WINNIPEG - A sudden change of plans was announced late Wednesday afternoon by the Shaarey Zedek synagogue - the "Shabbat Across Winnipeg" dinner Friday night was not going to be nicknamed "the Rabbi Who Came To Dinner", because his invitation to be the guest speaker was withdrawn.
Heeding deep concerns expressed across the Jewish community and by members of all 3 synogogues whose Rabbi's and Cantors are participating in the service, distance has again been sought from Lex Rolfberg, an identified leader of the anti-Israel radical faction IfNotNow.
The rabbinical student's visit to the city and booking as a dinner speaker originated with Limmud Winnipeg, still showcasing the pro-BDS podcaster as a keynote presenter for their annual weekend learning conference following the Sabbath dinner.
Only a day before, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg was first to back away from the dinner table. JFW President Laurel Malkin said, "The values of the speaker are not in-line with ours, as the representative body of Winnipeg's organized Jewish community ... we were unaware of these associations (now brought) to our attention."
My columns in Manitoba Post raised recent serious incidents, seemingly predictive, of why a distaste for associating with anything INN could develop within local Jewish institutions.
Notably the infiltration and disruption of the Birthright (youth program) Israel tour in December by INN protesters decrying "the Occupation (of Gaza)", is a program the Federation promotes and supports in the local community of 15,000.
More recently just last Saturday - at an Orthodox synogogue - IfNotNow members obstructed and harassed THEIR guest speaker Leibel Mangel, and the congregants on the University of Texas campus. The far-leftists insisted that because he's a former Israeli Defence Force officer, Mangel be denied a platform to discuss his grandfather, who survived Nazi medical torture as a child in Auschwitz to become a venerated Rabbi.
The head of the Austin Chabad House that invited Mangel is also a grandson a Holocaust survivor, who fought with the Jewish underground Bielski Brigade saving Jews in Poland from certain death.
At a New York protest in 2018, the group used signs claiming "Israel is an apartheid state."
The Shaarey Zedek announcement, in conjunction with the Eitz Chaim and Temple Shalom congregations, acknowledged that since my initial column last Friday "our community has been inundated with messages and social media commentary, decrying our decision to invite this speaker, specifically as it relates to the beliefs and political positions of an organization with which he is affiliated."
Their decision was characterized as a gesture of "Shalom" - peace .
Ron East, the former IDF veteran and teacher who was the first and most vocal critic of the scheduling of Rofeberg, lauded both the Federation and synagogues "for finding their moral compass and following the leadership of the Montreal Federation in 2013 which without hesitation refused to host one of Rofeberg's fellow INN leaders." (excerpted below)
Here are the links to my 3 previous columns;
* Limmud is quoted in the first, where they said they did not have the ability to check on the backgrounds of their 40-50 speakers
* The Temple Shalom commented for the next column where I revealed that Rofeberg was identified a year ago by INN on Facebook as "one of our leaders" and of their antics in Austin:
* In the third column I revealed an attempted Federation compromise to allow Rofeberg to speak at the dinner, which failed prior to canning him, and a letter sent by East to Gail Asper:https://www.manitobapost.com/.../jewish-federation.
In his own Facebook post about the synagogue's actions late Wednesday, Rofeberg said "The reason is that I am a member of IfNotNow - an affiliation I included in the bio I sent to the organizations upon accepting the invitation, in order to be as forthright as possible."
Meanwhile, his presence at the Limmud sessions is now being challenged by East, who emailed the Asper Jewish Community Centre, home to the Jewish school system.
"Elaine Goldstine, CEO at Federation suggested that I reach out to you" the appeal to JCC director Curtis Martin began.
"Limmud Winnipeg will be unrolling the red carpet for an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, pro BDS speaker at the Asper Jewish Community Center named after the late, Israel Asper, community philanthropist, business mogul and staunch Israel supporter and Zionist ... (how can you allow) entry into the halls of the Asper campus which are covered with everything that is Israel?"
East, a longtime leader of the Israeli community in Winnipeg, concluded "I implore you to not allow Lex Rofeberg a platform in a building synonymous with the LOVE of Israel."
East was also scheduled to present a Limmud lecture on Sunday, but is refusing to appear if Rofeberg is involved.
[ Marty Gold has hosted talk radio and TV current affairs programs since 1986. As an investigative reporter and podcaster, his opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manitoba Post nor its staff. Twitter @TGCTS. Please support his citizen journalism directly via PayPal at this link http://paypal.me/MartyGoldMedia ]