Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I am so overjoyed about the recent Supreme Court decisions that I am
walking around with a silly grin on my face all the time. I love Obama.
I feel proud to be an American, and I think that we are finally out of
the recession. One of my closest friends and I cancel one another out
at every election. She is a Tea Party gal and I couldn’t but more
opposed to their divisiveness and shenanigans. We rarely discuss
politics but with the recent decisions have made everyone at our
temple abuzz with (mostly) joy. The rabbi ended our service last
Shabbat with “This Land is Our Land,” which I felt like never before.
But my friend is saying there should not be talk or even sympathy for
political issues from the pulpit or we are no better than eveangelicals.
Who is right? And how can I talk to her during an election year coming
up, which I am dreading?
Liberal and Proud
You speak respectfully and with conviction. You are as entitled to your
political and social opinions as she. That hold true for every member of
your congregation, including the rabbi. The issue is what is the role of
a rabbi and there are many schools of thought. One is that s/he should
be silent on controversial issues, and create a safe place for everyone
to hold whatever point of view they want. Another is that it is the duty
of a religious leader to speak from the pulpit, to be ahead of changing
social norms. Each congregation has its own identity and its own
culture. But rabbis help set that culture and yours clearly comes from
the activist school of tikkun olam (healing the brokenness of this
As for the upcoming election, it will likely make very few people happy.
There will be discontented folks on every point along the political
spectrum now and for years after. You and your friend need either to
agree to disagree or agree to have very focused, rational discussions
about specific issues. No potshots, no snide remarks, no gloating, no
disrespect, from either of you towards the others or towards the
other’s professed choice. Yes this will be hard for both of you. But it’s
better than losing a friend.