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Montreal Jewish festival boots panelists who defied its funders, calling for end to ‘Birthright’

Israel/Palestine
Aaron Lakoff

Aaron Lakoff

From Aaron Lakoff’s website, a statement from Sarah Woolf, Aaron Lakoff, and Moishe Dolman:

Le Mood, described by organizers as “Montreal’s festival of unexpected Jewish learning, arts and culture” will be hosting its third annual festival on November 3, 2013. The festival features “hands-on workshops, film screenings, comedy shows, interactive moderated discussions, live musical performances, lectures, panel discussions, visual arts exhibits, and more.” Le Mood is one of the largest gatherings of Jewish youth in Montreal; last year it boasted over 120 presenters and more than 1000 attendees.

On Tuesday, October 22, we were told by Le Mood festival director Mike Savatovsky that the festival had cancelled our longstanding, scheduled panels.

The first panel, entitled “Where are all the radical Jews?”, was to be moderated by writer and researcher Sarah Woolf, and featured three panelists: journalist/community organizer Aaron Lakoff, Yiddish-French-English translator Moishe-Volf Dolman, and artist Lisa Vinebaum. The approved synopsis is as follows: If you asked someone this question today, they might answer “Brooklyn” or “There are radical Jews?!” But Montreal’s Jewish community has a long tradition of radicalism. In fact, many of our institutions have radical roots – see the Jewish Public Library, Canadian Jewish Congress, JPPS/Bialik, and even Centre Hillel! Today, few traces of these groups and individuals remain. What happened? We’ll take a look back and then search forward to understand what role radical Jews play in Montreal today and can play in the future.

In addition, Sarah Woolf was to host a second panel in her capacity as curator of an upcoming online and outdoor walking tour; the project maps historically significant buildings and sites in Montreal’s old garment district, and showcases the experiences of Jewish garment workers in the early 20th Century. This panel has also been pulled as a result of Woolf being banned from Le Mood.

Savatovsky initially provided no reason for cancelling the panels, saying only that “internal tensions” within Le Mood necessitated the action. However, when pressed as to whether the cancellation was a political choice, Savatovsky told Woolf: “You have a specific instance when you did go against a program that our funders support; we’re not willing to create a platform for people whose mission goes against the beliefs of our funders.”

The funders to whom Savatovsky alluded, and whose beliefs Le Mood participants are apparently beholden, is Federation CJA (Combined Jewish Appeal). Le Mood is supported by a handful of organizations, but CJA is its primary funding source. The events or conversations that preceded the decision to cancel the panels and to ban Woolf and Lakoff from speaking remain unclear, but we have been led to believe that the order was delivered to Le Mood by CJA.

The ‘specific instance’ to which Savatovsky is likely referring is an article, co-written by Woolf, critiquing the Taglit-Birthright Israel program (http://electronicintifada.net/content/jews-we-say-birthright-trips-must-end…). [As Jews we say ‘Birthright’ must end: “We have founded Renounce Birthright because Birthright demands our complicity in two intersecting (but distinct) forms of violence: first, the occupation of Palestine and the Israeli government’s brutal regime of apartheid and second, the erasure and suppression of diverse Jewish experiences and communities across the world.”] Lakoff was not told why he had been banned from speaking, but we have been led to believe that Woolf and Lakoff’s respective engagements with Palestine solidarity activism and writing were underscored as a reason for the ban and panel cancellation. It should be noted that neither panel was planned to focus on the Birthright program or Palestine, though, in principle, we do not believe that either of these topics should be off limits.

Ultimately, we’ve been banned from speaking at Le Mood because of our personal politics (or whatever Le Mood and Federation CJA perceive our respective politics to be), not based on the content of our panels, which were reviewed, accepted, and scheduled months ago.

Sadly, this is not the first time in recent years that Jews have been censored by their own community for their political beliefs. One need look no further than Toronto artist Reena Katz, Master’s student Ben Peto, Nobel Prize nominee Jeff Halper (whose Gelber Centre talk was cancelled by Federation CJA in 2009), or every time pro-Israel organizations try to censor Israeli Apartheid Week on university campuses.

