5 min

Xtra releases the full transcript of the email

Jewish leaders on gays, Toronto Pride and QuAIA

The following is the email between York Regional Police’s Rabbi Mendal Kaplan and Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, from July 2010.

Farber says he sent the original email to a group of about 10 rabbis asking about participation in the Pride parade, but only Kaplan responded.

“He responded by dissecting each line of my email sentence by sentence,” Farber explains to Xtra. “It was not back and forth.”

*Email released to Xtra from Justine Apple, executive director of Kulanu Toronto

Bernie Farber – Yesterday’s event was in the true spirit of Kol Yisroel Arevim Zeh Bazeh.

Mendel Kaplan – Kol Yisrael areivim zil Laze is the basis for the halacha in the Shluchim Arch that obligates each and every one of us to do whatever possible to ensure that our brothers and sisters follow Hashem’s Torah, not encourage and cheer them on to violate it. I can hardly imagine a more twisted perversion of those sacred words!

Farber – We faced a crisis in Toronto.

Kaplan – with which Torah authorities did you discuss ‘this crises’ and from which Rabbinic or Talmudic HaChayim did you receive direction on how to respond in a way that did not constitute an enormous ‘Chilul Shaim Shomayim B’rabim [sanctifying Hashem’s name in public] (of which the Talmud states that Hashem is ready to ‘overlook the 3 sins for which a Jew is required to give his life rather than violate, but that He will not overlook Chilul Hashem!’ [“Desecration of God’s Name”]

Farber – where true Jew haters were about to seize the streets in an organized and poisonous manner that would have brought contempt and ridicule to our entire community

Kaplan – That is an innocent exaggeration at best and a wilful distortion to fit somebody narrow agenda and excuse chilul Hashem at worst, not a light mater at all.’

Farber – We simply could not cede the streets to antisemites.

Kaplan – ditto

Farber – To have done so would have been not just cowardly but would have opened the door for continued attacks by evil forces on us all

Kaplan – Even if this were true, a fact that I have serious doubts about, there could have been other ways to go about this. Instead in a full page ad you publically labelled Artzuinu Hakdosha as ‘[the] Gay Capital of the Middle East’ a public desecration of the holiness of the Land, People and the Torah of Israel. Imagine what clergy and religiously observant people from other faith systems were saying amongst themselves about the nation G-d charged with being the ‘Ohr LaGoyim.’ In the same as you shamefully called upon the community (in the name of UJA, CIC & CJC major organization who purport to represent the entire Jewish people etc) to participate in the celebration of what our Holy Torah makes a point of calling To’eva. You wrote: ‘Whether you’re gay or straight, join Kulanu Toronto in tomorrow’s parade.’ GEVALD, GEVALD!!!

Farber – I am fully cognizant of the Torah prohibition against homosexuality.

Kaplan – I find it very hard to believe that you are fully aware of everything the Torah says about this.

Farber – and this should not be seen as having anything to do with such prohibitions.

Kaplan – Fascinating indeed, so what should is be seen as having to do with the colour of somebody’s trousers or flip flops?

Farber – This was a community effort to support Jews (yes gay Jews but still part of our community) who with great courage and very small numbers were preparing to confront an antisemitic beast.

Kaplan – So what will happen when there will be large number of Jews who want to boycott Israel (BTW tragically they already exist) will you be sure to support them because they are still a part of the Jewish community?!

Farber – Surely Judaism does not tell us to forsake Jews in need of our help against our enemies

Kaplan – Perhaps, you can please share with all of the esteemed Rabbanim to whom you posed the question (the answer to which you are so sure of) before deciding to place this abominable ad.

Farber – This was not about promoting the parade.
Kaplan – Really, please tell me how else to read the words you wrote: ‘Whether you’re gay or straight, join Kulanu Toronto in tomorrow?s parade.’

Farber – The parade doesn’t need our help in that respect, nor would we do so.

Kaplan – And, why not?

Farber – However, regardless of the nature of the parade, this is a major event on our city’s calendar and the step we took represented a defence of Israel and the Jewish people that is playing out in the general media.

Kaplan – As is the notion that Am Hakadosh is no longer ‘A Nation of Priest and a Holy Nation’ who are committed to the eternal values of the Torah and have exchanged ‘the vibrant springs of Divinely ordained Torah teachings and morality and dug itself cisterns to catch the stagnant water of alien beliefs; and even those cisterns are unable to contain their filthy contents’ see this coming week?s Haftorah!

Farber – As you are aware, this issue has been in the general press for weeks. To not respond to lies in the general media would just leave our enemies with carte blanche to attack us – all Jews and Israel in its entirety.

Kaplan – There were many other (equally or perhaps more effective ways) to have responded without causing a colossal Chilul Hashem and unforgivably soiling the reputation of Am Yisrael.

Farber – This was about Israel advocacy in the same way that our engagement against the Toronto International Film Festival boycott (a festival that has Jews involved in business on Shabbat) was not a promotion of everything the Festival stood for or the films shown; or our admonition to have people go out and buy Israeli wine, in the face of boycotters was not to promote the consumption of alcohol. Rav, it was the right thing to do.

Kaplan – It was most definitely wrong to spend the tens of thousands of dollars of Tzedakah money to make a public desecration of God’s name with that reprehensible ad.

Farber – I am proud of our community.

Kaplan – And I am deeply ashamed of you and your cohorts who shamefully publically proclaimed your disconnection from the Torah’s code of sexual morality on Shabbat Kodesh Parshat Pinchas which tells us in glowing terms about the eternal righteousness of Pinchas who fought against the same spirit of public and flagrant violation of same in ancient times (homosexual or heterosexual is irrelevant — both were public displays of immodesty in the extreme!).

Farber – Our lay and professional leadership that came out to stand tall with us today and the hundreds of Jews who walked with us in support of Israel and the Jewish people.

Kaplan – Am Yisrael has, and will always be led by the Torah leaders. Please share with us which outstanding Rabbanim and Torah scholars were there marching with you?

Farber – I would be pleased to discuss this with you more fully. This is just the beginning with many more battles to fight. We require the total community’s support as we go forward.

Kaplan – Then I humbly suggest you start finding out what the segment of the community who is not prepared to abandon the Torah have to say about this. Otherwise the message is clear – you have chosen to break away from our sacred and time-worn mesora, and those who believe in Hashem and his Torah will now have to re-evaluate whether ‘Jewish Unity’ is to be pursued by abandoning Torah Judaism.