OPINION – The national organization of Limmud in Canada blasted Limmud Winnipeg for showcasing “a member of a fringe Jewish group, IfNotNow, and a BDS anti-Israeli leader Lex Rofeberg”, saying the views and tactics of the podcaster and the far-left wing INN cross the line to an anti-Israel agenda.
“There is a limit to what is considered acceptable. Providing a platform to BDS supporting anti-Semites is not,” stated Limmud FSU Canada. “BDS is a movement that yearns for the destruction of the state of Israel… no one with even a hint of an anti-Israel agenda would ever be featured by us …”
Rofeberg, a 4th year rabbinical student, is still to be a featured presenter for the Limmud Winnipeg conference this weekend. Denying that their featured guest is pro-BDS, he is still tapped to deliver 2 lectures on Sunday at the Asper Jewish Community Campus.
His Friday dinner gig to kick off the weekend was canceled by the host Synagogues the day after the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg (JFW) pulled their sponsorship because, according to Federation President Laurel Malkin, “the values of the speaker are not in-line with ours”.
A key Limmud founding figure in Winnipeg, Faye Rosenberg-Cohen, was identified as “the Community Planning and Allocations Director for the Winnipeg Federation.” by ejewishphilanthropy.com in a story on Feb 8th, with quotes about her goals as new incoming co-chair for Limmud North America.
She wants “to continue to empower volunteers and expand Jewish learning in all its diversity”, through a 2 year plan “to develop Limmud North America as a platform for strengthening Limmud across North America.” (excerpt below). Limmud FSU Canada made clear in their announcement it is not part of Limmud North America.
However, not all Limmud chapters extend the “diversity” of Jewish learning to include anti-Israel activists.
In 2013, Limmud Montreal, with the local Jewish federation, cancelled 2 lectures by a prominent INN activist.
And in 2018, the National Chairperson of Limmud South Africa admitted they “had overstepped the mark” and told the SA Jewish Report “the pressure to disinvite the three (BDS-aligned) speakers was unlike anything Limmud had experienced before.”
The Jewish National Fund, Manitoba-Saskatchewan chapter, also took aim at the pro-BDS movement like IfNotNow – which has targeted the JNF’s charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency, over donations like soccer fields and picnic tables for Israeli Defence Force recruits. . The JNF owns 13% of the land in the State of Israel and has planted 250 Million trees.
In a Facebook post Friday afternoon (sampled below), the JNF said “We as a community cannot tolerate anti-Semitism, even when a rabbi shares such sentiments”, reminding supporters “French President Emmanuel Macron stated recently…anti-Zionism is one of the forms of modern anti-Semitism.”
Starting last Saturday, my stories in Manitoba Post (links included at the end of this column) revealed recent harassment tactics by INN activists in the United States, and controversial statements from Rofeberg on his personal Facebook page. His IfNotNow membership was included in his bio, but apparently no one among the Jewish institutions involved including Limmud noticed it — until I put it before their eyes.
That revelation started the avalanche of research and commentary undertaken by IDF veteran and Israel advocate Ron East, and hundreds of other concerned community members and activists.
The Jewish Federation said Tuesday they were not aware of Rofeberg’s association with INN when they were approached. The next day the host congregation of the Shabbat Across Winnipeg dinner, Shaarey Zedek issued a statement on behalf of it, Eitz Chaim and Temple Shalom, that to keep the community peace, his invitation had been withdrawn.
Limmud Winnipeg claimed online on Thursday they had spoken with Rofeberg and “he has stated directly to us that he does not endorse the BDS movement, which we have confirmed independently as well.”
“Limmud is not meant to be a playground filled with bullies, but a place for our child-like curiosity to flourish”, it reassured followers, dismissing the outrage as “unfounded hurtful accusations”
However, after that denial I compiled a chronological review that was emailed to an official of the Asper Campus for comment, after I discovered an apparent hole in Limmud Winnipeg’s investigation.
I provided Facebook posts showing Rofeberg directly proclaimed support for BDS – and insisted the boycott movement is not anti-Semitic.
The chronology was also sent by Ron East to officials of Gray Academy of Jewish Education, the Asper Foundation and Jewish Federation. He pointed to Rofeberg’s Feb. 12th online post that Jewish education systems teach Jewish schoolchildren to hate Palestinians, “an outrageous statement”, declared East, a former educator with both the Ramah Hebrew School and the Gray Academy.
“I have additionally discovered a November 30, 2018 post in which Lex Rofeberg proclaims that the Hamas genocidal chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine must be free” is not anti-Semitic”, East told them, adding “I implore you once more to do the right thing and deny this Israel hater access to our Jewish Community School and our classrooms.”
As of deadline, no comment was received from The Asper Foundation, but a spokesperson for Gail Asper assured East the issues with Rofeberg were being examined. Her father Izzy, after whom the Campus is dedicated, was perhaps the most ardent Zionist ever from Winnipeg.
Through the week, no reply to my repeated requests for comment was received from The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the Shaarey Zedek Synogogue, or Congregation Eitz Chaim.
Links to the previous 4 columns are listed below.
Jewish Federation of Winnipeg Unaware Guest Speaker a Member of Anti-Israel Radical GroupWinnipeg Synagogues Revoke Radical Speaker’s Invitation After Being “Inundated” With ComplaintsJewish Federation Withdraws from Shabbat Dinner Over Controversial Critic of Israel[ Marty Gold, a Jewish voice on the Canadian Prairies, has hosted 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]