Reply to comment by Rabbi who attacked Brigitte Gabriel.

Shortly after I wrote the article Aussie Rabbi Attacks Brigitte Gabriel, I received the followed message from Rabbi Kennard on Facebook:

James Kennard 10:30pm Mar 15

Dear Ms Hopf,

Thanks for the write up in “Jews Down Under”.

I must share with you my thought that, given my very strong support for Israel, regularly expressed in my AJN Column, my own FB page, and my messages to my students in school, perhaps you and Ralph Zwier are spending time attacking the wrong target – time and attention that could be more usefully focussed on actual anti-Israel propaganda, rather than someone whose “crime” seems to be telling students that Bridgette Gabriel’s view may not be the only one?

Here is my reply:

Dear Rabbi Kennard,

Thank you for your message in reply to my article.  I can assure you I didn’t query your support for Israel, but rather was expressing concern that you chose to denounce an eminent speaker, Brigitte Gabriel.  As someone invited to speak at Mount Scopus Memorial College, presumably by the School Board, she deserved to be accorded respect.

It would therefore seem inappropriate to undermine the School’s choice by writing to the students giving your personal, extremely critical views about what she said, especially given that Ms Gabriel is an acknowledged authority on Islam, both through her own lived experience as well as her extensive research and scholarship.

I am puzzled about your view that only Muslims can pronounce on Islam.  Surely in a free society like Australia, people have the right to discuss any belief system they choose.  If they cross the line and stray into racial abuse, defamation or incitement to violence, there are laws which can be used against them.

I was also surprised that you wrote emails to the students after the talk, which amounts to telling the students what to think, rather than allowing them to use their own judgment.  Presumably they were senior students, so surely they had a sufficiently broad education to evaluate the content of what Brigitte Gabriel had to say on the subject of Islam.

I note that your school is involved in the Building Bridges programme, the Muslim sponsors of which are the Islamic Council of Victoria.  To be logically consistent with your response to Brigitte Gabriel, you would also need to send an email to your students warning them about ICV’s dislike of Israel .

For example, in a Media Release dated July 10 2014, headed

“ICV condemns Israeli attack on Palestine”, they wrote:

In the last 72 hours the world has been witness to an unfolding atrocity in Palestine at the hands of Israel. The Islamic Council of Victoria is appalled and horrified at the wanton attack on the Palestinian people, homes and civil institutions. The loss of life, particularly those of children and unarmed civilians, is an indictment on the state of Israel and all nations that remain silent in the face of such abhorrent actions.

The ICV draws attention to the fact that Israel is an illegal occupier of Palestinian land and has for many years refused to abide by numerous resolutions of the United Nations. It is an occupying force that in recent days has been indiscriminately murdering Palestinians without any reasonable excuse or justification.

The ICV calls on the Australian government, and all people of good conscience regardless of race, religion or creed, to voice their collective repulsion for the actions of Israel and take all actions and measures possible to force the Israeli government to cease their wanton murder of innocent Palestinians.

“The Australian government cannot continue in its blind support for the state of Israel in the face of such heinous and inhumane actions on its part. The Islamic community demands an immediate response from the Government on this serious issue,” Mr Krayem said.

The ICV calls on the government to issue an immediate unequivocal condemnation of Israel demanding it cease all military actions against Palestine and to meet with Islamic leaders urgently to assure the community of its commitment to the value of all lives whether they be Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim or Jewish.

You end your message

“you and Ralph Zwier are spending time attacking the wrong target – time and attention that could be more usefully focussed on actual anti-Israel propaganda”.

Precisely Rabbi Kennard!  Maybe rather than attacking Brigitte Gabriel, a staunch supporter of Israel and the Jews, you should be focussing on those who spread anti-Israel propaganda such as in this media release!

With Best Wishes,

Pam Hopf


Link to the interview with Rabbi Kennard on ‘Nothing Left’ with Michael Burd and Alan Freedman, followed by

Rev Mark Durie, Islamic scholar who responds to Rabbi Kennard.


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  1. I don’t know the first thing about Rabbi Kennard, I have no idea about who, or what he is and no doubt he is a staunch supporter of Israel.

