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One Door Closes, Two Open: Two Shuls Host Geller Talks Sunday

The Jewish Press reported late Wednesday evening that, despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the Great Neck Synagogue at which Pamela Geller was supposed to speak this coming Sunday, cancelled her talk.

“There’s a war on free speech, which is exactly what my talk was going to be about.  The synagogue board ‘was unable to bear the burden of the extraordinary pressure’ placed on them,” Geller said, quoting from the statement released by the Great Neck Synagogue executive committee.

But, to paraphrase a kitchy cliche, when one shul door slams shut, two others open wide.  And that’s just what happened.

Geller’s supporters rallied behind her and expressed dismay over the shuttering of Geller’s talk.  The Great Neck Synagogue pulled out at the last minute due to what has been described as the intimidating and relentless tactics engaged in by certain leftist Jews, notably Rabbi Jerome Davidson and Rabbi Michael White, the vice president of a local mosque, Habeeb Ahmed, and a Long Island Interfaith group.

Geller’s detractors said her talks about Islam and the Islamic political ideology of Sharia constitute hate speech.  Several opponents of her talk at Great Neck Synagogue accused Geller of being an extremist.  They called her a Nazi.

But less than a day after Great Neck Synagogue cancelled on her, two other shuls invited her in.

So, in the end, the intimidation against her led to an amplification of Geller’s message, not a diminution.

This Sunday, Pamela Geller will speak at the Chabad of Great Neck at 10:00 a.m.  Rabbi Yosef Geisinsky came forward almost immediately and offered Geller the opportunity to give the same talk in the same town at the same time as originally scheduled.

According to a local Long Island newspaper, The Island, “The event will be moderated to prevent hate speech and Geisinsky said he anticipated that Geller would stick to discussions of freedom of speech and terrorism.  ‘Our moderator will be able to moderate. If Ms. Geller will go into any areas that don’t go in our direction, we will be able to stop it,’ Geisinsky said.”

When Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a vocal and well-known pro-Israel Great Neck resident was asked whether the Chabad event could be publicized, or if it still needed the synagogue’s board’s approval, Wiesenfeld answered, “Geisinsky has one boss – it’s G-d.”

On Sunday evening at 7:00, Geller will speak at the invitation of Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El in Edison, New Jersey.  Geller’s topic will be “The Imposition of Sharia in America,” the same topic she had been scheduled to speak on at the Great Neck Synagogue.

Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg

Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg

Rabbi Rosenberg said providing Geller with a platform was “a matter of principle.”  During this past presidential election season, Rosenberg spearheaded the Rabbis for Romney initiative. Congregation Beth-El, is a Conservative egalitarian shul.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.

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