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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 mtwersky@gns.org and rabbi@gns.org 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 newyork@jewishvoiceforpeace.org. 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.

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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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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.

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,… Read more »

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… Read more »