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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CJC CEO wanted investigation against Chabad rabbi, York Regional Police reveals

TORONTO – Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) CEO Bernie Farber took an active role in the recent challenge – initiated by a request from Kulanu Toronto – to Rabbi Mendel Kaplan’s chaplaincy role with York Regional Police (YRP), a police spokesperson revealed.

After an almost-six-month investigation into claims that Rabbi Kaplan, the popular spiritual leader of Chabad Flamingo, had expressed homophobic sentiments, and therefore, was unsuitable for the position, YRP concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated (see Jewish Tribune, Feb. 10, 2010).

In a back-and-forth email discussion among Rabbi Kaplan, JDL Canada head Meir Weinstein and Farber before the gay-parade last June, Rabbi Kaplan disagreed with the others, who were planning to march with Kulanu Toronto, the LGBTQ group under the UJA Federation umbrella, in support of Israel.

Kulanu Executive Director Justine Apple, who saw the email exchanges, wrote to YRP Chief Armand LaBarge, claiming that Rabbi Kaplan sent a “vile” email to rabbis across the GTA that “takes our Jewish community institutions – Canadian Jewish Congress, Canada Israel Committee and UJA – to task for its support of our organization.”

“The original letter of complaint was from Kulanu Toronto,” said YRP Inspector Ricky Veerappan, adding that Farber, too, “did mention it to us.” The Tribune had contacted Veerappan to confirm the facts upon hearing rumblings to that effect.

“There were a number of people who felt that we should look at Rabbi Kaplan’s ability to serve as chaplain, including Bernie Farber and Len Rudner [CJC’s Ontario regional director],” Veerappan stated.

Apple said when the investigation began that CJC and Federation were very supportive of her attempt to get YRP to reconsider Rabbi Kaplan’s competence as chaplain.

Even after the investigation concluded, Xtra!, Canada's Gay and Lesbian News, reported: “Like Apple, Farber questions whether Kaplan is the most appropriate choice to represent YRP. ‘That's what has to be answered,’ Farber stated.”

The Tribune tried unsuccessfully to contact Farber before deadline.

“The allegation that Mr. Farber, CEO of an organization that purports to represent the entire Jewish community, sought to condemn an orthodox rabbi for upholding Torah values is shocking, deeply offensive and totally unacceptable,” Rabbi Kaplan commented.

“We also spoke to [JDL Canada leader] Meir Weinstein and he had mentioned that he didn’t think the rabbi should be removed from the chaplaincy,” Veerappan explained, although Weinstein had disagreed with Rabbi Kaplan on this particular issue. ‘Weinstein thought that perhaps they [Farber, Rudner and Apple] should discuss it [with the rabbi], to see if there was any miscommunication.”

Following the rabbi’s vindication at the end of the investigation, Apple said she would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with him.

Speaking to the Tribune, she acknowledged that she had made no attempt to have a meeting with Rabbi Kaplan before sending the letter to YRP challenging the rabbi’s suitability for the chaplaincy.

From Weinstein’s perspective, according to Veerappan, Farber and Rabbi Kaplan “were just speaking on different levels,” in the email discussion. “In fact, he [Weinstein] was not the only person who said that.

“All the people we spoke to [during the investigation] were people whose names came up when speaking with us. Rabbi Benjamin Hecht [founding director of Nishma, a Torah think tank] was highly recommended as someone who would have knowledge on [orthodox] Judaism as related to LGBTQ issues. We met with him. We examined the emails and other material. It was a lot of work. He felt the emails were not hateful or homophobic.”

Weinstein told the Tribune that Farber was “livid” that Rabbi Kaplan had disagreed with him about marching at the parade. “He told me he didn’t think that the rabbi was the right person for the chaplaincy.”

Weinstein led JDL in the pride march with Kulanu.

“It wasn’t Rabbi Kaplan’s position not to attend the pride parade,” he said. “It’s the Torah position, and I agree with the Torah position. I went because I think it’s extremely important to confront the antisemites.

“It was my first time at that event. It certainly isn’t the place to bring kids.

“None of the rabbis think that individuals, gay or straight, should be discriminated against or treated disrespectfully. But the pride parade is something different, with gay strippers flaunting their bodies. What does that have to do with fighting for their rights?”

Weinstein plans to continue the fight against the anti-Israel organizers, although he isn’t sure yet whether he’ll attend the parade again, considering the “abominable stuff that goes on there.”

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