I am a crier.
I cry at graduations and at B’nai Mitzvah.
I cry at the parades in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
I cried last year at a USA women’s soccer match – I could care less about the soccer, but I was so inspired to see the young girls looking up to and cheering on their women athlete heroes.
I cry at sappy commercials and all Broadway shows.
I cry at every departure to and return from summer camp.
And I cried throughout the day on Wednesday when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office. To me, the tears were part relief and part gratitude. I was relieved that there was no violence, no riots, no disrespecting our sacred American institutions. And mine were tears of gratitude that our rituals, our laws and our traditions have protected us and brought us to this new beginning. Sheheheyanu – Thank you God for bringing us in life to this moment!
I imagine that my political affiliations are no secret and I know well that they are not shared by everyone.
But I do believe in conversation and in creating safe places to talk respectfully with others. So totally avoiding “politics” as a subject is not a responsible position in my mind.
I invite you to share your thoughts and reactions to our country’s recent political events with me.
Some may think that religion and politics shouldn’t mix. But I believe that Judaism has something to teach us about every aspect of life. And Judaism is meant to operate in the “real world.” So within our Neshamah community, it’s important to me that we have opportunities to talk and learn from each other. Please consider this an open invitation to converse with me about these issues.
I heard about a fascinating religious convention in which leaders from all different religions were invited to come together to study scripture. They thought they were gathering to educate each other about the texts and traditions that make each religion unique. They expected to be sharing all the beautiful teachings that make their religion holy and special. But they were quite surprised when the professor in charge kicked off the first meeting by asking each religion to share a “troubling text” from their tradition.
Starting from this position of vulnerability, sharing something that troubles them about their own religion, immediately changed the mood of the gathering. It shifted everyone from a position of convincing others of their religion’s loftiness to admitting that everyone struggles with certain spiritual questions and that all religions are imperfect.
I like to imagine if we could transfer that attitude to our conversations about politics. What if we could start with what makes us uncomfortable in our own sphere and let go of some of our certainty? What if we could bond over our questions and uncertainties instead of battle over who is right or most aggrieved?
We may not come to any unified answers, but I believe we would come more quickly to our shared human connection.
Talking about politics is not easy. But avoiding politics is also not easy and it doesn’t serve us well in the long run. If we’ve learned anything over these past years, I hope we can agree that we need more conversation not less. We need more attempts at relating to and empathizing with those with whom we disagree.
I hope you are having some of these conversations within your own circles, and I pray that Neshamah can be a model of a diverse but unified community.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
The Neshamah Institute
Founder / Executive Director