Limmud Winnipeg teacher Lex Rofeberg, originally scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the annual Shabbat Across Winnipeg dinner last Friday, March 1, was dismissed two days before the event, because of his connection to the anti-Zionist IfNotNow movement, Canadian Jewish News reported.
The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg last week issued a press release stating: “We have been contacted by several community members regarding a speaker with controversial ties who will be speaking at Shabbat Across Winnipeg this Friday night. When the Federation was approached to be an event sponsor, we were unaware of these associations, which have now been brought to our attention.
“After careful and thoughtful deliberation, we have decided to withdraw our support from the Shabbat Across Winnipeg event. The values of the speaker are not in-line with ours, as the representative body of Winnipeg’s organized Jewish community.”
Rofeberg, a rabbinic intern, is in Winnipeg as a presenter for Limmud Winnipeg, which runs this weekend. Ron East, another Limmud speaker, called attention to Rofeberg’s affiliation with the radical, anti-Israel group, and resigned from the Limmud event over it.
A Limmud event organizer, Judi Shuster, issued a statement saying, “Our decision to allow him to present at Limmud 2019 is in no way an endorsement of his political views. Any sponsorships or organizational affiliations with Limmud are not an endorsement of the content or discussions which are presented. This reflects the Limmud approach to building unity from diversity.”
Rofeberg told CJN: “My hope for the Jewish present and future is that events like these will be open to contributions from the full spectrum of Jewish theology, practice and political belief. I have been, and continue to be, excited to engage in conversation with anyone whose perspective is different from my own in any of those realms.”
An example of an open contribution from IfNotNow took place the Shabbat before, at the Chabad Jewish Center at the University of Texas-Austin, when, as the center itself described, “a small group of students and young adults affiliated with IfNotNow decided it was a good time to protest a guest speaker (he served in the IDF). […] They also videotaped and photographed us on Chabad property, something which is traditionally prohibited on Shabbat for religious reasons. All of this didn’t happen during any speech, but during Shabbat morning prayers.”
Also recently, IfNotNow extended inclusive arms to congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in their struggle against the right of a Jewish organization use “Benjamins” to influence US politics.