Miami’s Temple Israel on Thursday canceled a program featuring Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz after a high-profile Republican donor quit the congregation to protest the top Democratic congresswoman’s speech.
Stanley Tate, a well-known philanthropist and prominent Republican who started Florida’s prepaid college tuition program, resigned from the temple after he learned Wasserman Schultz would be talking about Israel after services on Friday night, and that he wouldn’t get an opportunity for rebuttal.
The temple’s president, Ben Kuehne, a Miami attorney, said the event was canceled because of security concerns. He said they “certainly embrace the congresswoman’s willingness to participate in one of our programs,” but decided it was “unwise to proceed with the program tomorrow.”
Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, called it an unusual situation, due in part to the temple’s “internal politics.” Temple Israel, which invited her to speak, is just outside her Florida congressional district.
“I believe strongly that in a democracy people should be able to hear from and interact with their elected officials, which is why I gladly accepted Temple Israel’s invitation to speak as I have previously to many organizations and religious institutions throughout South Florida,” she said. “It is unfortunate that some would allow politics to stand in the way of citizens’ ability to interact with their representative.”
Tate’s resignation came after he asked the temple’s leadership to let him speak in response to Wasserman Schultz. When they wouldn’t do so, Tate said he would leave the congregation. Tate, 85, is co-chair of Mitt Romney’s campaign in Miami-Dade County. He also has a national role in the GOP presidential candidate’s campaign.
“She’s the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee,” he said. “The topic is the U.S.-Israel relationship. There cannot be any conversation on that topic, none, unless it has to do with the politics.”