TORONTO — The Toronto Board of Rabbis criticized the Jewish Defence 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 May 13 sponsored by the group. She spoke at the Toronto Zionist Centre without incident.
Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Chabad@Flamingo in Thornhill had uninvited Geller to speak at his synagogue following intervention by York Regional 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 that it’s “a strong supporter of freedom of speech for all, 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 Kaplan had backed out of his agreement to host Geller after a visit by the York Regional Police hate crimes unit, who pointed out that as one of eight volunteer police chaplains, Rabbi 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.”