You really don’t want to mix Yom Kippur and politics. For those who don’t know, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and the holiest* day of the year for Jews. It is a time for repentance and forgiveness. It really isn’t a time for political schmoozing–in fact, it’s completely inappropriate. I write as someone whose family synagogue in D.C. is routinely attended by influential Jewish politicians and other members of the Potomac Mandarins (both sides of the aisle). But you don’t do politics beyond the utterly banal (hoping our leaders act with wisdom, etc.) on that day.
For some reason I can’t possibly fathom, Republican and rightwing loon Rep. Michele Bachmann decided to attend Yom Kippur evening services (‘Kol Nidre’) at a Chicago synagogue (Bachmann is from Minnesota, so I don’t even know why she did that). Well, it backfired (boldface mine):
During a worship service Tuesday on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Rabbi Michael Siegel of Anshe Emet Synagogue offered what he called a customary greeting to a public official in the audience — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R.-Minn. The greeting follows a synagogue policy to acknowledge the office rather than the individual or his or her politics, he said.
But the formality enraged more than a few congregants, prompting some to walk out and one to start a campaign of his own in support of Bachmann’s opponent in the race for her congressional seat, Jim Graves….
“I felt that the best way to ‘honor’ Ms. Bachmann’s visit was to make a contribution to your campaign,” Sircus wrote. “Even though I do not vote in Minnesota, please do everything in your power to take away this evil woman’s soapbox.”
Siegel said instead of a sermon that night, the service featured a fictional father and son dialogue about Israel, including a piece celebrating Israel’s openness to the gay and lesbian community.
Bachmann, an evangelical Christian and former presidential candidate, has been an outspoken supporter of Israel but an opponent of gay rights.
“I am aware of the fact that our congregation’s policy in regards to public officials clearly caused pain to some members of our community on the most precious day of reconciliation on the Jewish calendar,” Siegel said. “That we regret deeply.”
The Graves campaign saw a 400 percent uptick in donations from the Chicago area last week, according to Adam Graves, the candidate’s son and campaign manager.
Oops. What was she thinking?
The only thing that makes sense is that she (or her staff) read that Anshe Emet is affiliated with the Conservative movement (which has nothing to do with conservative politics, and most Conservative congregations tilt left, sometimes strongly so).
What a dope.
*Actually, Shabbat (the Sabbath) is considered holier, but as holidays go, Yom Kippur is it.