Pamela Geller invited to speak at Chabad of Great Neck
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A Great Neck Jewish organization has invited controversial activist Pamela Geller to speak Sunday morning after a synagogue in the same community canceled her scheduled appearance following widespread criticism.
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky of Chabad of Great Neck said Thursday he invited Geller -- who helped lead opposition to the so-called Ground Zero mosque and has lobbied against what she deems Islamic extremism -- because he believes everyone has a right to say what they want.
"We believe in freedom of speech. We believe in love and appreciate everyone to say whatever they have on their minds," Geisinsky said. "We are not supporting any type of hatred."
Geller also received an invitation to speak Sunday night at Congregation Beth-El in Edison, N.J. That synagogue's rabbi, Bernhard Rosenberg, said he was angered by alleged threats against the Great Neck Synagogue, which originally invited Geller to speak Sunday morning.
"Two courageous and magnificent rabbis have asked me to speak on Sunday," Geller wrote on her blog. "I commend them both for it. The cancellation by the Great Neck Synagogue was particularly craven and cowardly . . . Both of these rabbis are standing up for the freedom of speech and the defense of the Jewish people."
Rosenberg said he hopes "to pack the place."
"In the United States you should be allowed to speak," he said.
Geller's organization, Stop Islamization of America, has been classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights anti-Semitism and bigotry, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.
"I don't think that a person who has said the horrific and deceitful things that she has said belongs in our community," he said. "I'm sorry she's coming. I think it's an affront to all people who believe in decency."
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center said: "Rabbi Geisinsky says he believes in free speech and that's why he's invited hatemonger Pam Geller to speak at the Great Neck Chabad. Would the rabbi also invite a Nazi to make a speech on National Socialism?"
In an announcement on its website, the Great Neck Synagogue cited concerns about legal liability and security risks as reasons for canceling Sunday's speech by Geller.
Geller had planned to speak on the "Imposition of Sharia in America." The synagogue had attracted criticism for the invitation from religious groups and leaders, including from other synagogues.