TORONTO (Oct. 6)
A leading figure in the Canadian Jewish community has publicly resigned as a member of Beth Tzedek Synagogue, the country’s largest Jewish house of worship, because of its refusal to permit Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg to speak on its premises under the sponsorship of the Peace Now movement.
In a public letter to The Canadian Jewish News, Harry Steiner, who is a national officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress and a former national president of the Labor Zionist movement of Canada, deplored the decision of the synagogue to bar its facilities to Hertzberg, a leading figure in the Conservative United Synagogue with which Beth Tzedek is also affiliated.
“Intolerance of different views is chilling to any free society,” Steiner wrote. “We Jews should be especially on guard against it.” It would be “a sad day” if the “interplay between disapora and Israel ceased. If all of us merely became ‘yea sayers’ to whatever policies are followed by any particular government in Israel, we are not serving the true interests of the Jewish State.”
SAYS A ‘HEREM’ WAS IMPOSED
Steiner pointed out that a “herem” was imposed “because Rabbi Hertzberg would be speaking under the auspices of the Canadian Friends of Peace Now. Whether one agrees with it or not, Peace Now represents an important body of opinion in Israel, which like other Israeli movements, impacts on us in the diaspora.”
Steiner reported that after a lengthy discussion with representatives of Beth Tzedek about Hertzberg, “I realized I was dealing with people whose opinions could not be modified … I resigned my membership in the synagogue — a sad and painful decision after an affiliation of 25 years.”
Steiner is active in various Jewish communal, educational and Israeli causes and, in addition to his other affiliations, is a former chairman of Toronto’s Board of Jewish Education. Hertzberg is a member of the World Zionist Organization-American Section and a former president of the American Jewish Congress.