The Toronto Board of Rabbis criticized the Jewish Defense League of Canada for inviting Islam critic Pamela Geller to speak in the city.
The statement was issued just prior to Geller’s speaking engagement Monday sponsored by the group. She spoke at the Toronto Zionist Center without incident. A Chabad rabbi had uninvited Geller to speak at his suburban Toronto synagogue following intervention by police, forcing the change of venue.
The 50-member rabbis’ board said Geller, a blogger and vocal critic of radical Islam, “is known for her extreme criticism of Muslims in language that is intended to shock and ridicule.” The group said it was “a strong supporter of freedom of speech for and including Ms. Geller,” but added “there was no sense in inviting her here to Toronto to speak before a Jewish audience.”
The board, which represents multidenominational rabbis, said it found Geller’s views “distasteful.”
“We dissociate ourselves from the actions of the radical fringe Jewish group that extended the invitation,” the board said. “We call for more events here in Toronto that will build up friendship and understanding between local Jews and Muslims.”
During her speech, Geller blasted the rabbinical board for not contacting her or citing any quotes in her writings. “Shame on you; shame on you,” she said of the board to applause. “They’re guilty of ‘lashon hara,’ the evil gossip that is a lie.”
Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Chabad@Flamingo, north of Toronto, had backed out of his agreement to host Geller after a visit by the hate crimes unit of local police, who pointed out that as one of eight volunteer police chaplains, Kaplan’s “connection to Ms. Geller’s event posed a concern, as it would put our organization in conflict with our long-held position of inclusivity.”