The alleged purpose of Le Mood is to interact with young people who otherwise don’t feel connected to these traditional Jewish organizations. Savatovsky himself summarized the spirit of the festival in an interview with the Canadian Jewish News: “We’re challenging people to rethink and re-imagine what Judaism means to them…Judaism’s richness was fed by a tradition of debate, discussion and diversity of perspectives on what it means to be connected to the cosmos and to each other.”

We are deeply disheartened to learn that Le Mood has fallen victim to the very behaviours and attitudes it had promised to avoid: stifling, censorial, top-down and centralized notions of what Jewishness can and should be. Instead of offering new ways of opening, orienting, and understanding the complex set of identities that constitute Jewishness, Le Mood has proven itself, disappointingly, to be more of the same old program. Words such as “alternative” and “grassroots” are bandied about freely, but when push comes to shove, the organizers are unwilling to provide “a platform for people whose mission goes against the beliefs of our funders.”

We do not deny that curatorial discretion rests with the organizers of Le Mood; however, their choice to unceremoniously ban specific individuals ought to raise red flags for everyone involved. We hope that the organizers, participants and presenters of Le Mood will ask themselves what kind of event they are contributing to in the lead-up to November 3.

In raising our objections to Le Mood and CJA’s actions, we want to make it clear that, while we have been singled out, we don’t believe our banning is really about us as individuals: it’s about controlling the conversation and quieting dissent. Moreover, this kind of behaviour is hardly a one-off or an exception; the actions taken by Le Mood and CJA are symptomatic of much larger, more pervasive problems within the organized, institutional Jewish community.

It is distressing that these organizations, Le Mood and CJA, claim to represent us as members of Montreal’s Jewish community, while simultaneously working to actively exclude us.

Signed,
Sarah Woolf
Aaron Lakoff

In solidarity,
Moishe Dolman, co-panelist

The panelists will be presenting the content of the prepared panel, in an act of protest, outside Le Mood (at Espace Réunion, 6600 rue Hutchinson) at 2 PM on Sunday, November 3.

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26 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid
    October 28, 2013, 2:36 pm

    Le Mood is distinctly paranoid all across the Jewish elite

    • just
      just
      October 28, 2013, 5:15 pm

      Well done, seafoid.

      “Moreover, this kind of behaviour is hardly a one-off or an exception; the actions taken by Le Mood and CJA are symptomatic of much larger, more pervasive problems within the organized, institutional Jewish community.”

      Yes, and their desperation is hanging out for all to witness. Stay strong and resilient as the Zionist entity clings to the shreds of its wicked ideology and practice while their exposure continues apace.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        October 28, 2013, 5:22 pm

        2 things I haven’t seen in a long time

        Someone defend Israel without resorting to hasbara canards

        An open discussion on the Israel mess going ahead anywhere jewish where funding is an issue

      • AndEps
        AndEps
        October 28, 2013, 5:26 pm

        What’s amazing is that neither of these panels planned to address Israel/Palestine, but in their desperate attempts to shield the Zionist project from any even glancing blow, they throw out the baby (supposed Jewish values of social justice) with the bathwater (an anti-Zionist critique).

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        October 28, 2013, 10:50 pm

        Bourdieu used to say that ‘the dominant retain their position by constantly changing their stance’. Usually elites will try to structure debate in such a way as to ensure the ‘nonsensical aspect’ is concealed – this can be achieved by limiting the scope of the debate, the number of ‘legitimate’ contributors, and shutting down alternative debates by force if necessary.

