It’s funny what happens when I start on one of these little essays- sometimes it goes just as planned, but often while researching a topic, I get sidetracked and write about something entirely different than what I intended. This is one of those times. We’re in the midst of the Jew holiday rush, with Rosh Hashana (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkos (something about plants and booths, don’t ask) in a Centipede-like series, with the first two sort of lumped together as the High Holidays and Sukkos being an afterthought. So I figured, let’s do a history of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and discuss their decidedly non-Biblical nature, and contrast it with Sukkos (the white people of Jewish holidays), which is culturally rather minor but is actually Biblical.
And there I made my fatal mistake: I googled local High Holiday services at the nearest shuls and that sent me down an unexpected path.
The first shul that came up was Beth Emet (House of Truth) in Evanston. They bill themselves as “The Free Synagogue.” This is a (((Jew))) trick, there’s nothing free about it.
Wow, a synagogue with no fees? We tease, but the word “free” in our names holds a strong significance that shapes the foundation of our congregation. It means that we unequivocally support the freedom to express a full range of ideas from our bima (pulpit) and within our community. More than half a century ago, our founding members chose a name that symbolized a commitment to truth and open expression.
Attending High Holiday services will set you back $500 per head, no reserved seating. Of course, members will get a hefty discount, assuming you’ve coughed up the $1200 per person that they charge as the introductory rate for membership (the website appears to be silent on what the yearly fee is after the first year).
I note the the Catholic church down the street here doesn’t charge to join. Silly goyim, you’re leaving money on the shulchan!
But the “full range of ideas” they espouse seems to be directly lifted from the Democratic National Committee and, judging from their website and their rabbi’s blog, spans the full gamut from left to extreme left. Here’s a sample of a sermon by their rabbi (female, of course, a few millennia of traditions cannot substitute for woke-ness, and CS Lewis’s gate is all oppressive and shit):
Racism in the United States may no longer be de jure, but with statistics such as these can we claim with confidence that it has been eradicated? This summer the Supreme Court’s undermining of the Voting Rights’ Act and George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin exposed the still raw wound of racial tension in our country. After the verdict, President Obama, in his most candid remarks about race, spoke about the racism that he has faced in his life. He talked about purses being clutched and car doors locked as he walked by. He acknowledged that racial profiling by the police has undermined their trust in the black community, making them less effective in reducing violence. And he spoke about the importance of people of different races engaging in dialogue with one another in order to gain greater understanding and empathy of what it’s like to walk in a black person’s shoes.
As President Obama challenged us, we need a real conversation on race in our country that allows us to develop relationships and understand one another better before we cast aspersions and affix blame.
They also affiliate with other similarly-minded organizations. From their site:
Bend the Arc
Bend the Arc is building the power and passion of the progressive Jewish movement in America by bringing together Jews from across the country to advocate and organize for a more just and equal society. It is the only national Jewish organization that is focused solely on promoting these values here in the U. S. Two community meeting shave been held in the Chicago area. Work groups have been established along three distinct strategies:
• Supporting endangered populations– Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ communities
• Encouraging Democrats and approachable Republicans to resist the Trump agenda
• Working for a shift in power by mobilizing for the 2018 and 2020 elections.
I’m sure they’re big on separation of church and state, right? Yes, clearly they take a strong stand against religion being involved in partisan politics. It makes (((me))) proud. They also link to something entitled “Jewish Tradition Speaks to Need for This Proposed Law”
In the 114th Congress, I-VAWA was re-introduced by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The bill, which received bipartisan support, mandated that an Office of Global Women’s Issues be instituted by the Secretary of State and led by an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. The bill would have inaugurated a Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The goal was to push the U.S. government to swiftly propose and enact creative solutions for violence prevention and that those plans be revised annually for five years.
Whew, for a moment I thought they were going to say that Judaism mandates taxpayer-funded sinecures and luxury travel for some well-connected bureaucrats and academics.
