Shanda of the Month
The late Meir Kahane published an eponymous monthly, replete with a Swine of the Month
award. I am not Meir Kahane. I would however suggest that some current Jewish publication feature a Shanda of the Month award. For front runner of this month’s recipient, I nominate Adas Israel Congregation, in Washington D.C. for having the President of this country speak from the pulpit, the past Friday.
Politics and Piety don’t mix. They never have. Despite the well-honed definition of Separation of Church and State, any rabbi, priest, minister, imam who invites an elected official to deliver a political message from the Bimah or any reasonable facsimile… has bats in his belfry. Congregants of the majority of synagogues in this country, have stronger feelings about politics than they do about G-d. Other than self-aggrandizement, no rabbi stands a snowball’s chance in hell of winning over, persuading, or dissuading a congregant of his/her political beliefs. In case you haven’t realized, the role of the rabbi is to make better informed, as well as more observant Jews out of his congregants; the role of the rabbi does not extend into making better educated or more involved Republicans or Democrats out of his congregants. Furthermore, it is extremely unlikely that those at Adas Israel Congregation, who came to hear the President of these United States address them from the pulpit last Friday, came away with their political beliefs changed. I could be wrong, but the picture that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, showed a Torah Scroll resting in its holder outside the ark. Unless there was some sort of Jewish holiday last Friday that I was not aware of, or unless the rabbi decided to sidestep Halacha and give the Present an Aliyah to the Torah, the Torah belongs in the ark! Chock up another Shanda for Adas Israel for theatrics on the Bimah!
I don’t know who invited whom, but I suspect that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue reached out to Adas Israel, given the relationship or lack thereof between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel. My advice to any and all clergy: Do not take the bait. As tempting and tantalizing as it may be to be able to say that the President or the Senator or the Governor spoke from your pulpit, it is asking for trouble. There will inevitably be those in the congregation who will accuse you of promoting one political party over the other. Should it happen that the President of these United States wishes to address your congregation, then I recommend that the following three steps be taken:
1) Turn the invitation over to Mens Club or Sisterhood
2) Wait until the President is out of office to accept the invitation
3) Extend the invitation to the former President and invite another former President, typically his predecessor from a different political party to appear at the same program.
Does this mean that elected officials should not be welcome in a house of worship? To the contrary! Any President of this country, any Governor, Senator, and Congressman from any state should be welcome at any time. As that elected official enters the sanctuary, hand him a siddur, show him to a seat and have him sit and worship along with the rest of the congregants. But above all, don’t let the scenario go to your head, because in all likelihood that elected official doesn’t have a prayer.