Leftist Jewish Groups Want Synagogue To Cancel Speech by Pamela Geller

Are Groups Flip-Flopping on Free Speech?

Scrapped?: Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, left, protests the cancellation of a planned speech at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles last year. Leftist activists want a Long Island synagogue to cancel her appearance there this month.
getty images
Scrapped?: Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, left, protests the cancellation of a planned speech at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles last year. Leftist activists want a Long Island synagogue to cancel her appearance there this month.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published April 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Leftist Jewish groups are calling on a Long Island synagogue to cancel a speech by an outspoken Jewish blogger known for her outspoken anti-Muslim views — raising questions about a double standard on free expression.

New York activist groups Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and Jews Say No! announced their opposition to a speech set for April 14 by Pamela Geller, an activist known for her extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric, at the Modern Orthodox Great Neck Synagogue.

In an email sent to JVP activists on April 3, the organization called on members to contact the Great Neck Synagogue and ask it to cancel the event. Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director, told the Forward on April 4 that at least 50 people had contacted Great Neck Synagogue at the group’s behest.

“Our hope is that the synagogue will cancel her appearance,” Vilkomerson said. “The kind of venom that she spews against Islam is completely inappropriate for a synagogue.”

Geller, in response to the campaign against her event, criticized the leftist groups as insufficiently Jewish.

“Jewish history is plagued with these quislings, who are willing tools serving as the public face for supremacists and annihilationists,” she wrote in an email to the Forward. “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 campaign comes weeks after some of the same leftist Jewish groups organized against efforts to cancel a panel on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement at Brooklyn College. One of the groups also opposed a decision by the LGBT Community Center in New York to block an appearance by a pro-BDS scholar.

One gay community activist, who opposed the BDS ban at the LGBT Community Center, slammed the leftist Jewish groups for their apparent free expression flip-flop.

“I’m startled [the leftist Jewish groups] didn’t learn any lessons from the controversies of two months ago at the Gay Center and at Brooklyn College,” said Bill Dobbs, a longtime gay activist. “They’ve lost the moral high ground.”

Vilkomerson said that JVP’s call for the cancellation of the event was not evidence of a double standard.

“We’re not the ACLU,” Vilkomerson said. “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 Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.