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This was the apparent conclusion reached by Mr. Tate who, after realizing the program with Ms. Wasserman Schultz would be proceeding as scheduled, asked for equal time to present a rebuttal to her presentation. Mr. Tate pressed on with his intention to speak at the presentation, notifying temple members by email on May 10th, and insisting he would speak on the same topic, “Maintaining a Strong US–Israel Relationship.” A week later he notified the membership that “due to a substantial amount of media publicity … it would be in the best interest of Temple Israel, and obviously my best interest, that I cancel my intended appearance on the Bema,” further noting that “I have been told by the Temple Israel Board of Trustees, that in no uncertain terms, I am not welcome…”
Mr. Tate then resigned his six-decade membership at Temple Israel.
Despite this, Mr. Kuehne cancelled the program, notifying members that despite the temple remaining “an urban center for progressive Jewish values, we face the reality that the level of discourse within our community and across our great country has often become rancorous and disruptive when concerning matters of public policy. Regrettably because of potential safety and security concerns of our Temple our members and our guests, I have directed the cancellation of the and postponement of the program…featuring special guest speaker Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.”
The email included a video highlighting a recent event at another South Florida Synagogue as an example of “protest and disruption that potentially imperiled the safety and of the Temple and its congregants.” Ironically, the video concerns a May 10th appearance by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice at a Boca Raton synagogue that opponents also characterized as a political speech for the Obama administration. It was not an unreasonable uproar, considering Ms. Rice noted the “folly and illegitimacy of Israel’s continued settlement activities,” in a speech at the United Nations.
In this particular case, it strains credulity to believe Ms. Wasserman Schultz, whose well-known reputation as a hyper-partisan Democrat is impossible to ignore, would deliver a non-partisan political speech regarding U.S-Israeli relations — even under normal circumstances. Yet these are hardly normal circumstances. In the 2012 presidential election, the state of Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes well could determine the winner.
In his email to the congregation, Mr. Kuehne noted that “going forward, Temple Israel will not invite any candidates or their supporters to speak during this election season.” That is a wise conclusion to reach, not just for Temple Israel, but every other church and temple tempted to mix politics and religion during what promises to be one of the more divisive presidential elections of modern times. For Democrats, who champion the “separation of church and state” at every opportunity, it’s a no-brainer.
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