Speaking Out! (Rabbis, too!)

Peace in the Middle East.

Women praying and reading Torah at the Western Wall.

Voting Rights.

The Affordable Care Act.

The ban on residents of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days.

These are just 5 of the current issues that synagogues should be bringing people together to learn about, ask questions, and advocate for change. There are of course many more.

For many years, social justice has been an avenue of synagogue involvement for many. With so much going on in U.S. and throughout the world regarding the issues I noted above as well as others, this is the time for synagogues and their leadership to engage – through education and advocacy – with congregants on these critical issues of the day.

My friend Mark recently posted on his Facebook page that he will no longer be using Uber and will be deleting his corporate Uber account. We spoke about this at length the other day and about the immigration ban.

Mark shared with me that the rabbis and leadership of his synagogue were not doing anything about the ban – not writing on the synagogue’s website and Facebook pages, not bringing together congregants to discuss the issue. The communications platforms of his synagogue, as well as its leadership, were silent.

Mark belongs to a fairly large synagogue with two rabbis and a cantor and lots of other program and support staff. There are some well-known congregants – “titans of industry” – who are supporters of President Trump as well as some who were supporters of Hillary Clinton. Mark was having an extensive email exchange with the senior rabbi almost daily and spoke with him by telephone a couple of times, encouraging him to demonstrate leadership and do something to engage the congregation and advocate against the ban.

The rabbi shared with Mark that the number of emails he received regarding the ban had been 50-50 for and against. While the rabbi expressed his agreement with Mark that the President’s executive order for the ban is wrong and unjust, he was hesitant to act, feeling that while half of the congregation would be pleased, the other half might be a bit angry.

I have a hunch Mark was not the only person calling his rabbi. Apparently, at a recent board meeting a decision was made to have an open meeting on February 28th of the social justice committee to discuss and decide the top priorities for the social justice committee moving forward.

Like my friend Mark, I wish this rabbi would articulate his feelings about all that is wrong morally with the ban and, as importantly, the role the congregation can play to affect change. While the emails were split 50-50 for and against the executive order regarding the travel ban, it is a safe bet that many congregants didn’t take the time to send the rabbi an email or to call him.

And I am sure many congregants, at this synagogue, and in other synagogues throughout North America, are waiting for their rabbi to say and do something, and to offer some guidance.

3 comments on “Speaking Out! (Rabbis, too!)
  1. Larry Karol says:

    Thank you for this blog post, David. What I have found is that, in a congregation with diverse views, I do try to focus on values that Judaism teaches and to “lift those up” to make people think for themselves. Also, I try to find ways to take part in community coalitions that make my stance clear. Last week, I spoke at a rally at the local Islamic Center (in Las Cruces, NM) and I partnered with the Islamic center president, the local Catholic diocese Bishop, and a Lutheran pastor to create an interfaith service. A newspaper article on the service was clear on my participation and my message. The service, and a faith statement associated with it, were titled “Welcoming the Stranger.” I know there are people who will not accept my views in my congregation, but I also know that there are Temple members who attended the events and were enthusiastically supportive of my involvement. That is the way I avoid remaining silent.

    • admin says:

      Larry,

      How nice to hear from you!!

      Thanks so much for sharing how you deal with opposing opinions on social justice issues within your synagogue. I believe it is critical for congregational rabbis to set the example for their congregants on such important issues of the day. And have the inner strength to do so!!

      Many thanks!

      Best,

      David

  2. Anonymous says:

    While you claim social justice you have just made this post political.

    Our parents came to the USA in the 40s and before but they came here legally

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