Temple Intruder: “It Is An Act Of Violence Not To Yell And Scream”

Gregory Williams — one of the 2 men arrested Tuesday at Temple Israel — released this statement to local media:

—————————————————-

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children; the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnal house.  We could not, so help us God, do otherwise, for we are sick at heart; our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning children.
– Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 1968

At around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 May, my colleague, Dan Fischer, and I calmly walked into into Temple Israel, where the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was holding a lunchtime meeting. So as to appear as non-threatening as possible, we had no bags, no literature—I had even left the small pocketknife I usually carry at home.

We were armed only with a written testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre.

Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting, which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women.

Gregory Williams, author of this letter.

Gregory Williams, author of this letter.

We were there, first and foremost, because we are Jews (additionally, I am a scholar of religious ethics), and we wanted to take responsibility for the racism in our community that fuels Jewish American support for the Zionist Apartheid regime’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.

Growing up, I remember hearing my mother and grandmother telling stories about members of our family who were killed during the Holocaust. One of the lessons that I learned from those stories was the lesson of collective responsibility.

History remembers kindly those Europeans and Americans who took responsibility for the racism in their community which had bred Naziism by protecting Jewish people, by lifting up their voices, and by working to build a political resistance movement to dismantle fascism.

I entered Temple Israel on Tuesday because I feel that, as a Jew living in the United States, the time has come to take responsibility for my community. Zionism is no less racist, no less hateful, and no less violent and threatening to human life and dignity than Naziism. Like Naziism, Zionism seeks to build a nation upon an ethnocentric vision which erases the lives of people it considers “undesirable.”

When Dan and I reached the second floor of the synagogue, we told staff exactly why we were there. We said that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.

Daniel Fischer was also arrested at Temple Israel.

Daniel Fischer was also arrested at Temple Israel.

The staff immediately assaulted us, and tackled us to the ground. We did not take any physical action against them. Instead, we started to read the statement that we had come to deliver and, since we were still outside the door of the meeting room, we did so loudly so that as many people would hear us as possible. The staff kicked our phones away, we began to say “Free, Free Palestine!”

Even though we had told the staff what we were doing, and had made clear that this was a nonviolent political demonstration, they turned around and, over the phone and in our hearing, filed a false police report, claiming that we were armed.  “We’re unarmed!” we said, “Tell them we are unarmed!  We are Jews coming to a synagogue!”

Because the staff (and apparently several others) filed this false police report, we are told that several schools were put on lockdown—this is one of the dangers of filing a false report or making a frivolous 911 call.

Since then, people from senators to judges to newspaper reporters have called us “violent,” “criminals,” even “terrorists.”  I ask you, who is the terrorist?  Someone who reads a statement from a Palestinian woman, or the general who helps murder that woman’s child?

What is violent, to protest that general, or to hold a public event to support her and the illegitimate armed force that she serves?  There are those who say that they felt threatened by our action.  I ask, what does it say about your community that you feel threatened by two nonviolent protesters testifying to the violence of that racist hate-ideology called Zionism?

Could this mean that your community is committed to racism and hatred?  There are those who say that they felt threatened by our volume. I respectfully submit that there are times, especially times when children are being murdered by a colonial regime and a racist ideology, when it is an act of violence not to yell and scream.

118 responses to “Temple Intruder: “It Is An Act Of Violence Not To Yell And Scream”

  1. Mary Ruggiero

    In this day and age, it is naive not to assume that people who scream and yell “political/regious” statements might be terrorists, dangerous and possibly armed. Cell phones kicked away? You know what that’s about. Consider yourselves lucky that someone inside was also not armed and felt so threatened as to take action.

  2. Bart Shuldman

    I will hope that our town and residents avoid any discussion with either of the two. They are looking for attention and, while trying to justify their actions, need dialogue or anger to fuel their behavior. Hopefully we will just let them find another town or organization.

  3. Jesse Gale Baker

    J. Baker
    jessegalebaker@yandex.com

    Maybe Israel’s policies aren’t too nice. But they are not another Nazi Germany. Comparisons to Hitler and his gang are too fashionable. I think we’ve forgotten what the 1930s and 40s were really like in Europe. If Israel’s leaders really were like the Nazis, no Palestinians would be alive today. They would all have been gassed 45 years ago.

  4. Tom Feeley

    An IQ run amuck !

  5. The real questions are:
    Were they armed?
    Did someone call in a frivolous 911 call?
    It’s sad when protest becomes a crime and opinions become traps

  6. Congratulations to those “Jews just wanting to go to a Synagogue”. You scared a group of women and children. My 5th grader wouldn’t go to school yesterday due to their political agenda. Their point was to invoke terror, and their behavior was unacceptable.

  7. Michelle Benner

    Thank you for posting this Dan. I think it’s important to listen to all sides of the story with an open mind to try to understand what really happened.

  8. Steve Stein

    I could not agree more with Mary, Bart and Jesse- Sounds like they were looking for confrontation, disruption and turmoil.

    They are a pair of dangerous idiots who now claim we only whispered “FIRE” in the movie theater. They created a dangerous situation for all the women at the meeting, the police who responded to the 911 calls, the kids in the locked down schools in the area and potentially themselves.

    They were not as they claim “jews coming to synagogue”- they had no prayer shawls, prayer books or head coverings. If they had half a brain between the two of them- they would realize they were the “cossacks shouting and storming the shtetl! The stormtroopers breaking down the doors.”

  9. Rabbi Robert Orkand

    Those who know me will remember that I was the Rabbi at Temple Israel for 31 years. During that time we dealt with many situations in which individuals with an agenda–Jewish or otherwise–disrupted programs in the name of “free speech.” Having the “right” to say something needs to be balanced with “should one” exercise that right. In this case, two individuals who were intent on disrupting a gathering of women, held in a synagogue in which very young children were in class, did not–in advance–ask to be heard. Rather, they clearly intended to shock, to disrupt, to spew hateful words that are devoid of fact or reason. To these two men I say: I don’t care that you are Jewish. Your actions were misguided at best.. And now, Dan Woog has given you a platform for your hateful words. There will be no calm dialogue, no debate because that is not what you want. So, I ask, what have you accomplished? From my perspective what you have managed to do is unite a room full of Jews who will now, more than ever, support the State of Israel and its military. Mazal tov to you!

  10. I posted this Pat Moynihan speech earlier, but I will repeat it here. Mr. Williams was yelling lies.

    The United States rises to declare before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.

    Not three weeks ago, the United States Representative in the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee pleaded in measured and fully considered terms for the United Nations not to do this thing. It was, he said, “obscene.” It is something more today, for the furtiveness with which this obscenity first appeared among us has been replaced by a shameless openness.

    There will be time enough to contemplate the harm this act will have done the United Nations. Historians will do that for us, and it is sufficient for the moment only to note the foreboding fact. A great evil has been loosed upon the world. The abomination of anti-semitism — as this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate Andrei Sakharov observed in Moscow just a few days ago — the Abomination of anti-semitism has been given the appearance of international sanction. The General Assembly today grants symbolic amnesty — and more — to the murderers of the six million European Jews. Evil enough in itself, but more ominous by far is the realization that now presses upon us — the realization that if there were no General Assembly, this could never have happened.

    As this day will live in infamy, it behooves those who sought to avert it to declare their thoughts so that historians will know that we fought here, that we were not small in number — not this time — and that while we lost, we fought with full knowledge of what indeed would be lost.

    Nor should any historian of the event, nor yet any who have participated in it, suppose, that we have fought only as governments, as chancelleries, and on an issue well removed from the concerns of our respective peoples. Others will speak for their nations: I will speak for mine.

    In all our postwar history there had not been another issue which has brought forth such unanimity of American opinion. The President of the United States has from the first been explicit: This must not happen. The Congress of the United States in a measure unanimously adopted in the Senate and sponsored by 436 of 437 Representatives in the House, declared its utter opposition. Following only American Jews themselves, the American trade union movements was first to the fore in denouncing this infamous undertaking. Next, one after another, the great private institutions of American life pronounced anathema in this evil thing — and most particularly, the Christian churches have done so. Reminded that the United Nations was born in struggle against just such abominations as we are committing today — the wartime alliance of the United Nations dates from 1942 — the United Nations Association of the United States has for the first time in its history appealed directly to each of the 141 other delegations in New York not to do this unspeakable thing.

    The proposition to be sanctioned by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations is that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Now this is a lie. But as it is a lie which the United Nations has now declared to be a truth, the actual truth must be restated.

    The very first point to be made is that the United Nations has declared Zionism to be racism — without ever having defined racism. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards,” as the Queen of Hearts said. But this is not wonderland, but a real world, where there are real consequences to folly and to venality. Just on Friday, the President of the General Assembly, speaking on behalf of Luxembourg, warned not only of the trouble which would follow from the adoption of this resolution but of its essential irresponsibility — for, he noted, members have wholly different ideas as to what they are condemning. “It seems to me that before a body like this takes a decision they should agree very clearly on what they are approving or condemning, and it takes more time.”

    Lest I be unclear, the United Nations has in fact on several occasions defined “racial discrimination.” The definitions have been loose, but recognizable. It is “racism,” incomparably the more serious charge — racial discrimination is a practice; racism is a doctrine — which has never been defined. Indeed, the term has only recently appeared in the United Nations General Assembly documents. The one occasion on which we know the meaning to have been discussed was the 1644th meeting of the Third Committee on December 16, 1968, in connection with the report of the Secretary-General on the status of the international convention on the elimination of all racial discrimination. On that occasion — to give some feeling for the intellectual precision with which the matter was being treated — the question arose, as to what should be the relative positioning of the terms “racism” and “Nazism” in a number of the “preambular paragraphs.” The distinguished delegate from Tunisia argued that “racism” should go first because “Nazism was merely a form of racism.” Not so, said the no less distinguished delegate from the Union Soviet Socialist Republics. For, he explained, “Nazism contained the main elements of racism within its ambit and should be mentioned first.” This is to say that racism was merely a form of Nazism.

    The discussion wound to its weary and inconclusive end, and we are left with nothing to guide us for even this one discussion of “racism” confined itself to world orders in preambular paragraphs, and did not at all touch on the meaning of the words as such. Still, one cannot but ponder the situation we have made for ourselves in the context of the Soviet statement on that not so distant occasion. If, as the distinguished delegate declared, racism is a form of Nazism — and if, as this resolution declares, Zionism is a form of racism — then we have step to step taken ourselves to the point of proclaiming — the United Nations is solemnly proclaiming — that Zionism is a form of Nazism.