        But Zionism can’t even run this program fluently now.

        http://www.amazon.com/Language-Symbolic-Power-Pierre-Bourdieu/dp/0674510410

      • Arnishel
        Arnishel
        November 1, 2013, 2:04 pm

        It did not ever have to get to this point between Jews and Arabs but it did for one simple reason and that reason is that on Nov 30 1947 when the UN partitioned the land of Israel or if you prefer the land of Palestine , the Arab Palestinians as well as the other Arab states did not accept the partition. The Arabs claim that they want a state based on pre-1967 war borders. Well people that is exactly what was ceded to them Nov 30 1947. What amazes me to this day is that nobody seems to understand simple geometry. If one is to take a parcel of land and put a line through it then that parcel of land is bisected into two parts. Well when the UN took the land area and established the State of Israel on one part of the land then that AUTOMATICALLY left the balance of land to be the State of Palestine. Exactly what they are demanding today. Problem is that too many things have changed “on the ground” or “too much water has passed under the bridge” . At this point both sides need to give in to hard concessions to make peace. When Woolf and Lakoff are ready to confront both sides and not just the Jews I will listen to them.

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        November 2, 2013, 8:49 am

        It did not ever have to get to this point between Jews and Arabs but it did for one simple reason and that reason is that on Nov 30 1947 when the UN partitioned the land of Israel or if you prefer the land of Palestine , the Arab Palestinians as well as the other Arab states did not accept the partition.

        Oh please, when are you hasbarats going to stop rolling out this nonsesense. If the Arabs had accepted the partition, the outcome would have been the same, and we know that because Ben Gurion told us so.

        Ben Gurion declared that those who rejected partition were right to do so, because Palestine could not be partitioned. He also said the partition was temporary and a stepping stone toward conquering all of Palestine. He said that once the army of the Jewish state was strong enough, he would abolish the partition?

        If the Arabs had accepted it, Israel would have simply come up with another excuse to steal land.

        The Arabs claim that they want a state based on pre-1967 war borders. Well people that is exactly what was ceded to them Nov 30 1947. What amazes me to this day is that nobody seems to understand simple geometry.

        What amazes me is the the fact you expect anyone to believe this BS. If it was true that Israel accepted the partition, then why didn’t they stick to it? Why is it that they claimed to accept the UNGA181 partition in 1947, yet today, they claim that accepting such borders would be committing suicide? Why is it that the partition was acceptable in 1947, yet today we are told that this would leave Israel only 9 miles wide at it’s narrowest point and that this is now unacceptable?

        Well when the UN took the land area and established the State of Israel on one part of the land then that AUTOMATICALLY left the balance of land to be the State of Palestine. Exactly what they are demanding today.

        So what gave the Israelis the idea that they could take chunks out of the State of Palestine?

        Problem is that too many things have changed “on the ground” or “too much water has passed under the bridge” .

        Yes, exactly, through o course you are pretending that things have changed “on the ground” inadvertently as opposed to because of deliberate policy and strategy by Israel to change those facts so that they could turn around and use them to argue why the original borders are no longer possible.

        It’s like the person who commits patricide then insists that he receive leniency for his crimes because he is an orphan.

        It’s Israel that is at fault. It is Israel that has stolen land and is breaking the law. There is no point wining that the Palestinians are not sharing the blame for Israel’s criminality.

      • talknic
        talknic
        November 2, 2013, 9:18 am

        @ Arnishel “on Nov 30 1947 when the UN partitioned the land of Israel or if you prefer the land of Palestine”,/em>

        Not a matter of preference it’s a matter of fact. Palestine was partitioned.

        ” the Arab Palestinians as well as the other Arab states did not accept the partition”

        Why should they have?

        “The Arabs claim that they want a state based on pre-1967 war borders. Well people that is exactly what was ceded to them Nov 30 1947. “

        Palestine was partitioned. No territory was ceded. To cede territory there must be an agreement. The Palestinians did not agree to cede any territory or to partition Palestine

        “…when the UN took the land area and established the State of Israel on one part of the land then that AUTOMATICALLY left the balance of land to be the State of Palestine. “

        Correct, what remained of Palestine after Israel was declared , was Palestine. Not Israel. Not Israeli.

        ” At this point both sides need to give in to hard concessions to make peace”

        The Palestinians have NOTHING of Israel’s to concede. Israel on the other hand has illegally acquired by war, half of what was left of Palestine.