    This has nothing at all to do with that. This is a whole other issue and one which Kennard should not have tried to influence students about.

    Surely if the school board saw fit to allow Ms Gabriel to speak he shouldn’t have intervened with his own opinion.?.

    • I think kennard views his own opinions as overriding others. he didn’t mind vilifying the rabbinical council to the antisemitic Age. He’s an arrogant fart

      • What did he say Scott? I’m not Melbournian so I’m not in the loop but from what I am now hearing from a number of sources, it appears that he is very arrogant and self opinionated. I got the same feeling a short while ago when I listened to the podcast.

  2. Shirley he told the age that the current rabbinical council could not be trusted and so he wanted to form a breakaway group. Naturally he would be the leader

    • OMG how arrogant can you get?

      Thanks Scott.

      Whilst he is criticising Brigitte Gabriel, maybe he should ask himself why on earth he allowed Hagai El-Ad of the vile New Israel Fund to speak at the school. Especially as he claims he is such an ardent Zionist and the NIF funds a good number of the worst Israeli NGOs, who get their funds form the even worst anti-Israel countries.

      • Yes, definitely a sense of self-importance there and a feeling that whatever he does must not be challenged. He made a wrong call with Brigitte Gabriel, and insulted not only her, but the Jewish organisations that brought her out, which I think were UIA and JNF. Yet he remains unrepentant.

        I didn’t know they had someone from the NIF to speak at the school. As a lover of Israel, surely the good rabbi would find that objectionable. Or is it OK to welcome someone who criticises Israel, and thus facilitates her delegitimisation, but not OK for a person who criticises Islam?

        • Hagai El-Ad speaking to Mt Scopus Students. Oct 2012They sure did Pam photos are on the NIF FB page and there was a stink about it

  3. shirlee, as Scott says, Kennard showed his leadership ambitions after the ultra orthodox rabbis were shamed for not speaking out about sex abuse.

  4. Larry Langman

    I listened carefully to the interview with Kennard on J-Air and would agree that his “advisory” to students was not all that useful, instead I would have re-enforced to students that this a “a” view of a lived experience of a non-Islamic person living in an Islamic land. To suggest that the situation of such folk as more “nuanced”….is weak in the extreme and I would agree insulting to the invited speaker. To my mind I would have spent the whole opportunity of hearing what that lived experience was…..and given the students an opportunity of a highly engaged Q&A about what life was like in Lebanon for a Christian. This would have given these students a real insight of what life “on the other side” was like. I would like to think that ever student in a Jewish day school knows what the word “Dhimmi” meant and what the life experience of someone living under that system meant!

    But I would equally have done the same for Hagai El-Ad……To protect our kids from the likes of Hagai, to not have him on a stage, is to pretend that such sentiments do not exist in the Jewish body politic……and that isn’t clever. Instead get them in the spotlight, find out what they’re on about, test their evidence, test their ideas, test their solutions…..and if their ideas lead to a loss of a Jewish state – then that spotlight has done its job!

    The callout by Kennard and Goodhardt was well timed and appropriate, and it was carried in most of the coverage of the Royal Commission reporting. It said we need to respond we need to act we were silent for too long…..just the right words. That the rabbinic bodies actually do something is a different matter – but the callout to my view was right. And perfectly timed.

    • Larry, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree that Kennard could have used the visit to expose students to the lived experience of a Christian living among Muslims, which could then have led to a productive discussion. He showed disrespect both to the invited speaker and to his students by not allowing them to gain an insight into what life was like for Brigitte. I doubt very much that he would allow a word like “dhimmi” to be uttered in the school, as he is very protective of Islamic sensibilities.

      I also agree that people from NIF need to be challenged and students need to develop skills to evaluate the arguments for themselves. I wonder if Kennard directed his students to challenge the ideas Hagai El-Ad put forward. I rather doubt it.

      My strong belief is that Rabbis enjoy a strong position and people are reluctant to challenge them. Yet Judaism never deifies rabbis, who are just teachers, and some are better than others. They are not infallible and we can and must be free to query their actions.