    What we have here is a lie — a political lie of a variety well known to the twentieth century, and scarcely exceeded in all that annal of untruth and outrage. The lie is that Zionism is a form of racism. The overwhelmingly clear truth is that is it not.

    The word “racism” is a creation of the English language, and relatively new to it. It is not, for instance, to be found in the Oxford English Dictionary (appears in 1982 supplement to Oxford Dictionary). The term derives from relatively new doctrines — all of them discredited — concerning the human population of the world, to the effect that there are significant biological differences among clearly identifiable groups, and that these differences establish, in effect, different levels of humanity. Racism, as defined in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, is “The Assumption that . . . traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another.” It further involves “a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to dominate over others.”

    This meaning is clear. It is equally clear that this assumption, this belief, has always been altogether alien to the political and religious movement known as Zionism. As a strictly political movement, Zionism was established only in 1897, although there is a clearly legitimate sense in which its origins are indeed ancient. For example, many branches of Christianity have always held that from the standpoint of biblical prophets, Israel would be reborn one day. But the modern Zionism movement arose in Europe in the context of a general upsurge of national consciousness and aspiration that overtook most other people of Central and Eastern Europe after 1848, and that in time spread to all of Africa and Asia. It was, to those persons of the Jewish religion, a Jewish form of what today is called a national liberation movement. Probably a majority of those persons who became active Zionism and sought to emigrate to Palestine were born within the confines of Czarist Russia, and it was only natural for Soviet Prime Minister Andrei Gromyko to deplore, as he did in 1948, in the 299th meeting of the Security Council, the act by Israel’s neighbors of “sending troops into Palestine and carrying out military operations aimed” — in Mr. Gromyko’s words — at the suppression of the national liberation movement in Palestine.”

    Now it was the singular nature — if, I am not mistaken, it was the unique nature — of this national liberation movement that in contrast with the movements that preceded it, those of that time, and those that have come since, it defined its members in terms not of birth, but of belief. That is to say, it was not a movement of the Irish to free Ireland, or of the Polish to free Poland, not a movement of the Algerians to free Algeria, nor of Indians to free India. It was not a movement of persons connected by historic membership to a genetic pool of the kind that enables us to speak loosely but not meaninglessly, say, of the Chinese people, nor yet of diverse groups occupying the same territory which enables us to speak if the American people with no greater indignity to truth. To the contrary, Zionists defined themselves merely as Jews, and declared to be Jewish anyone born of a Jewish mother or — and this is the absolutely crucial fact — anyone who converted to Judaism. Which is to say, in terms of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted by the 20th General Assembly, anyone — regardless of “race, colour, descent, or nationally or ethnic origin …..”

    The state of Israel, which in time was the creation of the Zionist Movement, has been extraordinary in nothing so much as the range of “racial stocks” from which it Orient and Jew from the West. Most such persons could be said to have been “born” Jewish, just as most Presbyterians and most Hindus are “born” to their faith, but there are many Jews who are just converts. With a consistency in the matter which surely attests to the importance of this issue to that religions and political culture, Israeli courts have held that a Jew who converts to another religion is no longer a Jew. In the meantime the population of Israel also includes large numbers of non-Jews, among them Arabs of both the Muslim and Christian religions and Christians of other national origins. Many of these persons are citizens of Israel, and those who are not can become citizens by legal procedures very much like those which obtain in a typical nation of Western Europe.

    Now I should wish to be understood that I am here making one point, and one point only, which is that whatever else Zionism may be, it is not and cannot be “a form of racism.” In logic, the State of Israel could be, or could become, many things, theoretically, including many things undesirable, but it could not be and could not become racism unless it ceased to be Zionist.

    Indeed, the idea that Jews are a “race” was invented not by Jews but by those who hated Jews. The idea of Jews as a race was invented by nineteenth century anti-semites such as Houston Steward Chamberlain and Edouard Drumont, who saw that in an increasingly secular age, which is to say an age made for fewer distinctions between people, the old religions grounds for anti-semitism were losing force. New justifications were needed for excluding and persecuting Jews, and so the new idea of Jews as a race — rather than as a religion — was born. It was a contemptible idea at the beginning, and no civilized person would be associated with it. To think that it is an idea now endorsed by the United Nations is to reflect on what civilization has come to.

    It is precisely a concern for civilization, for civilized values that are or should be precious to all mankind, that arouses us at this moment to such special passion. What we have at stake here is not merely the honor and the legitimacy of the State of Israel — although a challenge to the legitimacy of any member nation ought always to arouse the vigilance of all members of the United Nations. For a yet more important matter is at issue, which is the integrity of the whole body of moral and legal precepts which we know as human rights.

    The terrible lie that has been told here today will have terrible consequences. Not only will people begin to say, indeed they have already begun to say that the United Nations is a place where lies are told, but far more serious, grave and perhaps irreparable harm will be done to the cause of human rights itself. The harm will arise first because it will strip from racism the precise and abhorrent meaning that it still precariously holds today. How will the people of the world feel about racism and the need to struggle against it, when they are told that it is an idea as broad as to include the Jewish national liberation movement?

    As the lie spreads, it will do harm in a second way. Many of the members of the United Nations owe their independence in no small part to the notion of human rights, as it has spread from the domestic sphere to the international sphere exercised its influence over the old colonial powers. We are now coming into a time when that independence is likely to be threatened again. There will be new forces, some of them arising now, new prophets and new despots, who will justify their actions with the help of just such distortions of words as we have sanctioned here today. Today we have drained the word “racism” of its meaning. Tomorrow, terms like “national self-determination” and “national honor” will be perverted in the same way to serve the purposes of conquest and exploitation. And when these claims begin to be made — as they already have begun to be made — it is the small nations of the world whose integrity will suffer. And how will the small nations of the world defend themselves, on what grounds will others be moved to defend and protect them, when the language of human rights, the only language by which the small can be defended, is no longer believed and no longer has a power of its own?

    There is this danger, and then a final danger that is the most serious of all. Which is that the damage we now do to the idea of human rights and the language of human rights could well be irreversible.

    The idea of human rights as we know it today is not an idea which has always existed in human affairs, it is an idea which appeared at a specific time in the world, and under very special circumstances. It appeared when European philosophers of the seventeenth century began to argue that man was a being whose existence was independent from that of the State, that he need join a political community only if he did not lose by that association more than he gained. From this very specific political philosophy stemmed the idea of political rights, of claims that the individual could justly make against the state; it was because the individual was seen as so separate from the State that he could make legitimate demands upon it.

    That was the philosophy from which the idea of domestic and international rights sprang. But most of the world does not hold with that philosophy now. Most of the world believes in newer modes of political thought, in philosophies that do not accept the individual as distinct from and prior to the State, in philosophies that therefore do not provide any justification for the idea of human rights and philosophies that have no words by which to explain their value. If we destroy the words that were given to us by past centuries, we will not have words to replace them, for philosophy today has no such words.

    But there are those of us who have not forsaken these older words, still so new to much of the world. Not forsaken them now, not here, not anywhere, not ever.

    The United States of America declares that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.

  11. Mary Ruggiero

    Just to answer the question was this an open meeting? It was a women’s luncheon hosted by the Friends of Israel Defence Forces, by reservation only. Open meeting? I would say no. These were intruders bent on intimidation. Not armed? You would only know that after you had restrained and searched them.

    • dayle brownstein

      Congratulations Mr Fisher and Mr Williams, whatever your hopes were for the people of Palestine, you can be assured that you have contributed toward the opposite through your arrogance, narcissism, and disproportionate aggression.

  12. The issue here is not free speech. We are all proud to live in a country that encourages and glorifies free speech. The issue here is criminality that led to the terrorizing of mothers and grandmothers attending a FIDF luncheon at Temple Israel, excercising their freedom to assemble.

    The actions of these two criminals include trespassing on private property and breech of peace. It goes far beyond that. What they did is the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Their loud rants outside the meeting room are reminiscent of recent terrorist attacks resulting in mass murder. Many women in the room sought cover under their tables while others tried to escape. The reasonable assumption was that they were being attacked.

    Even more shocking on a personal note is the utter lack of remorse for the terror caused to the women and the children at our local schools.

    I encourage all victims of this cowardly crime to contact the victim’s hotline with your stories as this will help in the court case against these criminals.

    Victim’s Advocate’s Office 203- 849-3580, Ext. 4038 or Ext. 4102.

    Avi Kaner
    Second Selectman

  13. These guys are clueless. Zionism is not the issue. Arabism is. Nothing more needs to be said if you understand this. Nothing more is worth saying if you don’t.

  14. Jill Greenberg

    Whether we are talking about two disruptive young Jewish men who caused unnecessary agitation and fear, or we are talking about little pieces of white paper in stone-filled baggies, the real issue, as I see it from perusing the commentary, is that when faced with such hostility that is provocative we ring our hands, blame others, and stand more strongly for whatever we stood for before. And, Again, I urge our town to be different and to be the best we are as a whole, and start a meaningful open discussion where people are able to safely engage in civil discourse and hash out the profound issues that face us today. How do we get this conversation among the few on paper to the town as a whole? And can we hear dissenting opinions and learn from them even if we disagree? I am ready to meet and talk with all who want to learn from each other, because there is no one right answer and in every situation there will be pain and suffering that needs to be minimized, and loss that begs for humanitarian responses.

  15. Thanks for sticking with this story. I am heartsick if this statement is true.

    Joan Sent from my iPhone

    >

  16. I am a non Jewish member of Temple Israel. That tells you right there just how open, welcoming and inclusive its programs and clergy are to all faiths and opinions. Had these New Haven “educators” requested a voice at the IDF luncheon, or at least contacted anyone prior to their arrival at Temple Israel, someone would have entertained their drivel. Instead, they chose “pie-in-the-face” discourse and now claim outrage. Phooey. These interlopers should be grateful a frightened parent or teacher didn’t break their collective noses: children were attending school just down the hall from the IDF luncheon! Kudos to Temple Israel staff and clergy for defusing a volatile situation with aplomb and safety. You make me proud to be a member!

