Jan 18, 2017

Empty Shuls this Shabbat: A Rabbinic Comment on the Inauguration

From Rabbi Creditor: 
Empty Shuls this Shabbat:
A Rabbinic Comment on the Inaugration
Tevet 19, 5777
January 18, 2017

Dear Chevreh,

This is a tricky email to send. While "freedom of the pulpit" is one kind of dance rabbis try to manage, speaking with reverence for a community's diverse political passions in the midst of a deeply troubling American political moment is much, much trickier. 

We are not a politicized shul, not on American politics, not on Israeli politics, not on any topic. A progressive community can take nuanced and varying positions on just about every topic.


We are living in a very complicated moment, one that is above and far beyond conventional conversations about politics, and it would be rabbinic (and, dare I say, communal) malpractice to not engage. And so, I will do my part as sensitively as I can, and ask you to do the same, calling upon the best angels of our natures as we love each other through a harsh American moment.

In short, I'm sharing with you all that if Netivot Shalom is empty this Shabbat morning because members of Netivot Shalom are marching as part of the nationwide response to the Presidential Inauguration, that would be a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophetic call, to "cry with a full throat, without restraint. (Is. 58:1)" 

The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of American democracy. Civic engagement and non-violent protest is no less vital to the health and protection of that same American democracy. As Jews, we are called to "seek the welfare of the government, without which neighbors would tear each other apart. (Pirkei Avot)" 

An important article was just published in the Times of Israel, in which I am included as part of the growing American Rabbinic Resistance movement. You can find that article here. I am deeply worried about this American moment, as a Jew, as a father, as an American. That is why I cannot abstain from thoughtful action today. I ask you to consider your own feelings and act accordingly.

Some of us will fast on Friday, an interfaith moment of unity, calling to God for guidance as crude language, attacks on free speech and public health, exalted misogyny and emboldened American White Supremacy (see here and here for more information on the #InaugurationFast). Some of us will march, or join other efforts to resist the threats to American Healthcare & Reproductive Rights, LGBTQ Rights and Racial Equality. We are called to "pray with our legs," as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel modeled 50 years ago in Selma.

And, to be clear, the concern for every other does not mean that Jews in America are immune to the increase in hate crimes that have taken place since the election. Just today, at least 32 Jewish institutions across the United States we targeted in a second wave of bomb threats. (for more information, click here). Please know that Netivot Shalom is in touch with all of the appropriate agencies, and our security taskforce has been working on this with staff and the board. 

My message, dear friends, in sharing this with you in this way, and in connecting it to the emerging American #JewishResistance movement is this: Jews have learned the lessons of the past. We've seen this before. Silence in the face of encroaching hatred is not an option. We must be brave. 

I have recorded a video message, related to this one. You can view it here

Friends, if this is a place of disagreement for you and for me, I ask you to come talk to me. You matter more than politics, and a real relationship, as Pirkei Avot teaches, isn't based on any single thing. A real relationship is bigger than any thing. I have faith in that, and in our capacity to love each other above politics. As Rabbi Brad Hirshfield once wrote, "You don't need to be wrong for me to be right." We can both be right.

With much love, 

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