A Tale of Two Synagogues


glThis is the story of the glorious miracles that happen when freedom-loving people stand up, refuse to be intimidated and fight back. It all began back in February 2013, when the Men’s Club of the Great Neck Synagogue on Long Island, NY, planned a quiet informational breakfast on Sunday morning, April 14, with Pamela Geller speaking on the “Imposition of Shari’a in America.” Geller was joined by Greg Buckley Sr., who spoke about his son’s tragic “green on blue” murder at the hands of jihadists in Afghanistan. But astonishingly, a raging firestorm of intimidation, threats and harassment erupted over Geller’s invitation to speak, which eventually forced the synagogue to cancel the event. However, events ultimately ended in a victory for freedom of speech and conscience, which sent the profound messages of Pamela Geller and Greg Buckley Sr. reverberating across the nation.

For those who are not familiar with the speakers, Pamela Geller is a well-known author, investigative journalist, activist, captivating speaker and founder, editor and publisher of AtlasShrugs.com. She is also the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (ADFI) and Stop Islamization of America (SIOA). She is perhaps best known for spearheading the protest against the Ground Zero mosque, as well as her subway ad campaign calling for the support of Israel and the defeat of jihad.

Greg Buckley Sr. is the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., who was one of three Marines killed in an insider attack in a “safe” zone on his military base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on August 10, 2012.  He was working out with fellow unarmed marines in the gymnasium when he was shot with an assault rifle by the 19-year-old “tea boy” (slave) of the “allied” Afghan district police chief that Greg’s Marine Battalion was charged with training. The boy-murderer immediately shouted, “I did Jihad” to cheers of the locals.  Cpl. Buckley’s killers were apprehended but one was soon released to uphold the Obama administration’s policy of “cultural sensitivity” to the Afghanis. Greg Buckley Sr. is calling for swift justice for the murderers of his son and demanding their prosecution on American soil as terrorists.

The firestorm surrounding the talk started when an alliance of Long Island leftist and Muslim groups, the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI), the Unitarian Church, the Interfaith Alliance, and others, heard the news that Pamela Geller would be speaking in Great Neck. They launched a fierce campaign to harass Great Neck Synagogue Rabbi Polakoff with a flood of daily calls, emails and threats of a protest march on the synagogue. They slandered Geller as a bigot, Islamophobe, hate-monger, Nazi, and rallied their minions to shut down the event, which was all revealed in a leaked email thread.

The email thread exposed that the mastermind behind the campaign of intimidation and threats was Habeeb Ahmed, first vice president of ICLI. Ironically, he is also a Nassau County Commissioner of Human Rights. He used the authority of his political office to incite public outrage against Pamela Geller’s appearance at Great Neck Synagogue, exhorting his coalition: “We need to stop her from coming to Great Neck.” He provided the rabbi’s personal email and phone, and directed the alliance to strong-arm the rabbi to cancel: “[A]t this point let’s all make calls and speak to the Rabbi. Let’s tell our friends and family to do the same. Send this to all your email lists.” His email signature on every message in the thread read:  “Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, Nassau County.” The hysteria continued as one person compared the synagogue event to “the equivalent of a church in the 1930′s inviting a representative of the Nazi Party to speak.”

Despite all the histrionics over Pamela Geller’s message, it is actually a message of righteous indignation directed against those who strap on suicide bombs, commit honor killings and beheadings in the name of their religion, murder those who renounce their faith, hang homosexuals, firebomb churches to protest the Pope’s remarks about Islam, incite deadly rioting across the Muslim world because of a cartoon caricature of their prophet, and commit mass murder and persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Her message is directed against radical Islamic terrorists or jihadists, not peaceful Muslims. There is nothing in her message that can be considered hateful or offensive to any ethnic group or faith. Yet a Human Rights Commissioner uses the seat of his government office to censor and incite a public campaign of daily harassment and threats against a rabbi for inviting Pamela Geller to speak at his own synagogue. Ironically, Commissioner Ahmed’s own mosque was identified as a hotbed of radical Islam in last year’s congressional hearings addressing homegrown Islamic terrorism. Former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, called the Islamic Center of Long Island’s leaders extremists who “should be put under surveillance.”

