Pointing a finger of blame doesn’t mean the accusation is true. But tell that to Kulanu, a support group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer community.
Last summer the group brought serious charges against Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Thornhill for alleged “vile” homophobic statements.
In a sermon to his Chabad@Flamingo congregation, the rabbi questioned a newspaper advertisement in which a number of large, mainstream Jewish groups called on Jews to join Kulanu at the Toronto Pride Parade to counter an anti-Israel group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
According to reports, Rabbi Kaplan’s take was that Kulanu and these Jewish groups ought to have used that ad money for better causes and not encouraged them to publicly endorse behaviour frowned upon by the Bible (i.e. homosexuality). These weren’t hateful words, let alone inciting hate or violence.
It was an opinion protected by our freedoms of speech.
An anonymous woman reported the sermon to Kulanu, who then reported the incident to York Regional Police, charging the rabbi with “hateful” and “anti-gay” language that “attacked” the gay community.
The rabbi was investigated by police based on hearsay from a third party. Meanwhile, the lucky anonymous woman got to hide in the shadows after tossing a smear grenade.
The rabbi was never afforded his right to face his accuser, as he would in a court. Kulanu made no attempt to clarify the rabbi’s words before sending the complaint to police.
Yet, Kulanu wanted the rabbi fired as chaplain of York Regional Police — not censured, not temporarily suspended, not seeking an apology or clarification — but fired. Note, his sermon was made not in his capacity as police chaplain but as rabbi in his own synagogue.
A six-month police investigation concluded mid-Feburary with an exoneration of Rabbi Kaplan, determining that his statements were a “technically correct interpretation of scripture through his role as a rabbi” and “were not viewed as hateful”.
That’s six months of resources — mining an unrecorded sermon for “anti-gay” language — that could have been used to fight real hatred. For example, capturing those who seven years ago spray-painted a number of Jewish homes in Thornhill with swastikas. The reward for their apprehension has been renewed lately. Could police have caught these creeps already if they weren’t obsessed with Rabbi Kaplan’s comments?
Even though he was exonerated, Rabbi Kaplan lost, with respect to his reputation. Many may recall the rabbi received Vaughan’s 2009 Civic Hero Award, recognizing outstanding achievement and contributions to the community.
Unfortunately, his new reputation for some might be that he’s a homophobe, based on a gay support group’s say-so.
But pointing a finger of blame doesn’t mean the accusation is true.