Engaging members about the election & our leaders
Prologue: I wrote my post-election reflection last week as a compassionate response, not as a political statement. Throughout the election cycle, I encountered fear and anxiety in many, representing for me real rabbinic responsibility. And so, as a matter of pastoral care, I responded swiftly and publicly to comfort those in need at the election's conclusion. In need because the prejudice against many, including Jews, became apparent throughout the election season and, and so unleashed, fuels authentic worry for many in our congregation going forward. While I can accept the outcome of the election, I cannot accept the bigotry, like anti-Semitism, demonstrated along the way. In fact, in this space and from our bimah, I have already criticized both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for standing in silence while their lieutenants acted anti-Semitically--not a political commentary, but a moral one...a Jewish one.
Walking the line between appropriate and inappropriate Jewish discourse with obvious political implications can be slippery. I recognize there are legitimate economic and political concerns that must be resolved going forward, and I hope our president-elect will make a difference. And, I hope we will help out. But victory despite prejudice causes me pause and calls me to invoke a passionate and prophetic voice. At the same time, I am called to take care of my congregation--my whole congregation--in its time of need. That being said, if anyone among us felt that I assumed we all voted the same way and are thus disappointed in me or angry, I understand, and I am sorry. Sometimes when I speak to many, I don't always speak to all. Not at the same time, anyway. Perhaps this time and subsequently, I can reach even more of us.
Sunday morning, I sat with 15 or so adults, and we checked in post-election. I hoped to hear where people are at, and I wanted to begin discussion on our communal direction going forward. As Jews. As Americans. I also wanted to frame our conversation in Jewish ethics--namely, the valued relationship between love and justice and the importance of finding unity in diversity. I look forward to sitting with more of you--no matter for whom you cast your ballot--to listen and learn and lend Jewish insight. We had a good conversation, and I will keep you posted on upcoming conversations.
Around the table, we tapped into disappointment and fear. But, we also expressed hope that we can do something about these complicated feelings in our hearts and the complex future our nation faces. We spoke of disconnect and empathy and finding ways to step with chesed (care and grace) into the breach at divides many of us American citizens across the nation--no matter whom our candidate-of-choice. We spoke of listening better and learning more. But, we also spoke of mourning the sadness and embracing the anger that makes it genuinely hard, for many of us, to open our hearts for the time being. And perhaps most importantly, we spoke of activating and organizing and finding ways to make a difference.
Inspired, I spent time Monday re-watching a recent interview of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and I felt even more fired up. In sum, Sen. Warren named the hurt that many feel. She named the dejection. She spoke of the "toxic brew" of bigotry. Of the election, Sen. Warren said calmly: "It happened." But she also made a compelling challenge.. We can lie down. Or whimper. Or pull up in a ball. Or move to Canada.... Or we can fight back. We can come out of the shadows and find ourselves welcomed into the transformative work ahead. When it comes to core issues that endow every single human with dignity, we must stand up and never back down. "Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever."
And practically speaking, Sen. Warren gave us a game plan for action--one I'd like us to consider adopting as our own. First, volunteer. Concerned about the preservation of reproductive rights? Volunteer your time at Planned Parenthood. Worried about immigration? Give your time to the fight for immigrant's rights. Mad about the lack of economic justice or financial reform? Get involved with organizations seeking meaningful change. Let us ensure our voices are heard. Let us make the essential sacrifice of time. Let us give our talents. May I suggest we create a volunteer fair here at Emanuel to help us learn about getting more involved in civic society, engaging more passionately in the protection of civil liberties and the humanity of all. I need some help organizing such an experience. And, second, stay connected to others. Through internet. By email. And, as we discussed locally on Sunday, on road trips. To learn about the lives of others not in our back yard. To talk about substantive issues. To build more pluralistic approaches to solving our nation's problems. To ready ourselves to mobilize in smart and strategic ways as a collective force for good on the issues our nation contends with day-to-day.
How does that sound so far? I am hoping to hear from you--whether you agree with me or not. In the meantime, the staff and I meet today to discuss possibilities for communal action and social justice. We will be in touch to let you know of our progress.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!
Zie gezunt (Be well):
Rabbi Craig Marantz