This letter is most likely being read following the conclusion of a fraught and tense election cycle for the majority of Americans.
Following four years of intense political fighting, to which this country should no doubt be accustomed, there was something distinctly different about this most recent race, at least within the Modern Orthodox Jewish community. Voting allegiances previously were a largely private matter whose conclusions were hopefully reached following thoughtful consideration of governing philosophy and policy. Now, social media and polarizing national and local races have created the perfect storm for flared tempers. The problem, though, is that it has bled over into our sacred communal spaces.
As my late father publicly posited on multiple occasions, the Torah does not dictate how you should vote. Thus our religious institutions should rightly have no say in that matter, even when deep moral grievances surface. Where we as a community have been failed, or have perhaps failed ourselves, is in allowing politics to infiltrate our religious institutions and private lives in a way that should have been handled long ago and far more aggressively. Stories of students wearing masks with political slogans to our day schools, videos of Election Day prayers for candidates in our synagogues led by individuals dressed in full partisan garb, hateful lawn signs with Hebrew characters: These gestures have no place in our community, nor do they align with our Jewish values. Full stop.
The time to address these issues has long since passed. When the scourge of COVID-19 first flared, local leadership coalesced to address the matter as quickly as possible. Thanks to their cohesive efforts, we’ve largely managed to contain the virus’s spread. Who will take responsibility for the moral rot that has permeated our community?Dalia Glickman