Repost from 2011
What do you do when you admire your religious leader for his compassion and caring but hate hate hate his politics. I have written before about my Rabbi, who belongs to such groups as JStreet (not Z Street, the pro-Israel organization that the Obama IRS has decided to undermine and violate the laws of the US in the process) and is an ardent progressive. I love his understanding of Torah and his compassion for his fellow human being. In fact if it weren’t for his goodness my sons, who both have an autism spectrum disorder, would never have become bar mitzvahs. No other Rabbi in our area would help them, even the Rabbi from the Temple in which my in-laws were founding members, rejected my children. But at the same time I feel that the Rabbi with his politics is leading the Jewish people down a path of destruction. You bet we are an AIPAC family.
I suppose I was able to ignore his politics for years because I felt that no matter what he thought and did, we the Jewish people were safe and secure in our environment both here at home in the USA and in Israel. I don’t feel that way anymore. With the Obama administration’s open animosity towards Israel, and the acknowledged rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world, the USA and especially on college campuses, I feel very much under attack and I am not sure that a weak Rabbi is the way to go.
Yes, I look on him as weak. Not that the desire or need to have understanding and compassion are bad things, but there is such a refusal on his part to see the enemy at the gate. It is bad enough I think in some respects to belong to JStreet itself. To acknowledge that it merely is an Israel-hating arm of George Soros and the left-wing members of the Democratic Party, but when a JStreet leader says that Israel was a mistake, I do not understand how any Jew who believes in the continuation of the Jewish people wants to associate themselves with this group anymore. No I do not think my Rabbi is one of those idiotic anti-Zionist Rabbis, I think he is just ardently left-wing, without questioning where his thought processes come from. Yearly the Temple takes groups of congregants to Israel for a weekly trip, like most Temples in the US do, and I am sure the Rabbi has been to Israel a lot more than I have. But there is something so innately wrong in associating yourself with those whose main goal is ultimately the destruction of Israel just because you think that everyone should just get along, whether they do or not.
Yes, I knew that the Rabbinate at my Temple is progressive. Honestly I can’t really say that every idea that the progressives have is wrong either. Lets be honest, no one political philosophy is all wrong or all right (don’t get all hysterical I am not talking about Nazism, communism and fascism, but practical mainstream American political parties). I believe as do most Americans that our government has to be fiscally responsible with our money, that we need smaller, not larger government, and that the government needs to mind its own business when it comes to what I do with my life and how I choose to live it. However, I also believe in a strong foreign policy, and the fact that at some point government does need to step in to help out when there is a dire situation (yes, I believe in TARP, the bailouts and even in the stimulus if it had been handled properly and not used as a payback for democratic operatives).
I also believe that the government does NOT have the right to tell an adult whom they can love, and I think that discrimination against anyone because of sexual orientation is repulsive. I think that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a shunda (overwhelming embarrassment). I am pro-Life, abortion truly disturbs me to my core, but believe in a woman’s right to choose, because there are just situations that no government has a right to tell another person that they have to accept or not accept (In the reverse we could be like China forcing people to have abortions which is Faustian to say the least). Medical advances are there for a reason and we as human beings have the right to choose for ourselves the paths we take.
I don’t like Obamacare, not because I do not think that healthcare needs reform, believe you me, as the parent of two children with disabilities I know better than most what medical costs can do to a family, but that bill was just horrible and shoved down the people’s throats as if we are ignorant. I am ardently for separation of church and state but think that when you don’t allow green and red into a school during Christmas you have reached the heights of stupidity. As a Jew growing up in the Bible belt of the South shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, I was subject to a nice bit of open anti-Semitism by the teachers in my schools. I can tell you that it is not easy when you are 9 to be belittled by your teacher because of how you pray to God. It taught me an early lesson, one exemplified in the Hanukkah story I suppose; don’t tell a Jew they can’t be Jews, it only strengthens their resolve.
Now I also believe that you can have both, a combination sort to speak of conservative and progressive ideas. It is the absoluteness of both sides that is unworkable, something the average American I think rejects outright. Ironically I suppose that means I channel Teddy Roosevelt, or as my younger son calls him President McBadAss. That “Speak softly but carry a big stick,” ideal would hold well for today for foreign policy, yet the understanding that government owes the people decency, a national identity (including an environmental identity) and protection from the corporate vultures in this world is an interesting balance. I honestly think that is what we need, someone like Teddy once again. But don’t see anyone on the horizon.
So anyway, this is my dilemma. I owe to my Rabbi a great debt for him bringing my Jewish children into Jewish adulthood. He welcomed them as did the entire congregation and the Temple at his direction went out of their way to educate and include my sons. But his politics is frightening. I do not understand why he taught my children Torah when there is so many he aligns himself with that would eradicate Torah, and especially Jews from the face of the Earth. I think the last straw was when as a member of JStreet he went to hear a speaker from the UN castigate Israel and the situation with Gaza. Instead of acknowledging that the speaker who is a well-known anti-Semite was just that an anti-Semite, he took the man at his word. I don’t get this about my Rabbi and I never will.
So what do I do? My younger son is participating in the Tikkun Olam projects the Temple holds for teenagers. He enjoys it and they include him with no question. But I have not paid my dues yet, because I do not want to finance my Rabbi’s politics. Another Temple is out of the question, we just can’t afford it right now, and I am not sure we would not necessarily face some of the same political questions or out right rejection again because of the boys’ issues. Would you believe I am lost on this one…I think that’s why I put it out here to all of you…arguing with the Rabbi is out of the question, he and the assistant Rabbi think as most adherents do that they are without fail correct in their world view. You can’t argue with them. Heck the assistant Rabbi just talked about how great Saul Alinsky was in his latest monthly column.
I suppose the positive aspect of all of this is that at least my rabbi is a kumbaya man…not a hate filled man. If some day someone asks me why I stayed at the Temple, it’s not for street cred with someone who hates his country or finds conspiracies everywhere or celebrates the death of their fellow human being. My rabbi’s problem is that he just never sees the evil in anyone (except not sure what he thinks of Bibi Netanyahu or Sarah Palin, but I bet its not positive), and thinks that any issue can be overcome as long as good people try to understand each other. I think for a man of his age he is terribly naïve and shortsighted and yes I think a lot of the policies he follows are devoid of reality. Still haven’t decided what to do…