An Open Letter to the Toronto Board of Rabbis, Regarding Pamela Geller

Toronto Board of Rabbis
4600 Bathurst Street
Toronto, Ontario
M2R 3V3

Dear Rabbis,

I join many others in expressing my profound disappointment and deep sense of sadness at your, at best, misguided, but far more likely, misinformed, repugnant statement regarding Pamela Geller’s speaking engagement here in Toronto, which I attended. For an illustrious group, as you portray yourselves to be, you have committed the unforgivable sin of speaking lashen hora of an individual you neither know nor care to know. You accuse Ms. Geller of being known for her “extreme criticism of Muslims in language that is intended to shock and ridicule” but you offer NO examples of her words to support your claim. You claim, with certainty, that the result of her speaking engagement will be “increasing tensions within the Jewish community and between Jews and Muslims in Toronto.”  For rabbinic clergy to even level such a charge against Ms. Geller is beyond the pale – with your words you have given credibility and legitimacy to all those who hate us, including the Muslim Brotherhood. You might be proud but, many of us whom you purport to represent, are ashamed of what you have said. You might find Ms. Geller’s words “distasteful” but I find your words, accusations and actions despicable.

And as for friendship, there can only be friendship with those in the Muslim community who respect our right to be proud Jews in our wonderful diverse Canadian community. And there are many of them. But, sadly, not all of them. While you are quick to point out the “radical fringe” in our own community I have been unsuccessful in finding your pointed criticism of the “radical fringe’ in the Muslim community. Or is it that you fear that if you do acknowledge and speak out against the Muslim Radicals or Jihadis, you risk them not liking you and, by extension, the entire Jewish community?  Are you being naive or ignorant? The fact is, they don’t like you now and will respect you less for wanting to sing kumbaya with them.

Where are your voices when Jewish students are accosted on Canadian campuses on a regular basis? Where is your derision when virulent antisemites speak out at Islamic conferences and call for hatred, if not death, towards our people? Where are your press releases when young Muslim girls are honour-killed because they want to dress like their Canadian friends? Where is your outrage when Imams preach hate and antisemitism in their weekly sermons in Canadian mosques and schools?  And where are your voices in response to the 1300+ reported antisemitic incidents (statistical analysis assumes that only 10% are, in fact, reported) in Canada just last year?

You have every right to criticize whomever you wish – that is a privilege afforded to all Canadians but, as Rabbis, you have an honour-bound duty to speak the truth and to bear witness to the truth. In this case, you did neither. Your absence at the event was glaring; your prejudgement of the outcome unfair and unwarranted, and your accusations regarding Ms. Geller’s words a blatant lie. I have never been so ashamed to be a member of one of your associate synagogues. Were there any doubt where the current incarnation of “Court Jews” resides, now we know.

Rochelle Wilner
Toronto, Ontario