In the aftermath of 9/11, no one tried to stop or harass ICLI leaders Ghazi Khankan and Safar Chadda when they preached conspiracy theories that Israel and the CIA were responsible for the terrorist attacks on 9/11, in order to blame the Muslim world. “The Israeli government would benefit from this tragedy by now branding Palestinians as terrorists and crushing them by force” said Chadda, a dentist from Pakistan who was then co-president of the mosque. No one tried to strong-arm ICLI to cancel, when raving conspiracy theorist Mauri Saalakhan, who curses the Jewish lobby and praises Ayatollah Khomeini and global terrorist groups, was invited to preach at ICLI and sermonize that Hamas was a “resistance organization – whose armed resistance is legitimized by clearly established international law.” But the elitist hypocrites of the interfaith alliance relish their intimate relationship with Commissioner Ahmed and his radical mosque, and instead excoriate and censor Pamela Geller for fighting hatred and violence against innocent people.  You have a right to be an elite fool in America, but a government official has no right to use his public office to crush someone’s right to free speech.  In the process, the freedom of Greg Buckley Sr. to speak about his son’s “green on blue” murder by jihadists was also being quashed. While ranting about Geller, when Ahmed and his minions were asked by reporters about Buckley, they went silent, claiming they didn’t know.

Alarmed by this abuse of power, a group of concerned community leaders met with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his top aides to express their concern about the mounting opposition to the Great Neck Synagogue event, and demanded action on the malfeasance of his Commissioner Ahmed, and called for his dismissal.  Mangano assured us of his cooperation for the protection and safety of all involved, promising a significant police presence, extra patrols, and plainclothes detectives to immediately remove any troublemakers. He also assured us that he will take action to investigate Habeeb Ahmed for his unauthorized use of a Nassau County title to obstruct free speech. Soon after, Commissioner Ahmed issued an apology.

However, the opposition, harassment and bad press grew louder and harsher than ever. The Muslim/Interfaith alliance rallied left-wing Jewish groups to join the acrimony, including Jewish Voices for Peace, a radical anti-Israel group that supports the BDS movement, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and others who have all likewise asked their members to flood Great Neck Synagogue with calls objecting to Geller’s appearance. Their strategy was to divide and conquer the Jewish community, by turning Jew against Jew.

In order to stand up to the opposition, a mass counter-protest outside the synagogue with flags, banners and signs for “free speech” and “justice for LCpl Greg Buckley, Jr.” was organized to defend the free speech of Geller and Buckley. Patriotic groups, Church groups, Orthodox Jewish congregations, and Veterans in uniform rose up from all across Long Island and Queens. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the speakers, whether the venue is a synagogue, church or civic hall, freedom of speech and conscience are sacrosanct in America. The Conservative Society for Action, Rockville Center Tea Party Patriots, Patriot Guard Riders, Nassau County Federation of Republican Women, and many other patriotic groups and freedom-loving individuals answered the call of duty to defend free speech in America.

Despite the fierce opposition and the daily barrage of phone calls and e-mails, Great Neck Synagogue and Rabbi Polakoff stood firm.  The synagogue opened up its largest room for 1000 people to attend, including dignitaries, rabbis, and local elected officials, who stood in solidarity with Geller. What started out as a quiet little breakfast soon became a titanic event, as the war of words over hate speech vs. free speech spilled out onto the national airwaves, blogs and Jewish weeklies.

Further unrest was brewing. Longing for his revolutionary days of social justice activism in the streets, Rabbi Jerome Davidson, a left-wing rabble rouser and former rabbi of a nearby Reform congregation, jumped on the attack bandwagon against Geller and Great Neck Synagogue. In the past he notoriously fought against displaying a large menorah in Great Neck’s town square, and marched on Rep. Peter King’s office to protest the congressional hearings on Muslim radicalization. His synagogue cherishes their “relationships and friendships within the local Muslim community,” and boasts “deep and abiding connections with the Islamic Center of Long Island.” However, not one word was said about Ghazi Khankan and Mauri Saalakhan and other Islamic terrorist supporters preaching anti-Semitic tirades at ICLI. Rather, he joined the hysterical outcry against allowing a Jew to speak the truth about radical Islam in a synagogue. Foaming at the mouth he wrote, “Hate speech has no place in synagogues” and said on TV news channel WPIX that it was “his mission to continue challenging Geller’s visit to Great Neck,” and together with the Muslim community called for Rabbi Polakoff to cancel the event, and threatened a march on Great Neck Synagogue if he didn’t.

A few days before the event, Great Neck Synagogue convened an emergency meeting of the executive board and announced that after the weeks of incessant harassment and threats, and the public announcement of a protest march, the synagogue made the decision to cancel the event in order to avert the “legal liability and potential security exposure of our institution and its member families.” With the threats to the safety of the children attending Sunday school the very same morning, the synagogue’s executive board had no choice in the matter.

There was an immediate outcry from all those who were looking forward to attending and mobilizing for the event. “We lost,” they lamented, “this was a crushing blow to freedom of speech in America…the thugs and bullies won, and we, the decent, freedom-loving people in New York, lost.” They railed against the synagogue’s decision, calling it capitulation to bullying tactics of the left. When you give in to thuggery and intimidation, it only emboldens the opposition and endangers the safety of the children even more so. You could almost hear the popping of Champagne corks in pompous celebration by Rabbi Davidson and his Muslim and interfaith friends reveling in their triumph over right-wing “extremists” and “hatemongers.”

