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Letters to the Editor – Baseless Lies about Limmud

April 23, 2011 – 7:52 pm6 Comments

As a devotee, participant and lecturer at five of the previous Limmud-Oz Jewish cultural events in Sydney and Melbourne, I am jealous of its reputation. Limmud-Oz is one of the finest, most all-encompassing, educative, entertaining and enriching programmes for the Jewish community and its reputation has spread around the world.

Those who know Limmud-Oz understand that within its curriculum of Jewish and Israeli topics, it is an event which encourages discussion, and never shies away from subjects which are controversial.

But recently, an anonymous email has been circulating among the Jewish communities, criticising the organizers of Limmud-Oz in Sydney for incorporating into its rostrum of speakers somebody who advocates the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The email writer tells us that Samah Sabawi is one of the lecturers invited to speak at this year’s Limmud-Oz in Sydney in July.

This is completely untrue. It is a lie and threatens to do damage to the reputation of Limmud-Oz, something which its thousands of devotees will not allow. The email writer says ‘we know she (Sabawi) was invited to speak at Limmud-Oz…’

Not true! She will NOT be appearing, and will have NO platform in a Jewish cultural event. Perhaps the BDS will be discussed at Limmud-Oz, because that’s the nature of free and untrammelled discourse, but not as a position which is advocated by those invited to teach.

The other name which the anonymous email writer casually throws around as though it were some disease, is that of Naomi Chazan, a distinguished Israeli academic and politician. Chazan is Chair of the New Israel Fund was invited to Australia by them and the Union of Progressive Judaism. She is their guest, and Limmud-Oz has afforded her the opportunity to share her views. Many in the audience will disagree with her, and make their points known. But is the anonymous email writer seriously saying that an educational event like Limmud-Oz shouldn’t include many different perspectives and allow the audience to decide? There’s a huge difference between Chazan’s views on the future for Israel, and Sabawi who effectively advocates the destruction of Israel.

I am writing this because Limmud-Oz is a jewel in our Community’s crown, and ignorant, baseless and ill-informed emails must not be allowed to go unanswered if their intent is to sully its reputation.

Alan Gold

Novelist, Literary Critic and Opinion Columnist

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