A Jewish woman walks into the write-up workplace to buy Hanukkah stamps for her getaway playing cards.
The person driving the counter asks, “What denominations?”
The Jewish woman responds, “Oy! Are we so polarized? Some Orthodox, some Conservative and some Reform.”
Sure, we are so polarized, each religiously and politically. Most reports about the White Property Hanukkah party pointed out that leaders of the Reform motion and congressional Democrats ended up not invited. Whereas the Obama administration invited 1,700 people today to two Hanukkah get-togethers past 12 months, the Trump administration invited a mere 300 to a person these occasion.
Amid them was 1 politically impartial Reform rabbi from Des Moines, Iowa — me.
How in the entire world did I get an invitation?
I acquired on the list because I reached out to someone I knew in the administration although advocating for the Condition Department to preserve the place of specific envoy to overcome anti-Semitism. Previously this calendar year there have been discussions that the situation would be eliminated, and I and several other people were being urging the White Dwelling to reconsider.
I did not scream and yell. I did not phone anyone names. I manufactured a circumstance for why that position was and is needed, and questioned that my take note be forwarded to whomever would be capable to impact the determination. The situation was officially retained, while as of nevertheless no one has been nominated to fill it and that may well not come about for a when extended.
A couple months following I despatched the e mail, out of the blue I acquired a connect with from a person at the White Household inviting me to the Hanukkah social gathering. I understood it would be a simple make any difference to decrease the invitation. I was now likely to be absent that working day at a conference. But it is not just about every day that 1 is invited to a get together at the White Dwelling. President Obama held 9 Hanukkah events and I wasn’t invited to any of them.
Who else was invited?
This 12 months, a substantial percentage of these invited were Jewish friends and family members of the Trump and Kushner households, with a substantial share of the rest seemingly related to the Zionist Firm of The united states or the Republican Jewish Coalition. I’m absolutely sure numerous company fell into all three classes.
A group of ladies from a nearby yeshiva choir and their chaperones came to sing. Two Republican customers of Congress attended, Reps. Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee. The Israelis on hand included the U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer. Supreme Courtroom Justice Stephen Breyer and a handful of national Jewish group leaders had been there, too. A the vast majority of the attendees appeared to be Orthodox Jews, with many affiliated with Chabad.
At the time my spouse and I acknowledged the invitation, I had no notion just how exceptional the visitor listing was. I arrived at out to many friends who I figured would be significantly bigger up on the priority record than I. No 1 I contacted was invited. I did not know that I would be the only Reform rabbi in attendance, probably the only Reform or Conservative rabbi, and certainly a single of a extremely modest amount of invitees who are not registered Republicans. Of all those who are outspoken supporters of social brings about normally discovered on the political still left, I may well very well have been the lone person invited.
What was the party like?
On the whole it was a somewhat usual Hanukkah occasion. There had been latkes and sufganiyot. The Maritime Band performed in the grand entryway and the girls’ choir sang “Mi Yemalel” (Who Can Retell?) at the commencing of the formal system.
The president instructed a variation of the Hanukkah tale and boasted about his announcement a day previously to figure out Jerusalem as Israel’s funds. A Holocaust survivor spoke of her experiences. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel made available the Orthodox edition of the prayer for the authorities — with its uncomfortable references to God who grants “dominion to rulers” — and the far more fitting Shehecheyanu blessing. President Trump’s Jewish grandchildren kindled a single candle on a silver menorah. Attendees joined in singing “Maoz Tsur” (Rock of Ages). We did not say the regular blessings simply because it was not still Hanukkah.
Other than a scaled-down team of VIPs, the huge the greater part of friends were not permitted to interact with the president, Vice President Mike Pence or the Kushner family members, nor was there an possibility for images to be taken with any of them.
No matter if you blame Trump or his opponents, the political weather has seldom been so polarized. Very last year the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements debated no matter if they should really aid manage a pre-Rosh Hashanah convention simply call with Trump. When they declined (a selection I disagreed with), Trump held his own contact and did not invite the non-Orthodox rabbis. Just past 7 days, prime African-American leaders stayed absent from the opening of a civil legal rights museum in Mississippi since Trump would be using aspect.
If you’re wanting to know, leaders of the Reform motion, various other Reform rabbis and my congregation’s leadership, all of whom I told about the invitation, encouraged us to attend.
These who know me and the advocacy that I do have an understanding of properly that no politician or political get together escapes my criticism. This administration is surely no exception. But I engage civilly, even when other individuals do not arrive shut to returning the favor. My aim is usually to help progress the results in expensive to me, particularly when those triggers are beneath menace. I attempt to be as current as I can and speak to whomever I can, even if my counsel ends up currently being drowned out or disregarded.
When most of the communicate at the Hanukkah party was on Jewish geography and in aid of the Jerusalem recognition, I outlined to a handful of attendees my concerns about the absence of an anti-Semitism envoy, and the probable budget cuts and their impacts on overall health treatment and starvation advocacy at the state level.
The most effective quotation about advocacy I know arrives from a sports hero, hockey good Wayne Gretzky: “You pass up 100 percent of the shots you do not acquire.” If you really do not engage in a way that may be successful in changing policy, if you don’t discuss to and make associations with these who may pay attention to you and impact others, you will never be listened to and have a possibility to influence plan.
Far also a lot of persons take a distinctive path, believing that it’s much better to scream in protest, identify connect with, engage in virtue signaling and boycott alternatively than interact constructively and civilly with choice makers.
To paraphrase Gretzky, “One-hundred per cent of the candles you don’t light keep unlit.”
This Hanukkah, enable us deliver mild and not darkness into our globe. Be existing and reach out. Develop interactions. Really do not boycott. Go to. Share your light. The men and women whose hearts and minds are kindled might support you to change the entire world.
(David Kaufman is the rabbi of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, Iowa.)
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