Richard Goldstone said he will not attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah because of information his family received from the synagogue and a group’s protest threat.
Goldstone, a former South Africa judge who has taken heat for his commission’s report on the Gaza war in 2009, made the fullest account of his decision to stay away from the simcha in a letter that appeared Thursday in the daily South African newspaper Business Day.
“Acting on information that we received from the synagogue, and the recent threat by the leader of the South African Zionist Federation of demonstrations if I attend the synagogue service, it was decided that it would be better if I did not attend the bar mitzvah,” he wrote.
His decision to skip the bar mitzvah next month, under pressure from the Zionist federation’s threat to protest, was reported last week. The letter was written in protest of an Op-Ed in the same paper the day before by South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein.
Goldstein sought to distance himself from the threats of protest, saying that although Goldstone’s U.N. report charging Israel and Hamas with war crimes in last year’s Gaza war had “unfairly done enormous damage to the reputation and safety of the state of Israel and her citizens,” it was his policy to promote “open synagogues.”
“I am proud and grateful that in SA, our synagogues have consistently been beacons of openness and inclusiveness,” Goldstein wrote. “We do not turn away any congregants because of what they have done, or not done, or who they are, or what opinions they hold.”
Goldstone angrily refuted this claim.
“His rhetoric about ‘open synagogues’ simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated,” Goldstone wrote. “I must state that at no time whatsoever has the chief rabbi reached out to my family.”