        “Problem is that too many things have changed “on the ground” “

        Facts on the ground = de facto
        de facto is not de jure
        Israel’s facts on the ground are illegal

        It did not ever have to get to this point between Jews and Arabs, Jewish forces and Israel could have stayed within Israel’s boundaries.

        It has never been tried.

      • Walid
        Walid
        October 29, 2013, 12:18 am

        Just, if not for Israel that’s being served as an obligatory side dish, the organized institutional Jewish community is doing good humanitarian work on the local level. But as with everything else that’s touched by Israel, it becomes corrupted, as in this story about Le Mood.

        The $4 million Israel is getting from the CJA (13% of its annual revenues) isn’t really needed there as it’s most probably going towards the settlements enterprise that’s stealing from the Palestinians. By banning the panelists from Le Mood, the CJA is acting as just another muzzling agent for the Zionists. I’m curious why it’s called United Jewish Appeal everywhere else in Canada except Montreal where it’s now called the Combined Jewish Appeal.

  2. October 28, 2013, 4:29 pm

    Aren’t you ashamed of posting this status. Just compare to what you are doing with pro Israeli comments here.

    ” Le Mood is one of the largest gatherings of Jewish youth in Montreal; last year it boasted over 120 presenters and more than 1000 attendees”

    So if three out of 120 presenters are censored out it is regrettable but still at the less than 3% level. Look at how it compares with what is going on on this blog who is supposed to be about “War of Ideas in the Middle East”. All the pro Israeli posts are severely censored and blocked. Even when posted we have to wait for many hours to get our posts approved by the “moderator”. And if this happens the posts are placed at the end of the tread when they become irrelevant and essentially “invisible”. All this at the time when (absolutely content less) comments by vicious anti- Zionists are posted essentially in real time as can be verified by the time of the comments.

    And after all that you have a nerve to complain that someone on the pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish event (remember the overwhelmig majority of Jews is pro Israel) is not supporting the openly anti-Israeli participants. You must be joking.

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      October 29, 2013, 5:20 am

      So if three out of 120 presenters are censored out it is regrettable but still at the less than 3% level.

      That’s a meaningless number. All it tells us is that the other 97% are not interested in the IP issue or not prepared to tackle it.

      All the pro Israeli posts are severely censored and blocked.

      Based on what evidence? Based on the crap posted by NormanF and Ludwig which does not get censored and blocked, I’d say the opposite is true.

      And if this happens the posts are placed at the end of the tread when they become irrelevant and essentially “invisible”.

      With hundreds of comments appeared on the blog every day, do you honestly believe the moderators have time to place them?

      Here’s another theory. On countless occasions, I have noticed comments from you, Miriam and Ludwig appearing just before the comments are disabled. That means that they get to have the last say and present their deranged arguments without rebuttal.

      For a while, I was almost beginning to think this was deliberate.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      October 29, 2013, 8:22 am

      Nutty Professor,

      “So if three out of 120 presenters are censored out it is regrettable but still at the less than 3% level.”

      And if it’s a 3% that working to bring some semblance of justice to the ethno-religious Apartheid state, while the rest of you excusers of evil babble on and on… that’s a problem.

      “All the pro Israeli posts are severely censored and blocked.”

      LMAO. I wish! We spend too much time on this site rebutting you evil peddlers.

      ” All this at the time when (absolutely content less) comments by vicious anti- Zionists are posted essentially in real time as can be verified by the time of the comments. ”

      I wish! First, you’ve got the content quota wrong. (Like a typical zio, you are wrong about everything.) Everyone’s posts get hung up in moderation, and not every post goes through. Regardless of position. The only difference is that the pro-justice-for-the-Palestinian posters are little babies, crying about it all the time.

    • ramzijaber
      ramzijaber
      October 29, 2013, 4:16 pm

      fnlevit, what a jokester you are, you made me laugh!

      On a serious note, you say “So if three out of 120 presenters are censored out it is regrettable but still at the less than 3% level.”. Have you actually paused for just one second to consider what is the percentage of Jews in the world is today? Let me tell you, it’s at about 0.2%. By your argument, sine it’s below the “3% level” (actually, way below, an order of magnitude below), then Jews have no right to be heard on the international global level. I’m sure you do not want to go down that path my good friend. It’s not good for you or me, we are both minorities ;-) Salam be on you!