  17. Gregory – just curious, according to your Facebook page you converted to Christianity yet you call yourself a Jew….. Please clarify

  18. Marcie Jacob

    The States’ Attorney’s office in Norwalk requested that victim impact statements be faxed to 203-847-2642, referencing the defendants’ names. The first hearing is May 21, but it is unlikely anything other than procedural matters will be addressed. I second Avi’s comments: if you were at the private luncheon and are comfortable doing so, please send the prosecutor your statement. There was nothing peaceful about this “protest” – these men did not go to temple to share their opinions (that has happened, with much success, in the ensuing days). They went to temple to terrorize 100 women by screaming about the Intifada and banging on the doors, knowing that the bar is set very low these days for causing fear and panic, particular within the context of an Israel-related event. Please don’t make the mistake of framing this as a First Amendment issue. Or a misunderstanding by some well-intentioned college kids. This was terrifying.

  19. Lynne Goldstein

    Free speech is a basic right in this country but it is our responsibility, as intelligent members of our community, to determine which rhetoric is worthy of our attention. It is enormously disappointing to me as a member of the Westport community that Dan has chosen to give platform to these individuals.

    • So people you don’t agree with shouldn’t say anything (without first running it up some “community” flagpole that you control)? News outlets shouldn’t report both sides? People who threaten others have no right to explain themselves, defend themselves, or otherwise utter a word? Even though they have been charged and not convicted?

    • Sorry, Lynne. I gave the opportunity to those who were there to tell their stories. Why should I not give the chance to those who actually interrupted the event? As always, too, the comments section is open to all who wish to use their full, real names.

    • A. David Wunsch

      As an American Jew and sometime Westporter I’m grateful to Dan for posting the statement of the intruders. You might want to read the following segment from a review of the book My Promised Land by the Israeli writer
      Ari Shavit. The review appeared in the magazine Dissent :
      ___________
      “With new research and reporting, Shavit brings light to the “black box” of Israel’s creation, examining the 1948 campaign to expel Arabs from Lydda (now Lod). The story is almost never told, exemplifying the myth that many Jews grew up with—that Israel was “a land without people for a people without a land.” Today, Lod is a profoundly dysfunctional city ridden with crime and drugs, especially in its poor Arab neighborhoods.
      Confronting both the past and the present of the Arab population inside Israel (the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are of Palestinian, Bedouin, Circassian, or Druze origin and live within the “Green Line,” acknowledged internationally as Israel’s border) is one of the major issues facing the contemporary state. And today, a sea change regarding their treatment is underway. Instead of approaching Arab Israelis as a security risk, the government spends billions of shekels on education and employment in order to raise living standards and better integrate the Arab minority into the workforce. But ultimately, the only way to address underlying historical grievances is to find a solution to the occupation on the other side of the 1949 armistice line.”

      ______
      Notice the last line.
      ADW , Staples High School , 1956

      • dayle brownstein

        I appreciate that information A. David Wunsch. It sounds as if poverty, despair, displacement and hopelessness is a big part of the problem. This is so often the case with conflict of every sort. If we don’t address everyone’s need and right to a decent and safe life, we will all be lost.

  20. Does anyone else find this to be just a little crazy? Two Jewish kids walk into a temple to protest what they believe are atrocities and are treated like terrorists? Were they even trespassing? Are temples not open to all Jews who wish to enter?The whole incident seems to me to have been blown way out of proportion. If anything I think the Temple owes an apology to the Town of Westport for calling 911 claiming armed men were attacking. They were neither armed nor attacking from what I can gather. They should also apologize for scaring the hell out of a bunch of school kids, teachers and administrators who were forced to go into lockdown over a false, fabricated and paranoid report. And in case any of the people reading this are confused, the first amendment protects free speech – it is not up to any local community to decide what free speech to protect and which to sensor.

    • Kudos to Dan for publishing both sides! Thank you

    • dayle brownstein

      Jill Greenberg, the most sensible and sensitive words I’ve read since those unfortunate white slips of paper appeared on Westport doorsteps last week.

    • Sue Sirlin

      If you were there, you would have seen –and felt– the violent, erratic, and out-of-control way these men “entered”. I am a trained psychotherapist and there was definitely a psychotic feeling there. There was nothing appropriate or peaceful in this approach. Who does this? Is this how you seek to speak with people? If they wanted to have a discourse, they would have appropriately chosen to set an appt with the General via a tel call an/or scheduled meeting rather than a surprise aggressive, loud, crazy disturbance such as this. Give me a break! Yes they were trespassing.

  21. These petulant little children did not have a right to trespass on private property just because they were Jewish, nor did they have a right to disrupt a private meeting. Had they protested on public property outside the temple that would have been exercising free speech. Also your right to free speech is against the government not versus a person or organization. Finally it is ridiculous to hold a General in the IDF responsible for collateral damage in a war that was started by the Palestinian people. Our great country has taken more lives in collateral damage than Israel yet the international uproar is clearly biased against Israel for other reasons. Many Arab nations officially stand for the destruction of Israel yet the international community wants to ignore this fact and Israel’s right to defend herself.

    • I’m sorry you find it necessary to describe these young men as petulant little children, I would disagree. I think they are thoughtful and convicted to a cause they believe in. But regardless of our personal opinions, it does not matter in the United States because they are protected by the first amendment. The only reason I brought up the trespassing issues was because there are certain situations where one can protest on others property and not be trespassing, like universities and shopping malls, etc. Clearly, in this case they felt strongly enough that they were willing to risk arrest. Similar to those who protested Viet Nam or those who protested civil rights movement, many were arrested and some even killed. And to your point about only protesting against government, that is just silly. First of all they were protesting an international event that is in fact government sponsored. Besides we are protected under the same amendment to religious freedom. As for the rest of your post, it’s just one mans opinion and while I may or may not agree, I respect it but also believe it should not and can not be a reason to disallow others from their opinions and their right to speak against it.

      • Jeff at no point did I suggest they did not have the right to express their opinion. What they don’t have is a right to trespass on private property. Just like little children who break the rules, these two little children broke the law because they had to say something. Petulant little children. Obviously we disagree on the rest my post.

      • Jeff, I think you are misinterpreting the reach of the First Amendment and the types of situations it is applicable to. I don’t claim to be a Constitutional Law expert but I fail to see how these individuals’ freedom of speech or freedom to practice their religious beliefs was in any way curtailed in breach of the First Amendment in this situation. They were seeking to enter and disrupt a closed-door luncheon/event to which they had not been invited on private property–the property of Temple Israel. (Also, I fail to understand why you characterize this event as “in fact government sponsored…”)

        There were lawful ways to protest the event. It seems to me they chose to go beyond a lawful, peaceful protest.

      • The 1980 U.S. Supreme Court case Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, discussed below, said the U.S. Constitution does not give individuals an absolute right to enter and remain on private property to exercise their right to free expression. Since that decision, most states that have encountered this issue have followed the Court’s view.

        In the unanimous 1980 decision Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state court’s decision, noting that its own reasoning in Lloyd “does not ex proprio vigore (“of its own force”) limit the authority of the State to exercise its police power” (power to regulate the use of private property) “or its sovereign right to adopt in its own Constitution individual liberties more expansive than those conferred by the Federal Constitution.” A state may, therefore, in the exercise of its power to regulate, adopt reasonable restrictions on private property, including granting greater freedom to individuals to use such property, so long as the restrictions do not amount to a taking without just compensation or contravene any other federal constitutional provision. (In this instance it would be a “taking” of a property owner’s right to exclude others.)
        Even with the Court’s decision in Pruneyard, few states have recognized any state constitutional right to free expression on private property. The scope of these decisions is narrow. State constitutional provisions have been held to apply in only two private-property settings: shopping malls and non-public universities. Moreover, the state courts have limited the situations in which these protections are applicable to only a few, such as those involving political speech.

  22. Elaine Marino

    I am confused by Mr. Williams’ claim as to his religious designation. In an April 17, 2014 article published online that reported on a protest that took place in Boston, Mr. Williams was described as follows: “Gregory Williams is part of Amistad Catholic Worker House and Yale Divinity School in Connecticut. He approaches his participation in this action as a Christian and a person who believes that, “God took the side of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed and those who suffer from the violence of history. As a person of privilege who seeks to worship this God, I cannot do anything other than risk arrest. I need to take responsibility for the system that acts in my name, to do the work of dismantling that system. This is what it means to stand against racism. This is what it means to put the love of God into practice.” Gregory has put his body on the line and taken real risks to prevent members of Unidad Latina en Accion from being deported.”

    Is Mr. Williams Christian or Jewish? The term “opportunist” comes to mind.

  23. KENDALL ANDERSON

    I’m with Jill Greenberg….
    That being said, an ACTION which is intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian public is an act of terrorism.

  24. Matthew Mandell

    It is trespass! The writer himself says they would leave only when done or when the police ask them to leave. If you don’t leave when the OWNER of the property asks you to it is trespass.

    Of course we can parse all the other inane comments in his letter… but why waste our time.

    Whether he’s Jewish or not, we have a real problem on college campuses with a huge rise of anti-Semitism and a blind hatred of Israel. Too much time and effort is spent singling out this one country for it to be about what it does, rather than who is doing it.

  25. Vincent Andrews

    In today’s environment how could you expect the staff and members present NOT to react in the way that they did? There were children in the building and they responded to what they believed was a threat to their community. These are not trained professionals who are able to identify a potentially concealed weapon in the “heat of the battle.” This is private property and they have the right to deny access to anyone they choose to. These individuals were asked to leave. They refused and then pushed past the staff – those that were there did what anyone would have done in their own home to defend their community. Freedom of speech has its place, but not when it creates an environment of fear and disregard for the rule of law.

    • “Heat of battle”? From what I can ascertain they calmly walked into the building and said all they wanted to do was read a letter into the record at the meeting. When they chose to protest by staying when asked to leave I could maybe see how someone might have felt threatened. But at that point it seems they were tackled to the floor and restrained until police arrived. It had to be obvious they were not pointing guns at anyone. Should we expect people to overreact and panic and act aggressively against peaceful demonstrators? To call in an armed attack when that clearly was not the case? Is it acceptable to lock down nearby schools and frighten hundreds of kids and teachers that had to sit on floors holding hands in fear? I don’t know Vincent, maybe better safe than sorry or maybe living in fear is better than waiting until one knows what is going on before over reacting? I honestly don’t know.

