERUSHALMI: ‘THE MAN BEHIND THE ANTI-SHARIAH MOVEMENT'”, By Pamela Geller, Atlas’ Stench, 7/31/2011

    [EXCERPTS] The ‘New York Times’ has a lengthy piece on a man I consider a national treasure, and I am not just saying that becuase he is my lawyer, representing me in numerous cases (i.e., the $10,000,000 lawsuit brought by Rifqa Bary’s parents; the violation of free speech in the banning of my freedom buses; the NYC transit ban on my Ground Zero mosque buses, etc.).
    The Times gets it wrong, of course. It woud be kind of wonderful for the likes of Andrea Elliot to practice her craft in a sharia-compliant country and spare us her smears and deceptive whitewash of the most brutal ideology on the face of the earth.
    It’s a smear piece, and a heads up to Ms. Elliot, America is behind the anti-shariah movement.

    “The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement” ~ Andrea Elliot, ‘NY Times’
    A confluence of factors has fueled the anti-Shariah movement, most notably the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York, concerns about homegrown terrorism and the rise of the Tea Party. But the campaign’s air of grass-roots spontaneity, which has been carefully promoted by advocates, shrouds its more deliberate origins.
    In fact, it is the product of an orchestrated drive that began five years ago in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the office of a little-known lawyer, David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam.
    Despite his lack of formal training in Islamic law, Mr. Yerushalmi has come to exercise a striking influence over American public discourse about Shariah. . .

    SOURCE – http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/07/david-yerushalmi-the-man-behind-the-anti-shariah-movement.html

    • DICKERSON3870
      April 5, 2013, 6:00 pm

      ● P.S. ALSO SEE: “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11

      [EXCERPTS] You’ve gotta hand it to David Yerushalmi. Until now, I can’t recall a Jew who’s ever been called a white supremacist before (actually now that I think of it, I called him a Jewish white supremacist way back in 2007). Thanks to him, we now can. . .
      . . . I’m referring to an eye-opening expose in Mother Jones about the inspiration the Jewish extremist is offering for the anti-Muslim legal initiatives that are sweeping the south after the victory of one such campaign in Oklahoma a few months ago. . .
      . . . One of the most delicious phrases used to describe the Jewish anti-jihadi is “white supremacist,” to which I say: if the shoe fits . . . I’ve also called him a Jewish fascist. But white supremacist will do just as well.
      As Murphy notes, this is a guy who endorses the principle that “Caucasians” are superior to blacks and that Jewish liberals are a cancer in the U.S. body politic. The nearest Jewish “intellectual” antecedent I can determine would be Meir Kahane. But Yerushalmi’s views are far more radical than Kahane’s. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2011/03/02/david-yerushalmi-islam-hating-white-supremacist/

  10. a blah chick
    April 5, 2013, 6:06 pm

    Pammy Shrugs is typical of a certain king of Zionist who will do anything for their beloved Israel except go and live there.

    We need to start calling these people by their rightful name-Jewish Supremacists.

  11. braciole
    April 6, 2013, 7:47 am

    Forget about Gellar, she is is just a bigot. Where are all the scum who demand “balance” when a pro-Palestine speaker presents. They appear to be doing nothing to demand balance to the rabid racism of Pamela Gellar which means they support her views and are no better than her. If anything they are actually worse than her because she at least is honest about her bigotry.

  12. MK_Ultra
    April 6, 2013, 4:36 pm

    I sent a similar letter and am, too, waiting for a reply although I’m not holding my breadth on that, of course.

  13. Blank State
    April 7, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Letting her speak may underscore the depravity of her mindset to those of us reasonably informed. But the problem becomes those uninformed individuals who assimilate her lies and distortions because they fill the empty areas in thier body of knowledge. One of our local talk radio pukes, “Chaz McCay”, regularly has Geller on. And I wish I had a tenspot for everytime one of her hateful distortions of reality are repeated by someone I engage in a conversation about Israel, the Middle east, Judaism, or Muslims. These people BELIEVE Geller. They truly DO believe in bloodthirsty hordes of radical Islamists seeking to impose Sharia law on American soil. Letting her speak only feeds the ignorance that is the norm, rather than the exception, among our general populace. When Geller speaks on this particular radio program callers are carefully screened about what it is they intend to ask or comment about, or listener’s calls are not even introduced into the program. Obviously, there’s a reason for that. It doesn’t take a mensa to figure out the reason, does it? They WANT you to be ignorant and uninformed. They WANT you to assimilate Geller’s venomous and vile bigotry. They nurture it. They sow it. And, sadly, there are many amongst us that are all too eager to do so.

  14. hophmi
    April 8, 2013, 2:35 pm

    I emailed their rabbi and urged him to cancel the event.

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