Non-Zionists’ column does not represent Temple Sinai

February 26, 2020 by Miriam Bell
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Wellington’s Temple Sinai has distanced itself from an opinion column, written by two of its congregants, which urged the city council not to consider the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.


The Wellington Jewish Council had requested that Wellington adopt the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism to signal that the city did not support racism.

The council was due to discuss this motion on Wednesday February 26.

However, on Tuesday, two members of Temple Sinai – which is Wellington’s Progressive Synagogue – published an opinion piece in the city’s newspaper, the Dominion Post, voicing their strong opposition to this proposal.

In their column, Fred Albert and Marilyn Garson said the problem with the IHRA definition was that it includes a set of examples which have been used to conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism.

They said the IHRA definition is a political instrument and fails as an anti-racism instrument.

Marilyn Garson Pic: Twitter

“The IHRA definition does nothing new to combat racism. Its new effect is to regulate the speech of people like ourselves: law-abiding non-Zionists who call for the unexceptional application of law and human rights in Israel/Palestine; Jews and non-Jews alike.”

Albert and Garson also complained there had been no opportunity for public input on the motion before it went to council and urged the council not “take this misguided step” without hearing from constituents.

The two identified themselves as “two members of the Wellington synagogue that was recently defaced by Nazi symbols”, and there’s an inherent implication that the views they express represent the views of the congregation.

Subsequently, the Wellington Jewish council requested that the motion be removed from the city council’s agenda because of the controversy it was causing.

It was duly removed, although the Wellington Jewish council has said it hopes that it will be returned to the agenda at some point.

But the column caused significant consternation among the Jewish community – a vast majority of whom do not support the views espoused in it.

This situation prompted Temple of Sinai’s board of management chair Matthew Smith to release a clarification in relation to the column.

Smith said the fact that Albert and Garson self-described themselves as “members and service leaders” at the Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation without offering any further disclaimer, implied their views are ascribed to by Temple Sinai and its members.

“This effective misrepresentation is damaging to the Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation and is disregarding of its members.”

He said that, as board chair, he wanted to distance the Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation from the views expressed by the authors in their column.

“Their views are in no way representative of those of the Board or the congregation, they are rather the views of a vocal fringe.”

Additionally, he said that the Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation is not anti- or non-Zionist.

“It is an affiliate of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), a Zionist organisation and support and love for Israel is at the heart of Progressive Judaism.”


3 Responses to “Non-Zionists’ column does not represent Temple Sinai”
  1. Rachael Kohn says:

    The Wellington Jewish Council should not be making decisions based on the aberrant views of Garson and Albert, a small minority whose views are out of step with most Jews on the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The minority are just that, and it’s time the tail stopped wagging the dog.

  2. Robert Weil (I am the sender) says:

    Another example of the destructive influence of leftism on Jews and Judaism. Unfortunately, so many Jews on the left including Rabbis and lay leaders indulge in the same embarrassing folly. Dennis Prager sums it thus….”When Jews abandoned Judaism, many of them did not abandon Judaism’s messianic impulse. From Karl Marx — the grandson of two Orthodox rabbis — and onwards, they simply secularized it and created secular substitutes, such as Marxism, humanism, socialism, feminism and environmentalism”.

  3. Michael Burd says:

    In my view the progressive left Jews are becoming our own 5 th column this is not the first time they have shown their true colours .

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