The Author


Where is Jewish Columbus? Where is the Columbus Jewish News?

I have a real dilemma. I received a call about Beth Tikvah, a Reform Jewish congregation in Worthington, Ohio, hosting a pro-BDS (anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) speaker.  I don’t know how or why I was chosen to deal with it, but I guess few people have enough guts to speak out in Columbus, Ohio. I know I will get harassed for saying these things but so be it.

The speaker’s name is Koritha Mitchell. She is a professor of African-American Literature at Ohio State University.

I immediately researched this person. It took me exactly two minutes to find out all the information I needed.

First, she is a strong BDS supporter, no question about it. ven a cursory look at her Twitter feeds, statements and speeches confirms that.

The second thing I discovered — even more disturbing to me — is that she is a racist. Just read, watch and come to your own conclusions. Yes, black people can be racist as well, and she is.

I decided to discuss the matter with Beth Tikvah’s Rabbi Rick Kellner before writing anything. So I sent him a note to call me.

I asked the rabbi how many people had heard the speech. He said he didn’t’ know but thought it was over 20. So my impression from him was that it was ‘only’ a senior citizen event and no big deal.

I have a history with Rabbi Rick. We first met when I attended the first public meeting of the local chapter of J Street.

Frankly, it was not a pleasant conversation. I have been a long-time advocate for Israel, having served in the leadership of AIPAC, Israel Bonds, and many other groups. I helped organize rallies. I lived, slept, and breathed Israel. Most of my friends spent a considerable amount of time doing what we could to counter the media’s propaganda during the first and second intifada. This includes national news, the local newspaper, local media. I attended an editorial board meeting at the center-right Dispatch online magazine.

A Time to Speak Out

I did not consider myself to be on the right or the left at that time. I was just pro-Israel and pro-truth. It took thousands of years to return to our ancestral home and I was going to do everything I could to make sure we stay strong. I am not a Midwesterner, quiet is not in my vocabulary. Sorry, but there is a time for quiet and a time to speak out vociferously.

The J Street group, to me, was a slap in the face to our community. I believe the group was set up by the left – Obama and George Soros (no conspiracy theory here, look it up) to divide the Jewish community.

This had nothing to do with a two-state solution or politics; it, in my opinion, was designed to divide us and hurt Israel.

So with a few friends, I confronted the rabbi and tried to explain to him why this group was so detrimental and why he should not support them. I felt then, and I think now, that he is well-meaning, however dangerously naïve.

Now it is October 2021. The rabbi said that hosting Mitchell was not an issue. He said a volunteer group scheduled her talk and that he was not aware that she supported BDS. He added that his synagogue does not support BDS. I give him the benefit of the doubt, but I would like him to publicly disavow BDS and this speaker, whose viewpoints are abhorrent.

Now the discussion went to the next subject. I don’t believe in censorship; however, I asked the rabbi about Mitchell’s views on race? He spoke of anti-racism, the code word for Ibram X Kendi’s book on how to be an antiracist. There was a workshop in Columbus on it, which several rabbis attended a couple of summers ago. The rabbi asked if I had “even read it,” to which I answered, absolutely. I said I I believe the book is dangerous and that the author is a racist whose solution to the race problem is more racism. The rabbi disagreed with me.

My answer regarding both Mitchell and Kendis: Substitute the word white for black in both of their writings and then tell me they are not racist.

Jews who post BLM signs on their lawns actually support a group that hates them. Those people who support Kendis’ “anti-racist” views are actually supporting racism.

I am not a racist because I don’t support anti-racism. It is a farce, a front, a tactic of the Marxists to divide our country into groups of the “aggrieved.” There is actually a hierarchy of oppressed groups or intersectionality between these groups. According to this theory, American institutions are inherently racist, created by white people to permanently keep black people down.

White people and American institutions are inherently racist, according to critical race theory. Kendis’ solution?

“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

This is not helping black people; it is creating more divisiveness. It is not anti-racism; it is purely and simply racist. Discriminating against innocent people is unjust,. It is certainly not acceptable to take an entire group of people,whether they are white, black Christian or Jewish, and dehumanize them. How can that be justified? Very dangerous.

Giving a Platform to a Racist

So here we are, and I have spent a thoughtful couple of days thinking about what I could do.

I have generally heard wonderful things about Rabbi Rick as a pulpit rabbi. I have no issues with the Reform movement. I grew up in a Reconstructionist synagogue, which makes Reform look like a far-right reactionary group. I personally believe that there is beauty in all forms of Judaism.

I gave the rabbi the benefit of the doubt. After all, as a great Jewish sage once said, “this is business, not personal.”

I then found online that the event with Mitchell had been advertised.

I concluded that they knew about it and endorsed Mitchell’s positions, at least some of them. So either this was a case of not doing their homework or, worse, giving this racist and BDS supporter a platform.

I asked myself, would this group have invited a white supremacist, a KKK member — or even worse (sarcasm intended), Dennis Prager — to speak? Absolutely not! They would be the first to boycott, cancel, dismiss people as innocuous as Prager or Larry Elder.

No, I don’t believe in canceling everyone with a different perspective. However, if their point of view includes clearly racist, antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, the should not be given a platform by a Jewish congregation.

Columbia University gave Mahmood Ahmadinejad ( former Iranian leader) a platform. A man who believes that the 12th Imam is going to pop out of a well and start World War 3, which includes the destruction of world Jewry, should have been banned.

I firmly believe that outing people in our community who support such nonsense is critical. For instance, there was recently a front-page story on a local man who wrongfully commented on Twitter, equating masks with the holocaust.

Now, where is Jewish Columbus? Where is the Columbus Jewish News?

Mitchell has consistently supported boycotting Israeli academic institutions. She supported “Students for Justice in Palestine,” a group that harasses Jewish students in our colleges. My own son experienced this at the American University. When he confronted them, a member attempted to choke him.

Suffice to say, Rabbi, you are giving tacit approval to this kind of behavior with your acquiescence to these viewpoints.

Yes, Rabbi, this is a story, one that we should be shouting from the rooftops. But, unfortunately, these viewpoints are becoming insidious in our community. They should not be given a platform, and you should be ashamed to be associated with such people.

Article by Larry Levine

Originally from Long Island, New York, Larry Levine lives in Columbus Ohio. He is an award-winning businessman/pro-Israel activist, writer. Also a standup comedian and talk show host whose guests included Jay Leno, Alexander Haig and Paul Reiser.