      • Vincent Andrews

        Jeff, “Heat of battle” is a metaphorical term. It is human nature that when one feels threatened through physical or verbal altercation that the fight or flight biological response will be engaged. Perception of threat is focused and enhanced by the natural instinct to survive – the threat will always be viewed as greater than what it may be unless you face this on a regular basis. Fact is, the two intruders were not seriously harmed (which they could have been) and simply restrained in an attempt to neutralize the perceived threat until law enforcement responded. In an age of suicide bombings, school shootings and other despicable crimes where perpetrators will use all types of ruses to gain access to an intended target, we cannot ignore someone simply because they are not openly waving a gun around.

  26. Stephanie Bass

    Jeff, let me buy you a cup and coffee and tell you what it was like inside Temple Israel.

    I am a very tough woman will lots of life experience. I am not unduly nervous or fearful. I have not always lived in bucolic Westport. My gut told me their next move was to pull out an AK 47 and start shooting. I thought I would never see my kid again.

    I’m reading these comments and I’m trying not to jump in, but when you and others who were not there defend these 2 guys AND THEIR METHODS — and I’m assuming 25 year old grad students at Yale understand personal interactions and that they purposely came across as violent — I don’t get your stance at all. If you read they own words, they wanted to violently — maybe only verblly — get their message across to the 80 Jewish women in the temple. I didn’t know they didn’t have an assault rifle.

    Free speech is great and everyone has the right to an opinion. THIS IS NOT ABOUT FREE SPEECH. THIS IS NOT ABOUT FREE SPEECH.

    • I really am very sorry you were scared and believe it or not I can understand how in this unusual situation you and some others could panic and jump to conclusions. But I’m sure you realize that simply the fact that you imagined that you were being attacked by killer terrorists doesn’t justify the result.

      • Mr. Giannone – what these perpetrators did was equivalent to yelling “fire!” in a crowded movie theater. The terror the Westport women – your fellow residents – felt was not “imagined.”

        • Are you sure what the ladies reported to the police was not lore like yelling fire?

          • Mr. Giannone – I will not respond to your ridiculous statement, turning the dozens of victims (your fellow Westport residents) into the criminals – except to say “shame on you”.

          • dayle brownstein

            Me Giannone,

            I’m afraid I feel compelled to question your agenda at this point. Not a soul has said that they want to step on anyone’s right to free speech, and yet at every turn you question the behavior and experience of the victims in this situation. The fact that it TURNED OUT that there were no weapons involved is a separate issue from what the victims experienced. You have got to have your head in a hole to believe that is was unreasonable for them to believe that there was imminent and serious danger. I don’t get where you’re going with all of this. By the way, I believe that the Israel/ palmist in conflict is a very complicated one- so this message is not coming from someone with any particular political stance.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Jeff. You have no idea what happened and your only goal on this threat is to upset people that were. Your ability to mix their facts with your fiction raises a question-why? Only you can answer that while others like me wonder what potential hatred sits inside you. Your comments resonant as bad as the screaming trespassing and discourse the two created. You enter their zone.

  27. Fear breeds:
    Anger, contempt, hate, ignorance, suffering…
    A vicious circle, circle, circle…

  28. Steve Stein

    “Nothing more needs to be said if you understand this. Nothing more is worth saying if you don’t.”

    Let me change the scene of what happened at Temple Israel just a tiny bit to make what happen yesterday crystal clear!

    I am having a private party at my home for family with an invited speaker who is going to talk about cubist art. Two disheveled looking guys suddenly appear at my door – try to walk into my house, telling me they are distant relatives and telling me they just want to read a statement to everyone there about how cubist art is destroying people’s minds. I ask them to leave. They demand entrance and say they will leave when they have read their statement in front of all my family, deep inside my home, or when the police come. Then instead of leaving they proceed to try to push past me into my home while yelling they hate what I believe in and begin banging on the doors in my house and fighting with me.

    WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT??? I call it criminal trespass. I call it intimidation. I call it an assault! And they terrorized my family in the process!!

    Suggestion one- when should I call a meeting to discuss cubist art with all sides getting a chance to discuss. Not now and not in my home!

    Suggestion two- assume because they have declared they are peaceful and unarmed that they won’t turn around, pull weapons, rob, rape and pillage everyone in my home. Not now and over my dead body.

    Suggestion three- call 911 and try to prevent them from coming into my home by any means possible! I think any sane person would assume this is the WINNER!!!

    But if you’re a synagogue ( and of courses there haven’t been any recent attacks on synagogues anywhere in the world- including the USA) if you do call 911 or tried to restrain the intruders you have overreacted! You are a bully synagogue. Shame on you synagogue- How could you deny access to these poor little lambs?? And , of course the stupid synagogue must also be blamed for the consequences of calling 911- the police responding who don’t know if the intruders are armed or have bombs. How many others are there in the car that dropped them off. The “overreacting” police assume the worst and come in full force, lock down the local schools, and secure the area.

    It is fortunate no one had a heart attack or was shot. But I would guess many involved will have nightmares about what could have been!!

    It is very unfortunate that some of the people writing in on Dan’s blog don’t see this as a criminal act! If you don’t think it was criminal and feel compelled to apologize in any way for the intruders- send me your address and we will see if we can arrange for either the original Fischer and Wilson to invade your home or a group of like minded thugs to appear demanding entrance into your home or car at the least expected moment-.

    • Fierce, righteous and true — Steve says it all. One cannot downplay what those in attendance felt like – -I’ve been in a similar situation, different motivation, and sadly, it affects the rest of your life. It’s hard to be as free and trusting as you once were and these people have some work ahead of them to heal from the anxiety issues that arise from being victimized in this way and they will never forget that day. Experience something like this and then talk. I agree with Stephanie — talk to her about what it feels like to be a sitting duck as these men demanded entrance, and not knowing if they were armed or not. Scary. You can’t divorce the human emotion of intense fear from this scenario and what feeling that terror and fear does to one’s life, one’s sense of well-being. I hope that everyone gets the help that they need to process this and move on.

    • Lisa Zelson

      Perfectly stated. These men were in no way peaceful protestors. There was not a person in that room that did not feel vulnerable and afraid. They were disruptive, loud and threatening in their manner. They were trying to gain entry to a private event to which they had been denied access.

  29. Okay, time to stop marinating. The court will deal with it.

  30. Shirah Sklar

    I have to say that I am extremely dismayed that this “protest” event in our own community has been given legitimacy by the publication of Greg William’s statement in 06680. I am a Jewish leader in this community, but on Tuesday, I defined myself as the wife of Cantor Dan Sklar of Temple Israel. My husband was in the sanctuary of Temple Israel, teaching a class of 4 year olds, when he ran out to confront and physically subdue these intruders. They had already been warned to leave and were being restrained, as they tried to push their way further into building, screaming their message and inciting terror throughout the entire building. My husband ran towards these men not knowing if they were armed, women at the luncheon dove under the tables for cover.

    There is room for dialogue and debate about Israel. Protest, although unwelcome to many, would have been legal OUTSIDE the doors of the synagogue. However, these two individuals demonstrated a complete lack of judgement and discernment and incited fear with their criminal actions, and there is no justification for that. They caused not only a lock down of Temple Israel and its preschool, but also the Coleytown area elementary and middle schools, disrupting an entire day of learning for a community already sensitive and fearful for our childrens’ security and safety.

    To Dan Woog:
    I have known you for many years through the Westport community, and have always loved your writing on 06680. However, printing this letter on its own, without due diligence and an accounting from the people who confronted these intruders at Temple Israel on Tuesday, is truly irresponsible. Mr. Williams has a revisionist remembrance of the actual events, making his actions look like a simple protest. He may be an “activist”, but he is also a criminal, and on Tuesday, he was a terrorist. As a candidate for Seminary ordination, I shudder to think that he might one day become a community leader. What incredible insensitivity and lack of judgement he has displayed.

    If you would like an accurate account of what really happened, my husband, Cantor Dan Sklar, would be happy to talk to fill you in.

    Cantor Shirah Sklar

    • Shirah, I agree 100% with everything you say in your first 2 paragraphs. I totally disagree with the commenters who downplay the fear that people felt inside the temple. In today’s day and age — in a community a few miles from Newtown, a few days after racist flyers were thrown on lawns — we must, sadly, be vigilant against terrorism. Even in Westport.

      But I disagree 100% with your 3rd paragraph. I did not print this letter “on its own.” I introduced its source. It followed my publication of 2 first-person accounts of women who were there (“Temple Guest Thought She Might Be Killed” and “We Experienced What Israelis Live With Daily”), as well as the statement from the Temple president.

      One of the first-hand accounts came from a woman who commented on a previous post, in which I described what happened earlier that day. The second account was from a woman who offered her thoughts; I was glad to provide that forum. The temple president’s comments were forward to me by a temple member.

      I am happy to publish anything that you, your husband, the rabbi or anyone else would like to send. Everyone is free to post comments too (as you have), provided full, real names are used.

      To have NOT posted the letter from the intruder would have been irresponsible journalism. He has every right to tell why he did what he did. And you — and every other reader — have every right to dispute his account, and condemn him in the strongest terms possible.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Dan. I applaud your decision to print the letter from the criminal. It’s called free speech and you continue to allow open communication. You stop one-sided arguments taking place. And in this regard, while difficult to read what this criminal had to write, you gave him the open space you give everyone.

        06880 brings all points to life. Whether we agree with them or not is not what is important. The chance to voice them is.

        As for all the arguments about these criminals, in one way, some are doing exactly what they set out to do. Create chaos. In that case, it appears they have won. Too bad.

    • The letter was in the public domain. Dan did not give voice to anything that was not available elsewhere. Moreover, I think he has shown himself to be willing to allow the discussion to be open to all who choose to participate.

    • A publication ban would be uncivilized. How would we explore opinions and ideas otherwise? How would we learn? Law is what makes us civilized, too.
      Would you prefer to live in a “lord of the flies” world? It wouldn’t last.

  31. The central issue has been obscured by concerns that are largely irrelevant. The religion of the individuals who chose to trespass is irrelevant. Any discussion of their first amendment rights is a diversion. The only relevant issue is the content and nature of their assertions. Their assertions are lies, pure and simple. The religion of the individuals cannot make their assertions true. The manner in which they chose to express themselves, cannot make their assertions true. They are liars.

  32. Shilah, in Dan’s defense, he had previously printed accounts from other points of view about what had transpired on Tuesday. And, in my opinion, Dan’s printing of this letter doesn’t help Gregory Williams in any way. To the contrary, it makes it seem as if Williams is an ignorant ideologue who has a grossly distorted view of history–his equating Zionists with the Nazis being clear evidence of this. Actually, I’m glad to have read Williams’ statement because it sheds more light on what he is all about. From my perspective, there was no “legitimacy” given by Dan’s publication of the statement to the manner of protest staged by Williams.

