Edison, NJ, shul and Great Neck Chabad host controversial speaker on radical Islam.
Pamela Geller, the controversial Jewish activist whose warnings about radical Islam earned her scorn and fierce opposition on the left -- leading the Great Neck Synagogue to cancel her scheduled appearance last weekend, has also earned admiration on the right, with two other synagogues scheduling her in the wake of the cancellation.
The two synagogues where Geller spoke on Sunday were the Chabad of Great Neck, where the attendance was said to be over 600, and Congregation Beth El in Edison N.J. where she was heard by an estimated 150 – while the synagogue was threatened with a firebombing.
Rabbi Bernhard H. Rosenberg of Beth El, who has written extensively about the Holocaust, said he turned over the threat, made by e-mail, to the police, whom he said were investigating. The unsigned e-mail said, “why do I have the feeling this synagogue will be attacked with firebombs and tainted with swastika graffiti in the coming weeks?”
Additionally, Rabbi Rosenberg’s home was pelted around 40 times, “something was thrown at the garage door” leaving “indentations, big ones.” The police were notified about that, as well, and they’ve brought in “the [Middlesex] county bias people,” said the rabbi.
Despite the attacks that preceded her, “all I can say it was nonsense. The woman is very articulate. There was no meshugas. I found her speech [posted on YouTube] to be very logical and very professional. Geller, to me, seems straight down the pike.”
Even prior to Geller’s speech, the Edison area has experienced inter-religious tensions lately. Rabbi Rosenberg, who has written extensively on the Holocaust, agreed two years ago to omit Hatikvah from the local interfaith Holocaust commemoration when Muslim imams stayed seated in protest while the anthem was being sung, This year the rabbi felt that Hatikvah had to be reinstated because not to do so would be “giving in to the current atmosphere of anti-Semitism” in Europe and the Arab world, an atmosphere that Geller addresses.
The rabbi told The Jewish Week that he, too, believed that “extremist Muslims are a tremendous danger, especially in Europe.” The problem with the Jewish people today is that “we’re milquetoast,” said Rabbi Rosenberg, “in the face of all the threats and insults.” When he heard that Geller’s appearances were being cancelled elsewhere, he said, “Not on my watch” would he buckle and be party to a speaker being silenced and intimidated.
At the Chabad of Great Neck, earlier Sunday, Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky said the Geller event, with over 600 people, was “very nice, very peaceful,” with no threats or opposition. She was very positive. She did not attack Islam or religion. She specifically said that we are only opposing Hamas, jihadists, terrorism and anti-Semites.”