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Religion & Politics in Your Synagogue

05/10/2016 02:29:32 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

As the presidential race heats up, the question of the role of religion in politics, especially here at Shomrei Torah, feels more urgent to me.  We do have a few guidelines.  For us to keep our non-profit tax exempt status we cannot favor one candidate over another.  We can and do get behind issues, just not candidates.  Following Rabbi Michael Robinson’s lead, may his memory be for a blessing, I do not declare my support for one candidate over another so that I can be a rabbi for all members and their political perspectives.

Nevertheless, there are many questions and opinions about what we should and should not do. For example, while many congregants appreciate sermons that touch on current political issues, others see the synagogue as a kind of sanctuary from political life. While Judaism has never recognized a separation of religions and politics, over time I have learned (I hope!) to temper what I bring to the congregation so that people with a variety of perspectives can feel welcome.  There are limits to this approach.  I don’t, for example, feel a need to create a space for someone who is homophobic or racist.

Here are some questions that are on my mind:

  • Even though supporting one candidate over another is off limits, what happens when a candidate’s behavior crosses moral or ethical boundaries?
  • How should I/we advocate for issues like Immigration Reform when in doing so we inadvertently align ourselves with one candidate over another?
  • Where is the line between progressive Reform Judaism, which CST supports, and progressive politics, which many members do not?

These questions are bigger than a synagogue’s leadership. They are best addressed by the whole congregation, which is why I’m asking you to join the conversation. Please post a comment below and share your thoughts.


Thu, July 16 2020 24 Tammuz 5780