about 100 people showed up at the Lubavitch community centre in Thornhill Tuesday night to eulogize Binyamin Zeev Kahane, son of racialist Meir Kahane, who was assassinated 10 years ago.The younger Kahane and his wife were killed two weeks ago in Israel's occupied territories on their way home from a birthday celebration.
And while tonight has been set aside to remember him, much of the proceedings will be spent attacking Israel's efforts to make peace with the Palestinians.
Canadian Jewish Congress president Moshe Ronen and B'nai Brith head Frank Dimant have been invited. Neither shows. Nor did either respond immediately to NOW's requests for comment.
The Chabad Lubavitch synagogue has an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic congregation, and services are conducted in Hebrew. Still, one leader in the Jewish community I speak to is surprised that the space would be made available to Kahane's followers.
Rabbi Moshe Spalter says later that there was never any question about offering space for the meeting, despite Kahane's controversial reputation.
"People are being murdered," Spalter says. The synagogue's head rabbi, David Schochet, will be a speaker.
Any association with Kahane is a delicate matter. His movement's political wing, Kach, has been banned in Israel. The U.S. state department considers Kach a terrorist group because it claims responsibility for the shooting of several Palestinians.
Kahane's North American headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, were just last week raided by the FBI. When reached by NOW, FBI spokesperson Joe Valiquette would not give details about the reason for the raid, saying that information is under court seal. The centre mixes lessons in hand-to-hand combat, "street fighting," judo and boxing with its Torah teachings.
Its director, Michael Guzofsky, is here tonight, along with a security detail who are communicating through mikes in their wristwatches.
Passages from the Torah will be read, politics mixed with prayers recited in Hebrew. It's time to make Kahane the martyr, Kahane the prophet. The Jewish people, Guzofsky says, couldn't have hoped for a "purer" one. Born and raised in Israel, he was uncontaminated by "foreign influences."
But he wonders why more of those present didn't show up to hear Kahane speak when he was in Toronto a few weeks ago. "Either you're with us or you're against us," he says, before asking for donations for the cause.
The rabbi Schochet says the Torah teaches that it's all right "to desecrate the sabbath to make weapons to destroy our enemies."
Meir Halevi, a local Kahane spokesperson, tells the story of Noah. For 120 years he warned non-believers. But then the great flood came and wiped them out. It's the same with the Arabs, Halevi says. They won't stop "until they kill every Jew in Israel."
Halevi, aka Marvin Weinstein, is a trained bodyguard who served in the Israeli army. "The so-called mainstream leaders of the Jewish community," he tells me, "are betraying their people."
Sadly, almost lost in the politicking is the fact that the Kahanes' deaths left their children orphaned. A cousin of Kahane's takes the podium. He sings a prayer and thanks the gathering for allowing him to mourn in front of them.
The meeting disperses. "We can no longer sit on the sidelines," someone shouts over their heads. The writings of Kahane are being sold for $20 on tables set up outside. Those browsing are encouraged to log onto Kahane's Web site, where everything from mugs to jewellery is sold.
There they'll also find some disturbing messages posted by Kahane's supporters. "I am hungry for Muslim blood," writes one. But another asks, "Is there any way we can get along, please?"