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      October 29, 2013, 5:34 pm

      Oh for crying out loud could you PLEASE give your bleating a rest it’s just making you sound more and more pathetic. Gods it’s like reading the whining of a spoilt 5 year old. Grow up would you.

      Over the past few days I’ve had 3 or 4 posts disappear into the ether – the majority of my responses as it happens – so what? I just assume I broke the rules or they got lost. Woop de doo! You keep on making this claim that you’re unfairly victimised but you’ve yet to explain how you can possible know this.

      At least TRY to get this through your neutronium skull. This is not your site. This site has no duty to post anything anyone writes including you, including me. This site is not here to massage your ego. This site does not need your postings to continue. If you don’t like it – simply don’t visit it. It’s not rocket science. It’s not quantum physics. It’s just ordinary, simple, common sense. Can you understand that?

      Anyway I thought you were off to testify before a judge or senator or something. At the very least shouldn’t you be writing a letter or two to the ADL?

    • talknic
      talknic
      November 2, 2013, 9:23 am

      fnlevit “All the pro Israeli posts are severely censored and blocked”

      Twaddle

  3. piotr
    piotr
    October 28, 2013, 5:41 pm

    A community has to declare who belongs and who does not.

    By the decree of the angels, and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of all the Holy Congregation, in front of these holy Scrolls with the six-hundred-and-thirteen precepts which are written therein, with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho, with the curse with which Elisha cursed the boys, and with all the curses which are written in the Book of the Law. […] We order that no one should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favor, or stay with him under the same roof, or within four ells of him, or read anything composed or written by him.

    The elders of Amsterdam community left records of their actions, unlike their less transparent colleagues from Montreal. But I can understand them — it is the very nature of the radicals that makes them heretic and reading their writings and hearing their words puts your soul in peril. That said, it would be instructive for us if we were informed who was made outcast, for what heretical statements., and which curses fall upon them and all who break the sentence of shunning.

    • just
      just
      October 28, 2013, 5:57 pm

      A most interesting and thought- provoking comment, piotr. The rules for “belonging” to the Jewish community seem reduced to : “you’re either completely with us and with Zionism, or you are not wanted/needed/welcome. No criticism nor self-examination will be tolerated.”

      Pretty sick, and sadly, antithetical to Judaism.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        October 28, 2013, 11:17 pm

        “A document obtained by Haaretz details a series of incidents that have been kept confidential. Defense officials are content that the information has been kept secret for so long and that the leak of a few details on social media hasn’t caused a fuss. The officials clearly appreciate reporters’ responsibility and restraint on the issue – they haven’t exploited the right of freedom of information.
        The following are the incidents in the secret document – all of them in the West Bank in September and October.

        Sept. 11: 500 trees burned on land belonging to the village of Deir al-Khatab.
        Sept. 15: 17 olive trees chopped down on land belonging to the village of Kafr Laqif.
        Sept. 17: 18 olive trees chopped down on land belonging to the village of Kafr Laqif.
        Sept. 20: 27 olive trees burned in Kafr Qaddum.
        Sept. 21: 70 trees chopped down in Kafr Qaddum.
        Oct. 2: Serious damage to several olive trees on land belonging to the Raba’i family.
        Oct. 2: Serious damage to about 30 olive trees in the village of Jitt.
        Oct. 3: 48 olive trees of the Shatat family chopped down.
        Oct. 5: Serious damage to 130 olive trees of the Fukha family.
        Oct. 5: 15 olive trees chopped down and olives stolen in the village of Deir Sharaf.
        Oct. 7: Serious damage to about 60 olive trees and olives stolen in the village of Jitt.
        Oct. 7: Serious damage to eight olive trees on land belonging to the village of Ras Karkar.
        Oct. 7: 35 olive trees in the village of Far’ata chopped down and about a quarter of the olive crop stolen.
        Oct. 8: About 400 olive trees in the village of Jalud set on fire.
        Oct. 13-14: Olive trees and grapevines vandalized in the village of Far’ata.
        Oct. 20: Jewish Israelis from the settlement of Yitzhar attacked Palestinian farmers who, with the help of volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights, had been harvesting olives. The attackers used iron rods, clubs and stones. Two farmers and two volunteers – a 71-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman – were injured.
        The common denominator (and this is not a complete list) is that all these incidents took place in areas of the West Bank where the Israel Defense Forces has full security responsibility. They happened near Israeli settlements and their offspring, the outposts, all of which are well guarded by batteries of soldiers, cameras and watchtowers at Elon Moreh, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, Ma’on and the Ma’on Farm, Sussia, Shavei Shomron, Zayit Ra’anan, the Gilad Farm, Shiloh and Yitzhar.

