Israel and Hamas at war | A pro-Palestinian Jew puts a formal notice on a Quebec synagogue

(Quebec) A pro-Palestinian Quebec university professor claims to have been banned by his synagogue from participating in Jewish Easter because of his political positions critical of Israel.

Jesse Greener, who is of Jewish faith, served notice on the Beth Israel Ohev Sholem CBIOS synagogue in Quebec. He claims that the religious establishment wrote to him that he was not welcome during the celebration of Jewish Passover, which took place on April 23.

Mr. Greener is categorical: the synagogue informed him that the decision resulted from his critical positions towards Israel.

“It was my wife who planned this with a member of the executive committee, and around April 5 we were told that we were barred, and it was explicitly mentioned that it was because of our involvement with the demonstrations for a ceasefire in Gaza,” explains this professor of chemistry at Laval University in an interview.

“It is our existence as a progressive Jewish family that is being denied. We see everywhere the idea that Jews are uniform in their opinion regarding Israel, but this is false, there is a lot of diversity in the community, he says. It is unacceptable to erase our presence in the synagogue to maintain the appearance that we all agree with Israel. »

Professor Greener describes himself as not very religious. But he indicates that he had participated in activities at this synagogue in the past and that it is important to him to raise his children in Jewish culture. Participation in Jewish Easter was therefore of particular importance to him.

“Imagine Catholics who are barred from midnight mass because of their positions on X or Y,” says the father.

Mr. Greener notes that the formal notice demands an apology from the synagogue and assurances that the family will no longer be excluded from its events.

Mr. Greener’s lawyer, Julius Gray, says he would like to meet with people at the synagogue to talk. But he does not rule out a lawsuit in the absence of an agreement.

“I find it unusual to refuse religious services for political reasons,” notes Me Grey. “People are uncomfortable criticizing Israel in certain circles and that’s unfortunate,” he adds. You have to be able to discuss. Both sides must be able to express themselves. And now there is a lot of pressure. »

The synagogue responds

For its part, the Beth Israel Ohev Sholem CBIOS synagogue in Quebec denied having excluded the family for political reasons.

“At the moment, there is no element that leads me to support the thesis of these people. The congregation is made up of very respectful people,” argues M.e Sarto Landry, the lawyer representing the congregation.

“In no way have my clients behaved similarly towards these people. We very severely contest the comments made or which appear to have been made,” adds M.e Landry, who does not rule out defamation action.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, which revealed the formal notice, a synagogue administrator nevertheless seemed to confirm Mr. Greener’s statements.

” He was asked [aux membres de cette] family (who are not members […] payers of our congregation) not to attend the event on April 23 [puisque] some paying members would not have participated in the event, because they have points of view opposed to [ceux de] [cette] family,” Debbie Rootman, vice-president and treasurer for Congregation Beth Israel Ohev Sholem CBIOS, told Radio-Canada.

Jesse Greener explains that he never spoke about his political positions in the synagogue. But since he and his partner are actively campaigning for a ceasefire in Gaza, members were able to learn about it elsewhere.

According to him, Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip “is a genocide, period.”

The question of whether Israel’s response to the October 7 massacres constitutes genocide is hotly debated. The United Nations special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories said in March that “there are reasonable grounds” to believe that Israel has committed several “acts of genocide”.

Israel “totally rejected the report” and declared, in a statement from its representation to the United Nations in Geneva, that it is part of “a campaign aimed at undermining the very establishment of the Jewish state.” “Israel’s war is against Hamas, not against Palestinian civilians,” the state assured.

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