UPDATE: Limmud Seattle Retracts Israel Ban But Leaves BDS Promoter on Program

Responding to community concerns following a TMR exposé, organizers of Seattle Limmud have reconsidered restrictions they had placed on pro-Israel presentations at their two day educational seminar. Limmud announced in a Facebook post last Friday that they had added a panel discussion of young Israeli shlichim (emissaries) to discuss positive aspects of the Jewish state. Additionally former Knesset member Ruth Calderon will lead a session on  Israel’s Jewish Renaissance

Limmud Seattle said that they are “excited to host a panel discussion of talented young Israelis who are living in Seattle for a year.” They urged locals to  “come hear why these young Israelis came to Seattle, what they hope to achieve, what positive messages they are conveying about Israel, and what they are learning about Seattle’s Jewish community.” The panel discussion will include Lidar Efrati and Tal Bronstain who are volunteers with the ShinShin program (shnat sheirut—year of service) through the The Jewish Agency for Israel. Also on the panel will be Udi Asaraf, the current StandWithUs Northwest shaliach. The panel will be moderated by Amy Zabb Amiel of a local charitable foundation. 

Limmud Israel Panel

Limmud announced new Israel related panels and sessions. 

Limmud Seattle had initially rejected multiple proposals for pro-Israel presentations, including those offered by author/journalist Judy Lash-Balint and local StandWithUs director Randy Kessler. Kessler indicated in a Facebook post on Friday that he is pleased with the changes made to the program and thanked Limmud organizers “for working with us to ensure fair and productive dialogue about Israel.”

The change of heart was welcomed by local Israel supporters. Larry Brandt, a longtime member of the Seattle Jewish community applauded the addition of pro-Israel voices. “I do cheer adding Pro-Israel to any discussion – of anything.” said Brandt.  

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Rabbi David Basior wants Jewish community organizations to recognize the BDS movement as “entirely consistent with Jewish values”.  

What remains a source of controversy is the inclusion  of anti-Israel activist, Rabbi David Basior. Some have welcomed Basior’s participation in the Limmud festival, citing reassurances from Limmud organizers that the BDS promoting Rabbi would not be pressing his anti-Israel agenda.

Others disagreed.  “Are Limmud organizers unaware that Seattle Jewish leaders like Max Patashnik and Keith Dvorchik (former Federation CEO) have condemned BDS as an anti-Semitic movement?” Asked Seattleite Rachel Kaplan Sassoon. “Why do we allow people that are trying to destroy the Jewish people to come and give a class on anything?” 

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Rabbi Basior’s Kadima congregation raised funds last year for Youth Against Settlements, a group that glorifies violence against Jews.

Israeli author and mother Varda Epstein shared with TMR the hurt caused by Limmud’s inclusion of Rabbi Basior. Epstein currently has a son serving in the Israel Defense Forces. “My son has put his life on the line to protect the Jewish people. I ask for nothing in return from those who sit comfortably in the diaspora.” But, adds Epstein “to provide a platform to those who would cause us harm? That is a betrayal, it is painful”. Notes Epstein, “Rabbi Basior has been involved in physical confrontations with IDF soldiers. His synagogue has fund-raised for a violence promoting anti-Israel organization. Limmud should wash their hands of him altogether”. 

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Varda Epstein and son Moshe.

When asked previously about the decision to include an anti-Israel BDS activist on their program, Limmud co-founder Deb Arnold told TMR that “Limmud is not responsible for the views of our presenters or participants.”

The Limmud Jewish festival will be held Saturday evening Jan 13th – Sunday Jan 14th, 2018 in Shoreline, WA. More information at limmudSeattle.org

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