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Editor's Report: Federation withdraws support from Shabbat Across WPG due to speaker's controversial views on Israel and Synagogues Uninvite Him

by Rhonda Spivak Feb 28, 2019

A large controversy has erupted surrounding Lex Rofeberg, who was scheduled to speak at Shabbat Across Winnipeg at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue on the subject of Digital Judaism. It says in his bio that was distributed by Limmud Winnipeg that Rofeberg is "also an active member of the organization 'If Not Now' " [INN], a left-wing group that speaks out on Israeli-Palestinian issues. The website of INN says that "We are individuals who are differently affiliated, but together we act as IfNotNow. We work together to end American Jewish support for the occupation." The  website of INN  also says "We do not take a unified stance on  BDS, Zionism or the question of statehood."http://ifnotnowmovement.org/about-us/our-principles/

The Winnipeg Jewish Review does not know what exactly Rofeberg's views are (whether for example he does not believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state) since the WJR has not interviewed Rofeberg.

Rofeberg has made some comments on the subject of BDS in a facebook post. In a facebook post dated Feb 23 at 9:19 p.m., Ron East referred to a facebook post made by Rofeberg on Dec 21, 2108. In his Dec 21, 2018 post on facebook  Rofeberg  defined himself as "someone who actively supports some Bs/Ds/Ss, opposes some others, and doesn't know yet on others." [emphasis added] Rofeberg wrote that " BDS, by the way, isn't some big monolithic thing, it's actually a big web of different boycotts, divestments, and sanctions that don't always flow from one or the other." Rofeberg also wrote that BDS is not antisemitic and "BDS isn't demonic." (Note:To learn more about the activities of  the INN, go to  https://www.ngo-monitor.org/ngos/if-not-now/. The group crashed a Birthright Group to spread anti-occupation information https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Left-wing-NGO-crashes-Birthright-group-to-spread-anti-Occupation-info-561126. INN's website says "Birthright's programming has been funded by right- wing donors and designed to obscure, rationalize and defend the Israeli occupation." It further says "Join us in demanding birthright confront the crisis of the occupation.")

East wrote in his post Feb 23 at 9:19 p.m. " PLEASE BOYCOTT #SHABBATACROSSWINNIPEG AND Limmud Winnipeg until they remove" Rofeberg " from their programs." 

 

Journalist Marty Gold appears to have been the first person to really take notice that in Rofenberg's bio it said he was "active in IfNotNow." Gold also posted a column dated Feb 23 about this matter which can be read here: https://www.manitobapost.com/winnipeg-events/opinion-jewish-federation-of-winnipeg-unaware-guest-speaker-a-member-of-anti-israel-radical-group-117305

 

 

On February 26, The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg issued a statement  withdrawing its support from the Shabbat Across Winnipeg event. Their statement is below:

"Dear community members,


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 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

 

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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.