  33. Iain Bruce

    I commend Dan for publishing this for two reasons. First, if perhaps obviously, freedom of speech is a near absolute right, so these two have a right to spew nonsense in a letter to the public. (They don’t have the right to commandeer private property to spew their nonsense, however.)

    Second because, contrary to some of the arguments made here, publishing this does not give it credibility, but rather does the opposite. It is prima facie not credible. It is the unhinged ravings of an addled mind. Publishing the semi-coherent “manifesto” of a crazy person does not build credibility for him. On the contrary, it allows him to undermine himself and rob himself of any pretense of credibility. It is a public service.

  34. Joshua Prince

    Since one of the two divine Yale Divinity School “students” who paid a visit to Temple Israel was kind enough to share an exculpatory letter about his actions in this space with Dan Woog (and the rest of the Westport community), I thought it would be a public service to share some of his other thoughtful, loving, positive and kind words, which are freely available to peruse on his still publicly-viewable FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/gregory.williams.3572?fref=ts

    Each one of the following posts have been quoted in their unedited entirety, and attributed to their author.

    As to his religious affiliation…

    Mr. Williams: “I’m a Jew who converted to Christianity, found a home in Anabaptist Baptist circles, tried to leave them for the greener pastures of Anglicanism, failed to do so, and read some a shit fuck tonne of Marx along the way, as well as a bunch of feminists and anti-colonialists yelling at Marx but taking up his basic ideas all the same. Now, after all that, I’m thoroughly confused, but hopefully in all the right ways. PS: I’d really like to get an acceptance letter from a doctoral program.”

    For context and fairness, in another one of his posts citing a disgusting protest by some lunatic-fringe anti-African Israelis (who are indeed appalling, but still)…

    Mr. Williams: “Let me say this loud and clear. Fuck Zionism. Fuck the Zionist entity. The so-called “state of Israel” has no right to a national existence in the middle east. As always, let me emphasize that I say this as a Jew. The only “solution” to the “middle east conflict” is to drive the Zionist dogs into the sea, once and for all. Jews should join in the effort of “disarming and dismantling” the Zionist Apartheid State.”

    And about the homeless, on whose behalf he is an apparently self-appointed, self-proclaimed defender/liberator…

    Mr. Williams: “I am amazed by how many people in the social services, including many “superstars” with decades of experience, continue to act as though homelessness and other forms of material deprivation are personal and familial pathologies that need to be “treated” by “experts” who are “here to help.”
    Let us be clear: people who experience homelessness are not, as a rule, any more pathological than anyone else. Homelessness is the result of EXPLOITATION (the extraction (aka theft) of land/resources/labor and other forms of wealth) which leads to both DISCRIMINATION (being treated differently because you are in one group rather than another) and OPPRESSION (being denied meaningful choices in areas of life that directly affect oneself).
    Middle income need to stop trying to ‘help’ low income people and realize instead that we are all facing different forms and levels of exploitation from the same filthy, rotten, capitalist system, and that we we all can organize to build solidarity to create liberation together.
    TRANSLATION: SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES, PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS ARE NOT CASH COWS FOR YOU TO WRITE GRANTS ABOUT OR GET CONTRACTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT TO “HELP.” THEY ARE YOUR COMRADES AND FELLOW-LEADERS IN THE STRUGGLE FOR A NEW WORLD”

    Finally (I got tired of cutting and pasting undergraduate Marxist tropes), with regards to the American celebration of Independence Day…

    Mr. Williams: “This 4th of July weekend is an imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist holiday. It is also the perfect time to go wheat-pasting around New Haven to promote the ‪#‎wherethenshallwego‬ action on July 24, 22 days from now! Who is with me?!?!”

    Not me, Mr. Williams. Not me.

    And while you continue your campaign to “Fuck the Zionists” (your words) with “the only “solution” to the “middle east conflict” [being] to drive the Zionist dogs into the sea, once and for all,” I want to personally thank you for reminding me to send a check to the Libi Fund (http://www.libi-fund.org.il/libi/eng/Pages/default.aspx), which helps support the men and women of the IDF.

    Speaking of checks, it’s worth noting that the cost of tuition, room and board at the apparently non-imperialist, non-white supremacist, non-capitalist Yale Divinity School where Mr. Williams has been sharpening his critical religious thinking (remember, he is no mere ruffian activist, but a “scholar of theological ethics”) is a cool $42,787. Karl Marx, eat your heart out.

  35. Mary Ruggiero

    Amen, can’t say it any better than that. Thank you, and good night.

  36. The above “information” by Mr. Prince only adds fuel to the fire, serving no one well.

    • Iain Bruce

      On the contrary, Ms. Hunter, it serves us all well, leaving no doubt about who and what Mr. Williams is.

      • Of course we need to know what more Williams said to show who he is – it’s critical. It’s also helpful for the people who endured this horrible intrusion to know more of just what they were dealing with. Mr. Williams publicized his own comments for the world to see – Dan didn’t interview them – he just picked up public statements.

        My husband and I have talked a lot about this particular issue — for years- given his grandfather was a somewhat famous Rabbi deeply involved until his death in 1948 – whatever his stands that one could agree or not agree with — it’s the world’s conflict to be solved. I’m reading this post and these comments, especially about 4 year olds being involved — with heartfelt sorrow, compassion and prayers for those who were intruded upon by these two men. How manly of them to pick a women’s luncheon! No one is adding fuel to the fire to get the information out about these 2 young men, and to have honest discussion. This is not a conversation that needs to be put out. This is again, where Westport meets the world as this can happen anywhere.

      • dayle brownstein

        I agree with Mr. Bruce – this information about Mr. Williams makes it quite clear what his agenda is – and how he could care less about peace and love and fairness. At best he has some serious psychological issues. He probably also has dark, hateful, and likely criminal mentality. I don’t understand, Ms. Hunter, why you would object to this information being revealed here. I believe that an understanding of an individual’s motivation, as well as mental stability, is relative and useful. Had Mr. Williams been interested in the possible oppression and violence toward certain Arabs, one might say he was misguided and over the top in his choice to engage in the aggressive actions at the temple. Instead we know he is an angry, hateful, and potentially dangerous individual. He is not worth listening to. Too bad for the people whom he claims to want to help and support.

    • Funny how you want to silence the voices that weaken your position Nancy. Ignore the facts that don’t tell your narrative.

      • Yes, apparently, Nancy is trying to shut this conversation down with “time to stop marinating” etc., and not quite sure why. It’s not up to her to stop people from talking here. That’s not her place.

        • My point is that the letter is damning enough.
          My point is that arrests were made and that the Court will judge.

          I understand how important it is to vent, and applaud this forum, however I don’t understand why it is necessary to beat a dead horse. It’s not healthy.

          • Nancy, I understand but people have to process this event in their own way who actually experienced the fear. When someone comes in and says that’s enough when it may not feel enough to those who experienced the trauma — that’s what I’m objecting to. People need help to process what happened, and some need to talk to until they feel better and that’s when they say they feel better, not when someone not involved does. I think people have done very well here. When I was involved in a very scary situation, it took me a long time to process and get over it. to forgive, and I had people to talk to who were there and people willing to listen to. This was obviously a potentially a scarring situation at the Temple and people are tender. That’s all I’m saying.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Why Nancy-who lives thousands of miles away continues to troll on 06880, is unbelievable.

          • A. There are many ex-Westporters that care, who have family and friends nearby. Some care, some do not.
            B. Do you really think that anyone living outside of Westport is immune to the same social, political, environmental, infrastructural, economic, religious, etc. problems and issues?
            C. Shouldn’t I learn from the comments of others (i.e. B.J’s comment above)?
            D. Is this a “club”, or a conversation?
            E. Ignore, or comment. That is a choice everyone has. A luxury.

            • Actually, not “everyone” has the luxury of choice. Obviously.

              • I agree with you here, Nancy as an ex-Westporter. We visit every summer before heading over to Philly and NJ to where my family now resides and I thoroughly enjoy Dan’s blog each day — it makes me feel connected to my roots as my family settled and founded some towns in CT – my roots go back to the 1600’s in CT – it’s deeply embedded in my dna and it gets stronger as I get older. The dirt calls my bones in a way I can’t explain. This year, I think we’ll stay for a longer period of time and enjoy my childhood town. So, glad we can agree on one point.

                • BJ, maybe you’ll be here during our 3rd annual “06880” party at Compo (date TBD). And Nancy, maybe you’ll visit for the first time in years. I know many people would love to meet you.

                  • I would love that. Post the dates when you know and let’s hope it coincides with our yearly trek. I think we’ll stay for a few nights at Longshore. Not to get off this serious topic right now though. Thanks, Dan and would like to meet Nancy also.

  37. Danielle Dobin

    My children are recent graduates of the Temple Israel preschool and currently attend religious school at the Synagogue, where we are members. I wanted to share with the larger community and with Cantor Shirah Sklar specifically how moved I was when I learned of Cantor Dan Sklar’s brave actions on Tuesday. I spent part of morning today with the mother of one of the children trapped in the Sanctuary when Gregory Williams and Dan Fischer attempted to physically force their way into the crowded room filled with women next door. The children that were trapped were four years old – so young and so little – and were literally just steps away when Williams and Fischer, denied entrance to the luncheon, began to scream words like “Intifada” and “Free Palestine”. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be in a Jewish space with a group of young children in my care and hear men’s voices screaming violently about the Intifada. It must have been terrifying.

    Cantor Dan did not know what he faced when he confronted the threat on the other side of the Sanctuary doors . Even leaving aside the recent tragedy at nearby Newtown and the all too frequent attacks on Jewish community spaces, Cantor Dan heard yelling, fighting and screams that gave every indication that the synagogue was under assault. He chose to face the threat himself in order to protect the children from whatever was on the other side of those doors. He was courageous and selfless and as a mother of children who spend hours each week at the Synagogue I am deeply moved by how he and the other clergy and staff reacted to this situation, putting themselves at great potential risk.