        The officials must have decided that everything should be done to respect the public’s desire not to know.

        Official Judaism is too afraid to open Pandora Israel’s box.

      • Walid
        Walid
        October 29, 2013, 12:48 am

        “Oct. 5: 15 olive trees chopped down and olives stolen in the village of Deir Sharaf.”

        seafoid, you mentioned Deir Sharaf. Story here about Israel having opened a trash dump site next to the village threatening the drinking water of about 300,000 Palestinians. 3 years ago, the site was shut down by Israel but now there is talk about reopening it. Article from a few years back:

        “A few years ago, settlements neighboring the Palestinian village of Deir Sharaf decided to build a dump at the community’s doorstep. The quarry land was seized from Abu Shusha family during an attack by the Army in April of 2002. Settler contractors brought in a crusher and dug out a huge landfill some 300 meters from Deir Sharaf, where they now throw all their waste. What’s worse, as a way to make money, the settlements have advertised the dump for people in Israel proper to use. According to Stop the Wall:

        “An extra 10,000 tons of domestic and industrial waste is to be dumped here every month [from the suburbs of Tel Aviv]… Rubbish disposal at the site has been subcontracted to a company called Baron Industrial Park, which makes six shekels for every ton dumped, estimated to be 60,000 shekels [15,000 US dollars] a month.”

        Trash from Israel and West Bank settlements is now threatening the area’s air, animals, communities, and most importantly, its water. Less than 300 meters from the dump is the largest fresh water source in the region, upon which more than 300,000 local Palestinians depend. ”

        http://www.annainthemiddleeast.com/photos/environment/deir_sharaf_dump/

  4. talknic
    talknic
    October 28, 2013, 10:21 pm

    “antithetical to Judaism:” on behalf of the Jewish ‘state’, in Montreal

  5. Ludwig
    Ludwig
    October 28, 2013, 10:42 pm

    Good riddance traitors

    • just
      just
      October 29, 2013, 5:55 am

      Aren’t these folks Canadian? Why in blazes are you calling them “traitors”?

      You have a ruinous affliction.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        October 29, 2013, 8:31 am

        “Aren’t these folks Canadian? Why in blazes are you calling them ‘traitors’?”

        Interesting. It’s almost as if Earwig believes that just because someone is Jewish that that person MUST hold a position which favors israel and that the failure to hold that position is treason, which presupposed an allegiance to the israeli state.

        But that can’t be right because saying that all Jews pledge an allegiance to a foreign state is saying that they don’t have complete allegiance to their state of citizenship, which is a very antisemitic statement and our mighty monitors of antisemitism, like hoppy and Oleg, would be all over Ludwig giving him the what for…

    • talknic
      talknic
      October 29, 2013, 3:03 pm

      trai·tor (trtr)
      n.
      One who betrays one’s country

    • eljay
      eljay
      October 29, 2013, 3:11 pm

      >> Good riddance traitors

      Either you are a student of the perfesser, or you are the perfesser. Either way, you don’t make much sense.

  6. AndEps
    AndEps
    October 29, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Finally got a response from LeMood, and it’s equivocating as you’d expect: https://twitter.com/getinlemood/status/395250098830974976

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