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Shaarey Zedek Synagogue Disinvites Barnard From Reading Holocaust scroll- Did Federation Agree with this? Synagogue No longer Commenting on the record

by Rhonda Spivak, May 1, 2014

The Board of the Shaarey Zedek synagogue made a decision to disinvite the President of the University of Manitoba David Barnard from reading Megillat Hashaoh, a special scroll written in the voice of a survivor, during Holocaust Remembrance Week. They did so after publicity was sent out with Barnard's name as one of the readers of the scroll. 


A copy of the original publicity poster with Barnards's name on it as a reader for Megillat Hashoah  was seen hanging on a University of Manitoba  bulletin board as late as yesterday May 1.  

The Shaarey Zedek took this unprecedented action because of recent events at the University of Manitoba whereby IAW took place on campus, notwithstanding the University of Manitoba's Student Union's (UMSU's) decision to ban IAW from taking place on UMSU controlled space. (For a full background on the events that occurred at U of M regarding IAW, see our earlier article about this which is reprinted in its entirely at the end of this current piece)  


Earl Barish speaking on behalf of B’nai Brith Canada told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he greatly applauds the decision of  the synagogue to rescind the invitation to Barnard. When he saw Barnard's name listed on an ad for the event, Barish took action to express his strong opposition to Barnard being given the distinction of reading from Megillat Hashoah. He said made a telephone call to another community leader ( who also happened to be board member of Shaarey Zedek) who agreed with him. 


Al Turnball, President of UMSU was invited to read from Megillat Hashoah in place of Barnard.


On April 24,  the WJR learned through a tipster that Barnard had been disinvited. The WJR spoke to Bob Freedman, CEO of the Jewish Federation on April 24 who  said that the Jewish Federation was not involved in any way in making the decision. "No one called us to get our views, opinions, suggestions or background," Freedman said. 

Rabbi Green of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue released a statement only after the Megillat Hashoah event was over.It said that the synagogue "strongly supports" the stance of the University of Manitoba Student's Union and wanted to send a clear message that it did so:


"Shaarey Zedek strongly supports the University student government, in its courageous defense of the safety and dignity of all Jewish students, and all supporters of the State of Israel, at the University of Manitoba.  Let them be an example for university student governments throughout the continent, and throughout the world." 


John Danakas University of Manitoba spokesman, released a statement saying the U of M had a legal opinion that refusing space to Israel Apartheid Week organizers "could be  a violation of the Manitoba ’s human rights code, therefore putting the university at risk of violating that Code."


When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review how the synagogue communicated its rescinding of the invitation to Barnard, Green responded "with a terse note from our President ."


Last year, President of University of Winnipeg Lloyd Axworthy was asked to read from Megillat Hashoah, notwithstanding that IAW took place on his campus. 


When asked about this on Wednesday April 29, Ian Staniloff, executive director of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue initially said that he thought that there was no IAW on U of W campus. When the WJR told him that in fact IAW took place on U of W last year as well as this year, Staniloff responded that the situation with U of M was different than U of W since at U of M the student union had taken a strong stance opposing IAW. Staniloff also noted that Axworthy was not invited back this year.

However,Jennifer Rattray, the U of W's associate vice-president for indigenous, government and community affairs did appear as a reader his year.


On April 30, the Winnipeg Jewish Review sent an email to Freedman and David Kroft, President of the Jewish Federation asking whether the Federation agreed or not with the action taken by Shaarey Zedek Synagogue to rescind the invitation of David Barnard.


About two and a hlaf  hours later, Bob Freedman, the CEO of the Federation sent out a statement by email. While the statement referred to the decision by the U of M to rent space to an anti-Israel group as "unfortunate", the statement did not say whether the Federation was in agreement or not with the action taken by Shaarey Zedek Synagogue to rescind Barnard's invitation: 


 “The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg is the duly constituted representative body of the Jewish community of Winnipeg.


We view the University of Manitoba’s decision to rent space to an anti-Israel group as unfortunate and we earlier advised them accordingly. However we wish to reiterate that we have enjoyed a long standing mutually beneficial relationship with the University of Manitoba and its President, David Barnard. We intend to further expand ties between the University and Israeli institutions. Within the next few days, the leadership of the Jewish community and the University of Manitoba will be meeting to discuss issues which affect both the Jewish and broader Winnipeg communities.”


The Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke to Staniloff on May 1, and noted the fact that the Winnipeg Free Press had reported that cancelling Barnard's invitation was supposed to be a private action that was not supposed to be public.The WJR asked Staniloff how it was supposed to be private when the publicity for the event had already gone out not only in the Jewish but in the general community. Staniloff answered, "We no longer feel it appropriate to comment on this matter." 



Although some media reports have indicated that the decision was made by the Shaarey Zedek Board, the Winnipeg Jewish Review is not clear as to whether the full board was involved in making the decision or whether a smaller group of individuals within the synagogue made this decision to disinvite Barnard. The  WJR sent an inquiry to Rabbi Green asking whether or not the full Board or a smaller group made the decision on April 28, but did not receive an answer from Green.


The WJR posed this same question again on May 1 to Staniloff who responded that "We no longer fee

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.