We are a great people because we questioned, we argued, and we stuck to our principles. Why is it that in 2016 we have suddenly shut down dissent?
We are a stiff necked bunch, we Jews. I wouldn’t want to be a pulpit rabbi. No matter what they do, they face a very tough audience. With this in mind, I am about to make their lives even harder.
I know that this will come to a shock to many of you, but Jews tend to vote Democrat…. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
I am not afraid of confrontation, political discussion and tackling hard issues. However, I have become weary of some of what I have seen going on in different synagogues that I have attended over the last several years.
Just this past week, a local synagogue began promoting a “get out the vote drive.” They are going to predominantly poor African-American areas in town so that they can get them to register to vote. Now take two guesses who that benefits?
A couple of months back, I spoke out when I heard that a rabbi (whom I have had issues with) scream out “Trump” instead of the evil “Haman” during the reading of the Purim megillah (Scroll of Esther). Definitely not appropriate on any level.
This was the same synagogue that started a J Street chapter, had open rallies for President Obama, and banned me and others from putting Republican Jewish Coalition flyers on their cars. (OK, they used an obscure rule that they made up on the spot, banning anyone from putting materials on cars.)
Diverse speakers and opinions should be welcome at any synagogue.
During the 2102 election, with Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate, I tried to organize a debate or an informational meeting with both Republicans and Democrats for the community. Not only was I told that I couldn’t hold it at the Jewish community center (JCC), but the head of the JCC at the time said that he was raising money for the center and that I would have a hard time finding any synagogue in town letting me have such a meeting with Republicans.
We are a great people because we questioned, we argued, and we stuck to our principles. The Talmud was written precisely with rabbis arguing for days, weeks, and even years over different interpretations. Why is it that in 2016 we have all of a sudden shut down dissent?
So this year I am going to try another approach. I am writing an open letter to all Jewish clergy. If you want to discuss politics, then bring both sides in for the discussion.
With the upcoming holidays I wanted to take the time to discuss an important issue. As I am sure you are aware there is a very contentious Presidential race going that will be decided only a few weeks after the High Holy Days.
Judaism, as in life has many different forms, observances and traditions. We respect all of them just as we respect ethnic, religious, cultural diversity in our daily lives. I want to remind you that there are differing opinions, philosophies and political leanings that need to be respected as well.
I am sending this note to remind you that the pulpit is not a place to take sides, support one particular party or candidate directly or indirectly. It is inappropriate, it is wrong on many levels, and most importantly as a 501 C it also has legal consequences.
So whether or not you support Jill Klein, Hillary Clinton Gary Johnson or Donald Trump, please remember that religion and politics as a charitable organization don’t mix.
This also includes indirect endorsements. For example; disparaging the building of a wall by Donald Trump, or espousing open borders by Hillary Clinton. It will be plainly obvious which position you are taking.
One man’s xenophobia is another man’s real concern about security. Respect should be given to both.
I am not going to get in to a rabbinic discussion on the merits of different policies. We all have our opinions. If you decide to bring politics into the synagogue this Rosh Hashana, do it with balance.
If you truly feel like you cannot or will not support a particular candidate, just don’t vote for him or her.
I thank you and wish you a Shana Tova.