However, the next day, a miracle occurred. Two courageous rabbis stood up and voluntarily invited Pamela Geller and Greg Buckley Sr. to speak at their synagogues on the same day, Sunday, April 14, despite the threats of fierce opposition. One was Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El of Edison, NJ and the other was Rabbi Geisinsky of Chabad of Great Neck, five minutes from Great Neck Synagogue, where the event was scheduled for the same time, 10:00 am.

This was a miracle in more ways than one. Rabbi Geisinsky had a massive heart attack a couple of months before April 14, and was pronounced dead. He had no pulse lying on the hospital bed for 40 minutes. His doctors thought that if he lives, he would at best be brain dead. The entire community, friends and relatives prayed for their beloved rabbi day and night. Miraculously, he recovered completely, and is now fully active, and in great shape mentally and physically. He said this is why he is alive today – to defend and protect our fundamental freedom of speech and conscience and that’s why he opened up his synagogue to convey the truth despite the looming danger. When asked about the massive crowds coming to his small Chabad House, threats from Rabbi Davidson and the Muslim alliance and the potential for danger, he answered, “I’m not concerned with that, we need a strong show of force.”

The Sunday event was a mere two days away. At sundown on Saturday, immediately following Shabbat, Rabbi Geisinsky convened an ad hoc planning meeting of miracle workers from Chabad, Great Neck Synagogue and local Tea Party and community activists who put together the program and logistics in a matter of hours. Local synagogues were called upon to borrow hundreds of chairs that were needed for the anticipated overflow crowds, since the Chabad House seats only 200. Over $4000 was willingly donated from everyone in the room, the cost for finding late Saturday night contractors to set up a jumbotron and loudspeaker system the next morning for the outside crowd. Parking for over 300 vehicles was organized and coordinated with the County and Village police. Detailed security measures were arranged to digitally photograph each person’s ID.

At the second synagogue in New Jersey, Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, who is the son of Holocaust survivors, is no stranger to controversy. He made his stand against anti-Semitism after a rude awakening as an organizer of interfaith events when Muslim imams refused to stand while Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva,” was being played. He fought against future events where the politically correct interfaith and Jewish leaders decided to omit the Israeli anthem to appease the Muslim community. Despite personal attacks, he continues to speak out and tell the truth, and urges all Jews to change their meek persona, to stand up boldly and fight back.  He declared, “I cannot keep silent any longer. The voices of my father and my mother, survivors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, compel me to speak out — with zeal.” This is why he invited Pamela Geller and Greg Buckley Sr. to speak at his synagogue on April 14. After he invited them, he reported receiving a death threat and 40 BB pellets were fired into the garage door at his home. He was not deterred. He said he believed Geller needed to be heard, “I would never force anyone to hear Ms. Geller, but neither will I stand by while thugs threaten violence merely because they do not like the message being delivered.”

At the end of the day, it turned out to be an incredible victory for the truth and free speech in the war “in the information battle space” as Geller described it in her speech on Sunday morning at the Chabad of Great Neck. In a resonant voice to the packed room of 200 in the Chabad House and outside on the jumbotron to the overflow crowd of more than 500, Geller intoned as everyone listened in rapt attention, “I am accused of being a hater, a bigot, because that is the war we are in. We are in a war in the information battle space, the war of ideas. All the bullets, bombs, and the bloodshed come as a result of what happens in this war – part of the war is to destroy anyone who speaks the truth.”

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 Packed room of 200 in the Chabad House.
Chabad-outside-2

 

 

 

 

 

Outside on the jumbotron to the overflow crowd of more than 500.

Pamela Geller often says, “truth is the new hate speech,” but truth and freedom won the day on April 14 at two synagogues. It was a victory over the forces that demonize dissent and crush freedom of speech just because of a viewpoint that doesn’t conform with their delusional perception of reality. Pamela Geller and Greg Buckley, Sr. will be speaking at other synagogues and venues in the future, to continue to speak the truth and defend our freedoms. Many will oppose, and many more will stand in solidarity with them. Miracles happen, and truth triumphs over adversity when many good freedom-loving people stand up, fight back and will not be intimidated.

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  • http://Frontpage Sue

    Good on ya, Pam!

    • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

      To be sure, it is way harder to intimidate "Chabadnicks" than the average Rabbi, most of whom "go along to get along". As such, this was no surprise that she spoke there. As to the rest, well, spineless is the most polite way to describe it – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/03/25/redleftists-m

      It is a tragedy of monumental proportions how intimated some can be, especially those who should know better!

      Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

      • Toa

        Adina, the JINO's (Jews In Name Only) who pull the strings in Hollywood are "Exhibit A" of what you just said…uuh, I mean typed.

        Keep up the stellar work.

  • http://frontpage richard sherman

    PAMELA GELLER is the Queen Esther for this generation of Jews. Every rabbi has a choice as does every citizen: embrace freedom 100% and expose the horror of sharia….or support sharia( even 1%) and give up ALL your freedom.

    • Asher

      Good comparison to Queen Esther. She boldly did what was honorable in the face of her enemy the evil Haman the agagite who had a plot to destroy the Jewish nation.

    • Mrs.Pharaoh

      Right on! She is one brave and courageous lady, may God ALWAYS bless and protect her. Notice Mordeai's sage words about the very people (Persians/Iranians) that are STILL calling for the Jews to be extinguished. All the Liberal, Interfaith Leftists actually believe the alligator will eat them last. Friends we have all been called to now stand up for a time such as this. Thank you Pam for continuing to educate us and taking so much flack while we have been waking up.

      Esther 4:12-14

      12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

    • Cassandra

      Well said and true. She is like a new Queen Esther

    • Sound&Fury

      Excellent comparison. "For such a time as this…"

  • MikeWood

    It is so good to hear this news when so much other news is so bad.

  • Mojo

    Pray that more Gellers will with the grit to tell the truth will arrive in the Jewish communities and in all other venues not to be shut down by voices of the real haters .

  • Lan Astaslem

    Pamela, you're GREAT! We need more like you.

  • stern

    In today's Canadian National Post, we read that a Chabad Rabbi near Toronto has been forced to cancel a talk by Ms. Geller at his synagogue. The Rabbi was unavailable to explain, but despite denials by police, it does seem that he was pressured into making this decision. The good news is that the talk has not been cancelled, but just moved to another venue. Still, it demonstrates the power of the politically correct to forbid free speech. http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/05/02/pamela-ge

  • Asher

    Great speech from Pam: Stand and Fight like the NRA says..or loose Freedom forever!

  • HiPlainsDrifter

    Pamela Geller … Crusader Extraordinaire against the lying, vengeful, spiteful, dangerous and growing US Islamic monster…

  • Attila_the_hun

    Please someone explain to me Why Long Island needs

    “Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, Nassau County.”

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Someone needed a No Show job.

  • Moishe Pupick

    F., 05/03/13 common era

    Reform "Judaism" was an offshoot of the French Enlightenment. It was designed to eliminate or at least greatly reduce anti-Semitism by making Jewish religious practices more closely resemble Protestant Christian ones. This all started in dear old Deutschland. . . . The average Reform "rabbi" lacks the Torah knowledge of the average Yeshiva high school student (Orthodox girls included). They are very into interfaith (but lack inner faith), gblt normalization, "gun control," and multiculti studies.

    • teq

      Sign on the door of a Reform Temple on Yom Kipur:
      "Closed for the Jewish Holidays"

  • teq

    The Unsinkable Pamela Geller!
    She won't take her eye off the ball when it comes to fighting Sharia-Creep and she is utterly indifferent to all the liberal attacks. They're like ducks nibbling at her ankles!
    I absolutely love this woman!
    She eats liberals for lunch and saves Islamists for a late night snack!

  • bunuel

    kol hakavod to those who stand up for liberty whenever it is attacked. if not now when….

  • Anonymous

    G-d bless America! (Unfortunately in Canada the York Police in Ontario have sided with Islamists and Islamic extremists to shut down free speech. Maybe the police believe they're in Pakistan and must protect Islam from any "insult" real or imaginary — and they are out to enforce their Diktat, protect Islam at all costs, even to the point of threatening Rabbis.)

  • Barry

    Of course the muslims are protesting. They are afraid of what Ms. Geller has to say. They are afraid of the truth. I am very disappointed that the Great Synagogue relented and cancelled the lecture. Jews are better than this. We do not give in to threats. Giving in means that they win and I for one will never let them win.

  • America First

    Pamela Geller is a disgusting jew Zionist hag and peddler of lies.

    • Ellman

      And you're a disgusting anti-Semitic leftist swine who wouldn't recognize the truth if it slapped him in the face.

  • hmurveit

    The Muslim playbook, accuse those that speak up agains the Muslim atrocities as though they perpetrated the atrocities…………When you dont speak up, it is as though u agree….Great article

  • Ellman

    "Miracles happen, and truth triumphs over adversity when many good freedom-loving people stand up, fight back and will not be intimidated." These are the people that the Muslims and Obama want to intimidate and impoverish so that they will have no interest or resources to oppose their tyranny. Freedom and tyranny cannot coexist. Those who refuse to oppose tyrants will eventually have boots on their necks and then freedom will be only a memory.