To mix politics with religion may be wrong but justified

A look at America, Britain and South Africa

Steve Apfel ,

Geopolitics
Geopolitics
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Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, emphatic that rabbis were wrong to bless Biden or Trump, says that mixing politics with religion is “an absolute and total outrage. It’s one of the greatest things Judaism ever taught the world. You mix religion and politics, you get terrible politics and even worse religion.”

With a clarity that makes him distinct from the herd, Lord Sacks tells American Jewry it is “making a big, big mistake. This is not a small thing. It’s a very, very big thing.”

Or is it shadow boxing with his own British rabbi? Chief Rabbi Mirvis, after all, had broken the golden rule and dipped into politics. In November 2019 before the ballot he ordered British Jewry to not vote Labour because the party leader Corbyn was unfit to be a Prime Minister.

“Allowing that convention dictates that a Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics – and rightly so – the forthcoming elections constitute an exception since the very soul of our nation is at stake.” At stake because anti-Semites packed the Labour party.

Lord Sacks agreed that Corbyn the leader was a threat to the community of Britain. But he never told it how to vote. Rabbi Mervis went right in and did the great sin that Judaism taught the nation not to do. He mixed religion with politics. Did the Almighty let him get away with doing that? Looking at the backlash on social media, no. The Chief Rabbi got terrible politics and even worse Judaism for his trouble.

The anti-Semites had a field day. They said Mirvis didn’t like the platform of the Labour party because it condemned Israel for emasculating the Gaza strip. They scoffed that Labour’s support for a Palestinian state bothered him. They hinted at the rabbi being an arms dealer for Israel. He wanted, they said, to cover up violations of human rights in the 'occupied territories', where Mirvis trained in a yeshiva. The anti-Semites got a kick out of airing their anti-Zionism as much as they got a lift from tossing a rabbi into a dump. It would be better had Rabbi Mirvis heeded the Lord Sacks. Had he kept out of politics Jews would probably have deserted Labour at the polls anyway.

American Jewry is not so threatened as to need a rabbi to tell them which way to vote. The Trump ticket that the “Election will decide whether we save the American Dream and the American way of life” is every minority’s concern. If you’re a rabbi you don’t bless a campaign. A gala dinner would be the kosher way to show appreciation; or a private donation to the Trump campaign.

No doubt Trump in the White House will be better for Israel than Biden in it. That’s for communal bodies to help make happen. Campaign and lobby. AIPAC and the Israeli government can lend a hand, just as Obama lent an interfering hand to get Israeli parties on the Left elected. Unless Rabbi Lord Sacks is wrong, an American rabbi would need a hotline to God to mix politics and religion and emerge with a tallis laundered for Yom Kippur. If Britain’s Rabbi, facing the worst case scenario for a community couldn’t do it, let the rabbinate of America beware. You mix religion and politics, you get terrible politics and more terrible religion.

No rabbis more than the rabbis of America’s Reform and Conservative temples demonstrate what you get by diluting Judaism with the dregs of politics. Temple Beth El in Salinas California is one of many. Cantor Margaret Bruner declared her temple a ‘Sanctuary Congregation’. The Sanctuary City idea in the bible drove her to follow suit. Let all who hop the border fence into America – drug dealer or child trafficker don’t matter – find safe haven in Temple Beth El. Cantor Bruner pledged financial and legal support into the bargain. “The Jewish people strongly believe that since we were once slaves and strangers in a strange land it is incumbent upon us to offer a safe haven for those fleeing persecution.”

Exactly how the cantor identified a persecuted fence-hopper from one looking for a lifestyle supported by the taxpayers of California, she kept private.

Her type of chessed, if you call it that rather than infantile make-believe, gives a warm and fuzzy feeling. More's the pity that cantors and clerics do not get that feeling without contorting Judaism into another human rights enterprise. Hence the temple recipe they live by:

Religion + Leftism = Tanach + Tikkun Olam

South Africa could be a case on its own. It was never a fair country. A rabbi in South Africa can scarcely avoid mixing politics with religion. There was Apartheid and after it a hybrid system of elected comrades to gulp down wealth as fast as capitalists could produce it.

A year ago when the country knelt on the cusp of no return I warned it was up to President Trump. Should Trump not slap sanctions on the comrades in crime, the country was a goner. Yes, the innocent could be fallout. But the alternative, to be kind to the guilty, would make it worse for the innocent. A beggar country in the making is no time to think of fallout. Sixty five million victims of crime want not a cruel future but a kind one.

President Trump did not slap sanctions. South Africa, arguably, has gone too far to recover, certainly back to the pre-Covid condition, which was bad enough. Comrades and cadres took a promising country that began with Mandela and partied like there was no tomorrow.

The despoiling got going when a President named Zuma took the rule of law and hollowed it out so that comrades could feast till they burst. A President named Ramaphosa took up where the deposed Zuma left off. His style is different, but the results are the same. Where the greed of the former was personal and shameless, the enabling of the latter is cloaked with good intentions. There are times when words stop trying to make a point and let a cartoon do it graphically.

When a regime tears up the implicit agreement between government and the governed as to the rights and duties of each (the Social Contract) what is a Jewish community to do? Petition God to bless the government? Chief Rabbi Goldstein suspended that part of the synagogue service when Zuma was the head Comrade in Crime; he reinstated the prayer for the next head Comrade. What if our prayers are answered and the comrades become better at crime? Already the WHO declared their looting of Covid funds and tenders equal to murder.

For the sake of the same party, the ANC, the world made the Apartheid state a polecat. If Jews have the savvy they’re reputed to have, they’ll turn that screw on the robbers and wreckers; make their gangster state a polecat. Lobby the White House and Europe to slap financial and travel bans on the culprits. Bring a case to the ICC for a crime against humanity.

The fate of a Jewish community is not about politics. There is no supporting one party or the other, so rabbis and scions of the community can get their hands dirty.

When conditions are existential, mixing politics and religion is the last thing to worry about. In any case, better to mix than be left with no community.



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