Pamela Geller's Intolerance Crosses Red Line on Bimah

Synagogues Shouldn't Apologize for Silencing Hatred

Hatemongers Not Welcome: Pamela Geller has spawned headlines by winning invitations — then cancellations — from synagogues. No one should apologize for refusing a platform to her brand of anti-Islam hatred, writes Eric Yoffie.
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Hatemongers Not Welcome: Pamela Geller has spawned headlines by winning invitations — then cancellations — from synagogues. No one should apologize for refusing a platform to her brand of anti-Islam hatred, writes Eric Yoffie.

By Eric Yoffie

Published July 29, 2013.
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Never invite those who promote hatred of other religious and ethnic groups in the guise of advancing Jewish interests and values.

Don’t be afraid of a diversity of views on Israel, but make your expectations clear: Invite those with a firm commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; who, when criticisms are offered, will offer them with love and respect; and who are sensitive to Israel’s security needs and oppose terrorism against Israelis and Jews—indeed, who oppose terrorism in all forms and at all times.

And how do I apply these standards to current realities? To offer a few prominent examples:

Pamela Geller has no place in an American synagogue. She is a bigot and purveyor of hate.

BDS speakers have no place in American synagogues. They do not simply oppose Israeli policies; they oppose Israel’s very existence.

Peter Beinart and speakers from J Street should be welcomed. I have had my differences with Mr. Beinart and with J Street. At the same time, I agree with much of what they have to say, and I have always seen them as part of the Jewish family and the pro-Israel community. What is relevant here is that they meet the above criteria, and their voices are entitled to be heard.

I no longer oppose appearances in synagogues and Jewish settings by speakers for Christians United for Israel, a pro-Israel Christian group founded by Reverend John Hagee. Years ago, CUFI was a source of anti-Muslim sentiment; while their approach to Israel is very different from my own, the anti-Islam message has disappeared, and they too meet the criteria that I have set out.

Others in the Jewish community might offer different criteria or might apply them in a different way, but this much is clear: When deciding to whom we open our doors, we need a consistent, principled approach. Any synagogue or Jewish institution that does not have such a policy should develop one.

This opinion piece first appeared in the Jerusalem Post

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is the former leader of the Union for Reform Jewry. He writes on his ericyoffie.com website


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