Politics in the Shul?

What is the place for politics in shul? Where should the line be drawn for rabbis, cantors and educators?

IRS regulations specify that a clergyperson may not preach a sermon supporting (or demonizing) a particular candidate if the house of worship wishes to have tax exempt status. This rule draws a clear line, but what about other communication? What about conversations at kiddush, oneg or in the parking lot? Is it okay for the rabbi to send emails to congregants about partisan political issues?

I ask this question at this time because of the presence of politics in Shul JewCrew where I attend. A rabbi of Shul JewCrew refrained from formal political pulpit sermons during last fall’s election season. The rabbi sends congregants negative, partisan emails, invitations to political events on Facebook (JewCrew city’s “tea party”), discussions at oneg, and during private conversations.

For months now, I have felt that my views are unwelcome. I worry that I have to either defend my views or plan to extricate myself from a conversation or not go to shul. Why should an uncomfortable political conversation from the rabbi keep me from feeling comfortable at shul? The thought that I am refraining from going to my current spiritual “home” because of the rabbi’s politics makes me mad. US politics is not the rabbi’s role (IMHO). This rabbi does not work for a political organization, does not see his/her job as primarily educating representatives….

When I feel denigrated by the rabbi for my political view, how can I feel comfortable going to the rabbi for much more difficult or sensitive issues in my personal life?

A rabbi in another city preached from the pulpit many times during last election season and made the congregants who did not agree with him/her so uncomfortable that they stopped going to shul – and they themselves are a rabbinic family!

Please know that while I personally have a political opinion, I have a problem with rabbis pushing their views on either side (in American politics) in their congregations. The examples above are of each – a partisan republican rabbi and a partisan democratic rabbi.

What do you think? Is this happening elsewhere or only in the two examples above?

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3 responses to “Politics in the Shul?

  1. Hi,
    Im really enjoying this site and am looking forward to more of your posts.
    Keep up the good work.
    Jamie

  2. Our congregation is pushing a politial agenda. In Sunday school they are preaching Global Warming when our family believes it is all a political hoax. I spoke to someone today who said the rabbi was critical of bankers in one of her sermons. He let her know that he works for a bank. I don’t want my rabbi chastising any area from truck drivers to doctors. I think it’s wrong.

  3. I count myself extremely lucky here that my rabbi absolutely refuses to preach politics from the pulpit. He gets it, like you do, that it’s no place for politics.

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