    It was frankly impossible for the clergy to know whether Williams and Fischer were armed and it’s ludicrous for Williams to suggest that after he and Fischer entered the temple under false pretenses and physically tried to force their way into a private lunch while screaming about the Intifada that the clergy should have assumed they didn’t intend to cause harm. The only rational emotional reaction to a situation like this would have been to feel afraid of Williams and Fischer. The clergy and staff acted quickly and effectively to prevent these intruders from gaining further access to more crowded spaces and in doing so enabled the women attending the luncheon and the young children trapped nearby to flee. I only hope that if faced with intruders in my own home I would have the courage and strength to restrain them – even as they violently screamed at me – if they tried to physically force their way further into my home where my children were taking shelter.

    Circumstances like this reveal the true character of a person and Cantor Dan showed himself to be truly courageous. It is a great comfort to me to know that in the event of any type of emergency – be it a fire or intruders attempting to force their way into the Synagogue – that Cantor Dan and the rest of the clergy, professional staff and our wonderful teachers would selflessly take every possible action to protect our beloved children. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much Cantor Dan, Rabbi PJ, Bryan and Lisa.

  38. I can see some truth in this. There are two sides to every story

    • Jacob Navon

      I have submitted this reply to Mr. Williams letter to Westport Now
      To the editor,

      In response to Tuesday night’s letter by Gregory Williams, one of the two misguided young men who, whether they intended to or not, terrorized an event held at my synagogue – Temple Israel, I would like to state the following for consideration by your readers:

      First, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes has been famously quoted to say that “a man’s right to swing his fist freely through the air ends where another man’s nose begins.” In an astonishingly immature display of arrogance, Mr. Williams avers that, after entering the premises and reaching the second floor “We [told Temple staff] that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.” With all due respect, the premises of my Temple are not public property where Mr. Williams and his companion are at liberty to do whatever they deem fit, including exercising their right to free speech. I appreciate that, as a Jew, he is welcome to enter a Jewish house of worship, especially this one, in order to pursue a desire to worship according to our faith and commune with other people of our faith. But he needs an invitation in order to express his unwelcome political viewpoints and should have deferred to the authority of Temple staff when told that he was acting inappropriately in the context that he was. For him to claim a right to be allowed to complete his objective or only leave when told to do so by the police, betrays a complete disregard of the laws of trespass.

      Second, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a complicated and complex issue that requires an intellect far greater than the one displayed by Mr. Williams and his companion to unravel, understand and begin to address. It certainly will not be solved by people, like him, who lace their diatribes with vitriolic, emotionally laden semantics that deliberately seek to paint only one side as the villainous, callous, murderous and occupying “colonialists;” and the other as the poor, hapless, innocent “victims” of our oppression. I am an Israeli whose parents were on the wrong (pointy) end of thousands of missiles lobbed at them from the Gaza strip last summer. The organization, Hamas, that launched these weapons of death and destruction is committed, in its founding charter, to cause the obliteration of all Jews everywhere, not just in that particular land, and including Mr. Williams and his comrade in arms. Hamas seeks this mass genocide in addition to its purported secondary objective to “liberate” Palestine. Don’t take my words for it. Read their charter. It is easy to find on the internet.

      Third, specifically to Mr. Williams’ charge of Israeli society being inherently racist, I would respectfully refer one and all to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, as well as its Basic Laws that guarantee equal rights to all of the country’s citizens regardless of race, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation as well as any other distinction. Any objective, sane and balanced review of how the country’s legal system operates will inevitably conclude that “racist” is not a label that can be appropriately attached here. While Zionism is essentially about re-establishing a homeland for the Jews in the place from which we demonstrably originated, for the country to have this essential link to a given religion is no different from the fact that Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia among others, are Islamic States, or that Ireland is a Catholic one and the UK has the Anglican Church as its official religion (with its monarch as the head of same). To label only Israel as “racist” because of its stated link to Judaism, while accepting as normal all these other countries’ link to other faiths, betrays an Anti-Semitic view-point rather than a logical inference from the facts.

      Fourth, with regards to Mr. Williams labeling Israelis as “colonialists,” I was born in Haifa and can trace my family in Israel for over four hundred years through birth certificates, death certificates, gravestones, records of marriage and property transactions. In this regard I can claim to be more “Palestinian” than Yasser Arafat who was born in Alexandria, Egypt. My family history is not unique. There are numerous Jewish families that can trace their existence in Israel through the ages. The simple historical truth is that the entire population in the Land of Israel, both Arabs and Jews, had dwindled under centuries of neglectful Ottoman rule to fairly low numbers by the 1800s. Both populations re-grew subsequently, in large part as a result of the same Zionist re-settlement movement that Mr. Williams is objecting to. The returning Jews cleared swamps and enhanced agriculture to the point where the land could support ever greater numbers of people to live there. This development, in turn, provided economic opportunities that attracted Arabs to relocate from surrounding areas. The narrative that Jews came and just displaced an indigenous Arab population in the past century or so is a canard that belies a reality that is amply documented through official records as well as a pictorial history given the advent of photography. In fact, if Mr. Williams is so viscerally incensed by colonialization, it begs one’s reason as to how he can bring himself to reside on property that incontrovertibly has been taken from the original population that inhabited these United States before the arrival of the Pilgrims. Before he can claim the right to demand that my parents cede title to their home in Israel, he should respectfully request the same from his own parents in this country first. And if he doesn’t, then he is a hypocrite.

      The foregoing should amply demonstrate that one can take apart every single hateful claim that Mr. Williams states in his diatribe and provide accurate information that belies his veracity. Indeed, if his intent is truly to use dialogue to achieve greater justice for the populations co-existing in the region, then I would challenge Mr. Williams to take our Rabbi’s suggestion, in a letter to the congregation after this unfortunate incident, to call up and request an appointment with our Clergy to discuss his grievances against the government of the State of Israel and its Defense Forces. I am sure they’d be delighted to debate his views, as I am sure would several of our lay leadership and congregation, myself included. But at the end of the day, Mr. Williams was not interested in seeking Truth and Justice, instead he sought to disrupt a private event that he was not invited to and didn’t belong in. Nor does his self-serving letter seek Justice. It seeks, instead, to justify his erroneous actions in the guise of asserting his right to protest in the manner that he did. In so doing Mr. Williams’ letter neither serves his moral purpose, nor his legal one. He claims that he acted peacefully and that congregants, as well as Westport’s school and town officials over-reacted. He is clearly mentally incapable to have placed himself in all their shoes, when planning his sortie, and have tried to anticipate how people might react in a place that is not 20 miles away from Sandy Hook in Newtown, or in a world where Jewish institutions have recently been attacked with deadly effects by small groups of terrorists. Had he been capable of such thought, he would surely have seen that his particular course of action would assuredly have achieved the reactions that occurred and that perhaps an alternative plan was warranted. As already highlighted, his letter does serve as an admission that he committed criminal trespass and can serve as evidence in his upcoming prosecution. One might have expected more intelligence to be displayed by a student that made it through the rigorous admissions process of Yale University and its Divinity School. Or, perhaps, the fact that he is a student, is prima fascia evidence that their standards have dropped?

      Respectfully

      Jacob Navon
      Westport

  39. Dan, as always, I appreciate you giving voice to the various viewpoints on this issue.

  40. Thank you for making some good points and I apologize if I came off as not respecting the real fear people on the scene were feeling. That was not my intention.
    I don’t care about the politics or religious aspects of the situation. I am not suggesting these two boy’s protest points were right or wrong. They broke the law and were rightly arrested and charged with trespassing.
    But in reality the protest itself did not warrant the lockdown of surrounding schools, the report of guns did that. I am saying that someone unfortunately incited panic throughout the Town by erroneously reporting there was a firearm on the scene.
    Was it an honest mistake? Was it a justified response given Newtown, etc? Or was it an over reaction to a situation with no basis in fact, a fabrication of circumstance based in fear? I guess it doesn’t matter. I just think that the report of a gun was unfortunate and probably a sign of the times and we shouldn’t over dramatize it. In the end it was two boys who obviously care deeply about their views and who were trying to make a point that obviously was unwelcome at the Temple.

    • Jeff, one other point (and I’m only bringing this up because a popular, highly-respected, and influential professor just died who always emphasized the importance of the appropriate choice of words): you refer to the two individuals as “boys.”

      The police report identified their age as 25 years old. They’re men, not boys, and your depiction of them seems to suggest that they should be cut some slack in some way due to their youth. But these were not minors or anywhere close to being minors.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Jeff. You still don’t get it.

      • Bart, please stop. It is very clear you are seeing this as some kind of hate crime and are afraid to discuss any part of the incident. As is usually the case you are accusing people open to the debate as being haters. It’s just tiresome frankly. You actually said you hoped the community would not discuss it!
        Sorry but I don’t care about the politics or your personal agenda, I am only interested in understanding the mindset that caused seemingly reasonable people to assume in minutes that protestors were carrying guns and intended on a mass murder. Call me crazy but that is cause for concern IMO.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Jeff. No politics. No agenda. I have personally watched the emotion of a father losing his daughter. Someone creating an issue in a school should be taken down immediately. Period. You can ask questions after. You can search their car after. You can search their body, after. No-you don’t get it. And whatever your politics or agenda it is clearly coming thru that you will not only take a serious risk but also blame those that will not. I just hope you are never around if something like this happens again as you just might be wrong and the consequences deadly.

          As for not wanting much dialogue you are right. I would rather have Westport avoid anymore of this biased behavior from people outside of our town. The more, I believe we give attention to it, the more crazies want to come here and spew their junk.

          • “Biased” “crazy”, what was biased in you view? Is it because their view differs from yours? Their views are “junk” and your are not? So there you have it, your remarks now make sense.
            As for the incident, I support everything that was done in the Temple that day EXCEPT jumping to the conclusion that they were armed and reporting such to the police causing a town wide panic. I am just questioning if that, and just that, could have been avoided. I do not want to live in a state of fear. I am not sure how one could refuse to consider that.

  41. KENDALL ANDERSON

    I went to Grandparents day at B’nai Israel pre school this morning , in Fairfield, and the first half hour or so I kept looking around, wondering if there was going to be an incident like the one here in Westport.
    Those men incited TERROR in the temple as well as in the community.
    Shame on them, and shame on those people who try and downplay what happened.

