I opened my inbox yesterday to find a letter from Federation CJA President Susan Laxer and CEO Deborah Corber explaining a situation concerning LE MOOD, Montreal’s Festival of Unexpected Jewish Learning, Arts and Culture.
LE MOOD features a variety of young thinkers, performers and artists from across the spectrum for a day of inspiration, conversation and “hanging out” with fellow Jewish Montrealers of all levels of practice and inclination – political or otherwise.
With session topics ranging from the history of the Jewish community of Sainte Sophie to Judaism and sexuality, Le Mood offers something for everyone and is certainly an event that promotes tolerance, inclusiveness, and pluralistic Jewish values.
Federation CJA, one of the event sponsors, recently made a decision to cancel a session because it involved speakers who challenge – actively and publicly – the legitimacy of the State of Israel.
The result has been a lot of angry people screaming “censorship”.
Let’s clarify that this is NOT censorship.
This is Federation CJA deciding that it would be inappropriate to use donor dollars to support a platform for those who deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State, a view that goes against one of Federation’s core principles.
As the letter states:
…However, as broad and inclusive as the tent is at Le Mood, Federation CJA has exercised our right, as any organization would be expected to do, to draw the line at funding and providing a platform, whether directly or indirectly, to those who deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State.
This is not censorship. Individuals certainly have every right to express, publish or otherwise promote their opinions, even where those opinions run counter to the values of an organization such as ours. At the same time, however, no organization is under the obligation to provide an outlet for the expression of views that are entirely antithetical to its mission. On the contrary, Federation CJA has a responsibility to its members to uphold its core mandate. The decision that we made was entirely in keeping with this principle.
I was ready to shout out and cheer.
Because, as someone who often feels that Federation has lost sight of what it needs to be, I was thrilled to see that line:
Federation CJA has a responsibility to its members to uphold its core mandate.
My usual feeling is that one of the reasons we continue to see ‘controversy’ is because when you try to be all things to all people, you quickly discover that unless you STAND for something, you end up contradicting yourself.
I understand that Federation is not in an enviable position (on a day-to-day basis) but, like a good parent, it must be able to lead by example, set limits and, when necessary, draw lines in the sand – all the while loving their children (or in this case, members) enough to accept them regardless of their religious, political or other inclinations. Just like a good parent must sometimes put their foot down and say “Not in my house”, so must Federation.
I’ll take a stand that it disgusts me that LE MOOD would bring on such speakers, but I think that they are looking for the controversy and I think that they may feel that controversy sells and controversy brings people together.
As a community member, I’d prefer to see Federation spend its funds to gather Jews in more constructive ways than denouncing the right of the Israel to exist as a Jewish State and I am thrilled that they made the call.
That sentence gives me renewed faith in the leadership and hope for the future of our community in Montreal.
We love the benefits of LE MOOD of a diverse & vibrant community.
We believe in the rights of its constituents to disagree, debate and engage in LE FEUD.
BUT, ultimately, strong community leadership has to know when it’s time to take LE STAND.
I would like to express my full support for Federation CJA in its decision and I encourage you to do the same by Liking and Sharing this post, by leaving a comment or even by writing your own letter of support to the community leaders
Wishing us all the courage to take LE STAND.