February 3, 2011
Rabbi who allegedly made homophobic remarks remains police chaplain
A Toronto-area police force will not remove a rabbi as its Jewish chaplain following complaints that he made homophobic remarks.
York Regional Police, north of Toronto, said Rabbi Mendel Kaplan remains a chaplain “in good standing” after a five-month probe by the force.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint last August by Kulanu Toronto, a group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Jews, alleging that Kaplan, spiritual leader of a Chabad synagogue, wrote a “homophobic” e-mail to Toronto rabbis.
The controversy arose in the wake of last summer’s Gay Pride Parade in Toronto in which the Canadian Jewish Congress urged communitywide support for gay Jews to counter an anti-Israel group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
Kulanu also cited a “vile” sermon allegedly offered by Kaplan “in which he attacked the LGBTQ community in a more than hateful and disgusting manner.” The group asked for a review of his status as a police chaplain.
In a Jan. 11 response to Kulanu, York Region Police said that after speaking with “experts,” it has determined that Kaplan’s statements were a “technically correct interpretation of scripture through his role as a rabbi” and “were not viewed as hateful.”
Kaplan told JTA that he was “very pleased” with the police decision.
“It was nothing unexpected,” the rabbi said. “All of the accusations were hearsay [and] untrue, and for that reason I have no concern.”
Kulanu Executive Director Justine Apple said although the police probe “seems fair,” she is disappointed with the decision. Apple said Kulanu is seeking an apology from Kaplan to his congregation and “perhaps even make a statement to the general Jewish LGBTQ in Toronto apologizing.”
Apple added that Kulanu may ask for a meeting with Kaplan.