  42. Jacob Navon

    I submitted the following letter to Westport Now in response to Mr. Williams letter

    To the editor:

    In response to Tuesday night’s letter by Gregory Williams, one of the two misguided young men who, whether they intended to or not, terrorized an event held at my synagogue – Temple Israel, I would like to state the following for consideration by your readers:

    First, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes has been famously quoted to say that “a man’s right to swing his fist freely through the air ends where another man’s nose begins.” In an astonishingly immature display of arrogance, Mr. Williams avers that, after entering the premises and reaching the second floor “We [told Temple staff] that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.” With all due respect, the premises of my Temple are not public property where Mr. Williams and his companion are at liberty to do whatever they deem fit, including exercising their right to free speech. I appreciate that, as a Jew, he is welcome to enter a Jewish house of worship, especially this one, in order to pursue a desire to worship according to our faith and commune with other people of our faith. But he needs an invitation in order to express his unwelcome political viewpoints and should have deferred to the authority of Temple staff when told that he was acting inappropriately in the context that he was. For him to claim a right to be allowed to complete his objective or only leave when told to do so by the police, betrays a complete disregard of the laws of trespass.

    Second, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a complicated and complex issue that requires an intellect far greater than the one displayed by Mr. Williams and his companion to unravel, understand and begin to address. It certainly will not be solved by people, like him, who lace their diatribes with vitriolic, emotionally laden semantics that deliberately seek to paint only one side as the villainous, callous, murderous and occupying “colonialists;” and the other as the poor, hapless, innocent “victims” of our oppression. I am an Israeli whose parents were on the wrong (pointy) end of thousands of missiles lobbed at them from the Gaza strip last summer. The organization, Hamas, that launched these weapons of death and destruction is committed, in its founding charter, to cause the obliteration of all Jews everywhere, not just in that particular land, and including Mr. Williams and his comrade in arms. Hamas seeks this mass genocide in addition to its purported secondary objective to “liberate” Palestine. Don’t take my words for it. Read their charter. It is easy to find on the internet.

    Third, specifically to Mr. Williams’ charge of Israeli society being inherently racist, I would respectfully refer one and all to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, as well as its Basic Laws that guarantee equal rights to all of the country’s citizens regardless of race, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation as well as any other distinction. Any objective, sane and balanced review of how the country’s legal system operates will inevitably conclude that “racist” is not a label that can be appropriately attached here. While Zionism is essentially about re-establishing a homeland for the Jews in the place from which we demonstrably originated, for the country to have this essential link to a given religion is no different from the fact that Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia among others, are Islamic States, or that Ireland is a Catholic one and the UK has the Anglican Church as its official religion (with its monarch as the head of same). To label only Israel as “racist” because of its stated link to Judaism, while accepting as normal all these other countries’ link to other faiths, betrays an Anti-Semitic view-point rather than a logical inference from the facts.

    Fourth, with regards to Mr. Williams labeling Israelis as “colonialists,” I was born in Haifa and can trace my family in Israel for over four hundred years through birth certificates, death certificates, gravestones, records of marriage and property transactions. In this regard I can claim to be more “Palestinian” than Yasser Arafat who was born in Alexandria, Egypt. My family history is not unique. There are numerous Jewish families that can trace their existence in Israel through the ages. The simple historical truth is that the entire population in the Land of Israel, both Arabs and Jews, had dwindled under centuries of neglectful Ottoman rule to fairly low numbers by the 1800s. Both populations re-grew subsequently, in large part as a result of the same Zionist re-settlement movement that Mr. Williams is objecting to. The returning Jews cleared swamps and enhanced agriculture to the point where the land could support ever greater numbers of people to live there. This development, in turn, provided economic opportunities that attracted Arabs to relocate from surrounding areas. The narrative that Jews came and just displaced an indigenous Arab population in the past century or so is a canard that belies a reality that is amply documented through official records as well as a pictorial history given the advent of photography. In fact, if Mr. Williams is so viscerally incensed by colonialization, it begs one’s reason as to how he can bring himself to reside on property that incontrovertibly has been taken from the original population that inhabited these United States before the arrival of the Pilgrims. Before he can claim the right to demand that my parents cede title to their home in Israel, he should respectfully request the same from his own parents in this country first. And if he doesn’t, then he is a hypocrite.

    The foregoing should amply demonstrate that one can take apart every single hateful claim that Mr. Williams states in his diatribe and provide accurate information that belies his veracity. Indeed, if his intent is truly to use dialogue to achieve greater justice for the populations co-existing in the region, then I would challenge Mr. Williams to take our Rabbi’s suggestion, in a letter to the congregation after this unfortunate incident, to call up and request an appointment with our Clergy to discuss his grievances against the government of the State of Israel and its Defense Forces. I am sure they’d be delighted to debate his views, as I am sure would several of our lay leadership and congregation, myself included. But at the end of the day, Mr. Williams was not interested in seeking Truth and Justice, instead he sought to disrupt a private event that he was not invited to and didn’t belong in. Nor does his self-serving letter seek Justice. It seeks, instead, to justify his erroneous actions in the guise of asserting his right to protest in the manner that he did. In so doing Mr. Williams’ letter neither serves his moral purpose, nor his legal one. He claims that he acted peacefully and that congregants, as well as Westport’s school and town officials over-reacted. He is clearly mentally incapable to have placed himself in all their shoes, when planning his sortie, and have tried to anticipate how people might react in a place that is not 20 miles away from Sandy Hook in Newtown, or in a world where Jewish institutions have recently been attacked with deadly effects by small groups of terrorists. Had he been capable of such thought, he would surely have seen that his particular course of action would assuredly have achieved the reactions that occurred and that perhaps an alternative plan was warranted. As already highlighted, his letter does serve as an admission that he committed criminal trespass and can serve as evidence in his upcoming prosecution. One might have expected more intelligence to be displayed by a student that made it through the rigorous admissions process of Yale University and its Divinity School. Or, perhaps, the fact that he is a student, is prima fascia evidence that their standards have dropped?

    Respectfully

    Jacob Navon
    Westport

    • dayle brownstein

      I think you have just said it all Mr. Navon – and again I believe the Israel/Palestine issue is a complicated one without easy answers. However, the issue with Mr. Williams is not complicated. Now if you could just say a word or two to this kook Mr Giannone, I would be quite satisfied.

      • Jacob Navon

        Dale,

        Your kind reaction to my post prompted me to follow very carefully the entire thread of discussion with Jeff Giannone. I agree with those here who have admonished us to keep the tone of the conversation civilized. So I would urge you to avoid personal invective with adjectival references to Jeff as being a “kook.” I do take Jeff at his word that he is trying to air specific points that may be missed in the general emotionality of feelings expressed here.

        That said, I am responding because I feel I can add some clarity to the overall discourse that may help reach a resolution more acceptable to all. To me Jeff seems to be airing two main themes. The first concerns the limits of the First Amendment rights that should be enjoyed by all including the odious pair who invade Temple Israel. The second relates to whether Temple staff and town officials over-reacted. Let’s address both independently.

        The first amendment issue, in turn, has two components. First, did freedom of expression allow these two young men to act as they did within the Temple’s premises. While this particular issue will be resolved in the courts, the court of public opinion on this blog has the issue pretty much settled – namely that the first amendment does not permit trespass to be committed in its name. Jeff pretty much concedes this point above. Second, should we continue to allow these two men additional expression by talking so much about what they did in this forum and others? On this topic, Jeff axiomatically takes the First Amendment side and essentially argues against censorship. I will simply state that on this sub-theme the answer is not as cut and dried. Several commentators have pointed to the fact that not all speech is protected. Hate speech, for example, expressly ISN’T. So Jeff, your berating people for objecting to airing Mr. Williams’ letter here and in other forums is not entirely justified. Because these people are not objecting to his hateful rants “just because they differ from theirs.” One can reasonably make the case that his actions, his letter and his public postings some of which have been shared on this blog all amount to hate speech and thus can be properly be objected to and censored. While I certainly do subscribe to the conclusion that his combined views cross the threshold of hate, I accept that reasonable minds may differ on this conclusion. I have no desire to debate this further. But I do desire to help you and others here tone down the personal invective. Both sides are entitled to their opinion and that doesn’t, in and of itself make either one evil, kooky, undemocratic or uncivilized.

        As for the alleged over-reaction by Temple staff, town and school officials I have several points: First, you seem to take as gospel truth Mr. Williams’ assertion that the staff falsely reported to the police that he was armed. In all that I have read about the incident it is not at all clear who, if indeed anyone, definitively reported to the police that the men were armed. We do know that several of the lunch attendees were afraid that this might be the case and fled the building. Can you be sure that is was not one of them who called the police with the armed report? Do we have it clearly established that the police were told the men were definitely armed, or were the police told that they MAY have been? Under the circumstances, to accept Mr. Williams’ assertions on this particular issue as truthful ignores the fact that he has self interest, given his arrest and impending legal prosecution. So unless you have independent proof that staff made such a misrepresentation, you should keep your accusation in check. There is considerable doubt here and they deserve its benefit.

        Second, regardless of whether the police were deliberately misinformed or not, did everyone overreact? In truth, it depends. First, in a world where extremists are committing deadly acts on a daily basis, in a country that in the past two decades has witnessed the Oklahoma City bombing as well as countless school shootings and similar violence committed in shopping malls and movie theaters, I believe officials, especially those entrusted with the safety of young children should ALWAYS react fearing the worst. So yes, if you are Cantor Sklar in a class full of four year olds you owe a sacred duty to their parents to act with maximum caution assuming the people on the other side of the door are armed and dangerous. The assymetric outcome inherent in being wrong under the different assumptions demands it. Second, should local schools have been placed in automatic lockdown? I could argue both sides of that one. One certainly could say that town officials could have waited; that they did not have enough definitive proof that a terrorist attack was under way and even if it was that it was broader in scope than just the Temple; that there really was enough time for the police to verify what in fact was going on there and decided further based on greater information. But I can also understand officials deliberately erring on the side of caution. If nothing else it afforded the town, and the schools, an opportunity to gain some valuable “live” training that cannot be simulated in a pre-planned lockdown drill. Again, I was not there to know whether any of these considerations played a role. But I know enough to know that these are topics where reasonable minds may differ, so personal invective is not called for against those who disagree with you.

        In short, I personally am on the side of those who disagree with Jeff, but I see a big distinction between how he has conducted the dialogue and how Greg Williams and his friend did. As such Jeff deserves to be treated respectfully even as we may argue with his views.

        • dayle brownstein

          Thank you Mr Navon, and I will concede to your point that name calling is inappropriate and unwarranted. Of course in writing one doesn’t hear tone or expression. My intention was actually to use a relatively innocuous tone in a somewhat lighthearted, yet serious way. I suppose the term “kook” does not accomplish that. I regret it’s use. That being said I appreciate your clear, precise, and well conceived response.

