are now as many versions of the story
as there are people to tell
Toronto, February 15, 2001
VOL. 20 NO. 25
[Images added by
Brith tears strip off Jewish
NOW MAGAZINE (Toronto) | FEB 15 - 21,
community leaders, especially those
connected to the country's two pre-eminent
Jewish organizations, are not in the habit
of airing their dirty laundry in public.
It's an unwritten rule. But that all
changed in the aftermath of the Israeli
elections last week when B'Nai
Brith went to
press with a story in its official organ,
the Jewish Tribune, blasting
and on the front page, no less.
"Entire Jewish Community Embarrassed By
CJC," the Tribune headline blared. The two
groups, of which B'Nai Brith tends to be
the more conservative, have had tense
relations on and off for years.
The latest fracas began when CBC
Newsworld was at the CJC's Lipa Green
building on Bathurst to film the reaction
of locals, regular folk coming in from off
the street to watch election results
trickling in via satellite from
Some hell broke loose, apparently, when
it was discovered that B'Nai Brith
executive vice-president Frank
Dimant had been invited by the CBC to
come and offer comment.
The Tribune article claims that Farber
got the CBC to drop Dimant from a list of
speakers scheduled to talk about the
results just minutes before the network
was scheduled to go live to air.
There were reportedly heated exchanges.
Or so the story goes.
"It was humiliating," says Dimant.
Farber, on the other hand, offers a
decidedly different version when reached
Higher-ups in the CJC are handling
calls on the matter, but Farber, for his
part, says the Tribune piece "is nothing
but self-serving, purposeful
Farber figures he should at least have
been offered the opportunity by the
Tribune to respond to the allegations.
There is no byline on the piece. Dimant
says he didn't write it, but won't tell
who did. "It was a combination of people."
The eyewitness quoted is not
The only other person quoted in the
piece, B'Nai Brith senior vice-president
Rochelle Wilner, did not respond to
NOW's request for comment.
Most of the players involved in this
unfortunate mess are unwilling to say much
-- on the record, at least.
Talk to CJC reps and they'll tell you
that all they wanted was for the CBC to
add CJC president Moshe Ronen to
the list of commentators, not drop Dimant
-- a misunderstanding, as it were.
Talk to the CBC and they'll tell you
they were pressured to drop Dimant or face
the prospect of being asked to leave the
building and pull the plug on the live
telecast. The network ended up
"We were put under a great deal of
pressure," says one CBC source. "We were
live on air, the election returns were
coming in. There weren't any slots left
(for interviews). Somebody was going to
have to go."Exit
B'Nai Brith has asked the Jewish
Federation of Greater Toronto to
investigate and wants a public apology
from the CJC.
Ronen, according to another source, has
already had lunch with Dimant and offered
a full and personal apology. Ronen did not
return NOW's calls.
But political tensions between B'Nai
Brith and the CJC have long simmered below
B'Nai Brith's leadership is generally
more conservative -- Dimant himself
flirted with the idea of running for the
Canadian Alliance last fall -- while the
CJC is decidedly more centrist.
This latest dust-up probably has more
to do with the two organizations' opposing
views on Israeli politics and Canadian
Jewry's role in them than with their vying
for media coverage. The issue of an
undivided, totally Jewish Jerusalem, it
seems, is as divisive in some parts of the
Jewish community as it is between Jews and
Last month another conflict arose
between the two groups over a pro-Israel
ad that ended up running in the country's
three major Jewish newspapers: the
Tribune, the Suburban and the Canadian
The B'Nai Brith leadership, including
Dimant and Wilner, signed the full-page ad
that proclaimed, among other things, "the
enduring and timeless link between
Jerusalem and the Jewish people (and) a
united Jerusalem under Israeli
Ronen and other Congress officers,
however, made the decision not to sign,
saying that issues of sovereignty and
security, both central to ongoing
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, are for
Israelis to decide.
The Congress's brain trust also
expressed concern about the timing of the
ad, which ran only a week before the
Says Rubin Friedman, the CJC's
Ottawa-based national communications
director, "Our opinion was that it would
not be appropriate in the time just before
Then there was the reception
ultra-conservative Zionist Natan
Sharansky, a member of the Israeli
Knesset, received on a recent visit to
Sharansky was in town for a One
Jerusalem rally. A press conference
originally slated to take place at the
Village Shul was moved outside at the 11th
Dimant cites the community's confusion
over the CJC leadership's decision not to
endorse the Jerusalem ad as a contributing
factor in the shul's decision.
The shul released a statement
explaining that it "didn't want to convey
the mistaken impression that the shul
officially aligns itself with any
political view." A dinner at the shul for
Sharansky did go ahead as scheduled.
Mordechai Bookbinder, a
spokesperson for the shul, says the ad
flap had nothing to do with the decision.
And that's all he'll say.
"There was a great rabbi who wrote
about the laws of gossiping, (which) can
be more divisive than what may or may not
have happened," he says.
Related files on this
For Bernie Farber's role in securing
Canada's 1992 illegal
deportation of David Irving, by the
use of documents
forged by the Board
of Deputies of British Jews about
him, see Global