I suspect that their inclusivity and diversity would not include me.
Ah well, let me try the next hit on Google, which is Beth Am (The People’s House) in Buffalo Grove. And to their credit, they don’t claim to be “free.” And indeed they’re not, with yearly memberships running $3000-4000, which makes the People’s House some pricey real estate. Want to go to services for the High Holidays? $500 per head for Rosh Hashana, another $750 each for Yom Kippur. I don’t know what Easter Sunrise services cost at our local Catholic church, but I suspect that it’s a whole lot less- likely free. I may have my foreskin sewed back on.
And once again, the congregation is led by a female rabbi who is as woke as it gets. Here’s a delightful excerpt from one of her sermons:
This sermon will not be a rebuke of conservative political ideology or sentiment. Let’s be clear, there has been a virtually unanimous voice from the Conservative establishment decrying the overt or covert support of racist fringe movements and this is a sermon purposed on the necessity for us to Wake Up and Rise Up during a period in our history where white supremacists have a direct line to the Whitehouse (sic).
Whew, for a moment I thought she might get partisan. Here’s her morning-after-the-election sermon:
The feelings of anger and despair I have will in time morph into action and revolutionary love. We are strong and courageous and in this together and right and there are too many people who need us. We need us. It is not easy, but I don’t think we have any choice but to F.E.A.R: Face Everything And Rise. This is the only answer now and always…one breath at a time.
I searched in vain for her denunciations of Keith Ellison or Al Sharpton, as well as the rabbi’s exposure of the fake hate crimes she cites. I suppose I need more Jew in me to understand that there’s Nazis at the door, and that we’re only inches from being sent to American concentration camps.
Today I speak words of protest, joining hundreds of my Reform rabbinic colleagues across the nation in fulfillment of our sacred obligation. We will not be silent. We will, without hesitation, decry the moral abdication of the President who fuels hatred and division in our beloved country. This is not a political statement.
Of course it isn’t. And of course, the good rabbi sermonized about The Women’s March:
My 12 year old says she doesn’t feel well and is not going to march. Her sister says the same thing and their brother says they must go. He yells at them, “All our rights are at stake!”
…We get to the rally. We get pins that say, “Girl Power” and “Love Trumps Hate” and other slogans that I won’t write here…. (OMWC: The photo on her post shows that her son was wearing a button with the very spiritual slogan “FUCK THE PATRIARCHY!”) The kids are excited to be a part of this historic event, proud to be speaking up and out! Periodically, my son spontaneously yells into the crowd “I’m mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore!!” He gets applause and high-fives. He smiles and keeps on walking. My daughters chant about immigration rights and each feels free enough to shout her own slogans about rights and freedom and we walk together with hundreds of thousands of people.
You know who ELSE had hundreds of thousands of marchers shouting slogans… By the way, I note that the good rabbi is silent about the exclusion of Jews from Chicago’s Gay Pride parade, but I suppose that’s consistent with her silence about leftist BDS. It’s all about Team. I’m guessing that you wear a pink pussy hat instead of a yarmulke during services.
I can’t leave this topic without linking this classic.
OK, to wrap this up, now the serious part. These really were the first two things to come up when I was looking for a shul for the High Holidays. It’s distressing to me that a 4000 year old tradition has been perverted and co-opted as a partisan political movement, that as a religious obligation, (((we))) are expected to cheer the yielding of power, autonomy, and agency to government. It distresses me that not only have synagogues become overtly political, they are also exclusionary- there is no room for classical liberalism, conservatism, or libertarianism, not to mention people of limited financial means. There seems to be no dissenting voices allowed. Nor is there any hint that perhaps religion ought to keep itself focused on Yahweh and not on Nancy Pelosi. If one of the goals of organized Judaism is to bring the non-observant and secular back into the fold, the synagogues around here are certainly doing the opposite for those of (((us))) who believe in liberty and would like to have some part of our lives separate from partisan politics.