  43. Jacob, I also went back and read through the conversation and gave this some more thought and I think you have a point.

    I was wrong when I tried to bifurcate the politics out of my analysis as to why an otherwise normal woman would call 911 and report an armed terror attack from inside a meeting without so much as having eyes on the protestors. Then I spoke with a good friend from Israel who pointed out that her call made absolutely no sense UNLES I put the political context of the violence in Gaza back into the equation.

    He was correct. This was not a random act, this unfortunate situation was all about terror and fear – not, for example, some gay men protesting at a church over the Vatican’s stance on gay marriage. In that scenario if a woman in that church were to call 911 claiming an armed terror attack she would not only get a ton of grief but might get arrested.

    Another mistake was that I assumed Temples, like Churches, are open to all. Churches are more public than private where Temples are more like private clubs than public places of worship. I was not aware of this structural difference initially.

    Thirdly, and most importantly this was not a simple religious gathering this was a political gathering, (a fund raiser?) for a military arm of the Israeli government being held in a Temple with an active day care center full of kids that was being protested by two people who are strongly opposed to Israeli policies.

    Given the understandable assumption that these two unwelcome visitors were pro Palestine and given that the entire conversation in the room that day was about how the two groups are trying to kill each other, I can now see how and why this call was made and why women were fleeing out the back door, etc. The whole situation was a recipe for disaster. Why anyone would hold a controversial meeting like this in a building full of kids is a question for another time. Thank you.

    • Rabbi Robert Orkand

      I need to offer one important corrective to an otherwise thoughtful post: Like churches, synagogues are public places in that all who wish to worship and learn are welcome. However, churches and synagogues are “private” in the sense that they are not municipal or governmental entities. Therefore, laws concerning trespassing differ, using only one example. And–and this is critical–in recent years synagogues, unlike churches (in most places) have been defaced, bombed, and terrorized. Thus the abundance of caution and well-founded fears when two men screaming words that can only be interpreted as threatening.

  44. Jacob Navon

    Jeff, while I appreciate your trying to be as open minded and fair as possible, I don’t think you can take your own politics out of your comments, ever. First, I would like to reiterate Rabbi Orkand’s correction. Temples in general, and TI in particular ARE open institutions, that are public places in the sense where anyone who wants to worship with us is quite welcome. But LIKE Churches, Temples are also places where the it is the Congregation who decide what activities the institution will support, and govern what kind of behavior they deem appropriate within its premises.

    Intent matters, so if you enter with the intent to cause a disruption to one of the activities the Temple has decided to hold, that is not ok. And it is ok for the staff to tell you so and invite you to behave or leave. You do not have the luxury of saying no and that you have the right to protest in any manner you see fit WITHIN the premises or grounds. And Temple staff have the appropriate authority over activities within the premises. You do not get to defer only to the authority of the police.

    In this vein, it is also entirely within the Temple’s discretion to decide what non-religious events to hold, including political ones. Temple Israel has a proud tradition of holding candidate debates in local elections for instance. Temple Israel also has a proud and long tradition of holding events that are supportive of the State of Israel and its DEFENSE forces. I take issue with your unfounded characterization that the discussion in the FIDF event was to be about killing Palestinians. That is an offensive remark that is slanderous and uncalled for. And I would counter your assertion that the meeting was controversial in any way. The IDF is one of the only armies in the world whose existence is expressly for defensive purposes only (hence its name), and the key differentiating characteristic between Israel and the Palestinians is that successive Israeli governments, of all political stripes, have committed themselves to a two-state solution and inherently recognized the right for the Palestinians to self determination; while Hamas EXPRESSLY calls for the extermination of all Jews, while the Palestinian Authority elides its commitments under Oslo 1 and 2 and refuses to accept Israel as the Homeland of the Jews, even as it insists that any future Palestinian State will be free of Jews living within it. Holding an event in support of the IDF is no more controversial than holding an event in support of this country’s service men and women.

  45. I have already acknowledged that they broke the law and were rightly arrested. And of course one can refuse to leave and defer to the authority of the police, assuming one is willing to be arrested. I believe they were counting on being arrested as part of their protest.

    My point was if people are sitting in a room being told that they are being targeted to be killed by a specific group and during that meeting the group in question actually shows up that I could see how a special level of fear could have existed at that moment. As for choosing to hold that meeting in a school full of children, well it is certainly the Temple’s prerogative but may not be the best idea as we saw was the case on the day of this event.

    The absolute last thing I care to do is argue the Palestinian / Israeli situation with you. I only know what I garner from the news and from world opinion. If you think anyone is going to believe that Israel is simply defending itself I think you are kidding yourself but feel free to argue with someone else. And please don’t bother using the old fallback that I am somehow anti-Semitic. In my humble opinion the whole Middle East is screwed up!

    As for the IDF, well even some Israelis are questioning their motives it seems.
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-ngo-accuses-army-of-violating-its-moral-code-in-gaza/

  46. While I will never understand why “compromise” is an unintelligible word here, this ongoing conversation has been more informative than any topnotch periodical or newspaper essay on the subject of Middle East peace, a peace we will never see in our (grandchildren’s) lifetime.
    Or, perhaps that sounds too negative, too naive.

  47. Jacob Navon

    Jeff, I too will not engage in a debate on this conflict with you here. My last missive on this issue is that George Orwell is turning in his grave. The way the media have mis-portrayed what actually goes on in Israel is actually quite shocking. And as for the so called Israeli ngos, a cursory look at who’s funding them should be sufficient evidence as to why they have the agenda that they do.

    In parting I will ask you to partake in the following thought experiment: If the IDF laid its weapons down, what would happen to Israeli citizens? Now imagine that Hamas did, what would likely happen to Palestinian citizens in Gaza? The assymetric outcomes of that thought experiment should be all you, or anyone else, need in order to help untangle the mess.

  48. Thanks for the discussion Jacob. Even though at the end of the day the only time this really effects me is when something happens like what happened last week at TI, I still find it very interesting. I am familiar with your talking points but I can never understand why Jews are always so adamant and confident that all reports critical of Israel, whether it be human rights organizations or UNited Nations input or even news outlets throughout Europe are not to be trusted.
    It is also amazing to me that in this debate Israel rarely takes any responsibility for having violently and against all treaties, expanded its boarders into Gaza and the West Bank to the detriment of Palestine. Most of the world sees this as the basis for the conflict and when we read about the destruction of Palestinian villages and the cutting off of food and water to prevent re habitation it just doesn’t feel like a defensive policy. I may be wrong but that’s how I (and most of the world) see this conflict and why Israel is under renewed pressure. When we see and listen to Netanyahu and cabinet members like Ayelet Shaked we just shake our heads in disbelief.

    To respond to your hypothetical, I guess I would turn the question around and ask what you think would happen if Israel returned to the 1948 Partition boarders THEN both sides laid down their arms?

    Again, thanks for the open discussion. It is always very hard to have conversations like this because Jews and Arabs get so emotional and angry. I don’t know about others but dialogs like this are very helpful for goy like me.

    • A. David Wunsch

      I take issue with your
      ” I can never understand why Jews are always so adamant and confident that all reports critical of Israel, whether it be human rights organizations or UNited Nations input or even news outlets throughout Europe are not to be trusted.”

      specifically “why Jews.”
      I suspect that you don’t know many of us.
      See my posting from several days ago where I quote a well known Israeli writer Ari Shavit. And try visiting the web sites of J Street as well as the Jewish Voice for Peace. Learn about us Yids, you’ll be wiser. I belong to both of these organizations.

      ADW Staples 1956

      • That is not only insulting but dead wrong. I grew up in Westport surrounded by many close Jewish friends, girlfriends and relatives. Further, I have been in real estate development for 30 years where many if not most of my partners and associates have been and are Jews. I read your post and found it potentially biased to be honest. In fact this post of yours actually helps make my point about selective editorials! Thank you.

    • I take exception to your comment that “all Jews are always so…” That is like saying “all Blacks are…” This statement has awful connotations, intended or otherwise, and sickens me to my stomach.
      The recent election in Israel clearly shows the diversity of opinion on all topics including the peace process. There are about 25 Israeli political parties, of which 10 garner enough votes for seats in the parliament. The parties then form coalitions after the election. The coalition just formed by Prime Minister Netanyahu has 61 seats out of 120 – a razor thin and precarious majority. The election could have easily gone the other way – in fact, polls leading up to the elections predicted the opposite.
      In Westport, the incident at Temple Israel by the criminals terrorizing women and children unified our community – whether we are members of Aipac, J-Street, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Chabad, etc.
      Regarding the IDF, most Israelis, regardless of political party, support their troops. Similarly in the United States, most Americans, regardless of their political party, support our troops. We can argue about whether or not the politicians are making (or made) wise military and policy decisions, but most will agree about the need to support the young men and women serving our country.

      • Avi, I apologize for making my point using that choice of words. I agree it is reprehensible to use the “all” vernacular and that was not what I meant. I meant the Jews I often debate about news articles with. From your post it sounds like you are an Israeli citizen, is that right?

        • A. David Wunsch

          I would also add that the Republican Party is generally perceived as being friendlier toward Israel than the Democrats. Yet Jews vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. How do you explain that ?
          ADW
          Staples 1956

          • That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure that will continue. Jews are becoming more and more assimilated into white America. Other than Orthodox Jews I have read that intermarriage is on the rise and identifying with their religion as their identity is falling. I think the current thinking is that the more assimilated Jews become the less important Israel is to them and as a voting block their Jewishness becomes less of an influence. I also think back in the days of FDR Jewish voting as Democrats was nearly 100% it has gone up and down over the years but is definitely on a downward track. I am second generation Italian but have absolutely no affiliation with Italy, I know some first gen South Americans who are still very much aligned with their Country’s political problems and will probably vote for a U.S. Political party that supports their interests. I am not sure that will be the case with their children and probably not for their grandchildren. How do you explain it?

        • Born, raised, and educated in New York. Have lived in Westport for the past 20 years. Active in town government.

  49. As is almost always the case with these debates no one EVER changes anyone’s mind and we all waste our time reiterating our existing opinions and nothing ever changes. The only way for these to end is for one party to either agree against their will or to simply quit and disconnect. I am choosing the latter. Good luck arguing your points till your blue in the face. I’m done.

  50. Try to imagine these words with a Monty Python voice.