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Would it be appropriate to sponsor a Sabbath kiddush at synagogue, or perhaps a study session there, in celebration of Donald Trump’s indictment?
Not My President
Dear Not My President,
You are not the only one celebrating the news that a Manhattan grand jury has indicted the former president; a large portion of Twitter is gleefully roasting Trump and glorying that — finally — a charge seems to be sticking.
Nevertheless, while you know the makeup of your particular synagogue best, I’m not sure a celebratory kiddush is the right idea. The kiddush after Shabbat services is generally seen as a lighthearted place to schmooze, a casual, open-conversation place to warmly welcome new people and connect with old-timers over a schnapps or a schmear. While many synagogues do invite members to sponsor kiddushes, it’s usually to mark life-cycle events or milestone achievements, not to express your political opinions.
There are probably at least a few Trump supporters, even if you’re not aware of them, who would feel isolated by such an event. How would you feel if Trump is eventually exonerated of these charges — which appears totally possible — and your political rivals hosted a celebratory kiddush?
Even people who hate Trump might have complicated feelings about the indictment — maybe, instead of feeling joyful, they’re more worried about the future of our country or our international reputation. Not exactly fodder for a “l’chaim” toast.
But I think the study session is an idea with legs. It’s a little more subtle, you know? It will give you, and others in your community, an arena in which to air some feelings — whether they are glee or confusion or horror — without a banner and balloons. After all, politics are inextricably linked to religion, despite the division of church and state that our Constitution enshrines, and they are important topics to discuss. And this kind of study is a great way to actually engage people with Torah, and keep Jewish tradition relevant. A win-win.
Structure your study session as a forum to connect Judaism to current events, and bring some texts that feel relevant to Trump’s indictment. They’re not hard to find.
Start with this week’s parsha, Tzav, which begins in Leviticus 6. It talks about sin and guilt offerings of a slaughtered bull; there’s plenty of meat (pun intended) for discussion of Trump’s misdeeds and atonement, or lack thereof. And in the haftorah, Jeremiah warns that sacrifices without true atonement are not enough. I feel absolutely certain that you and your study partners will have some strong thoughts about how Trump has handled responsibility for his actions, whether with Stormy Daniels or Jan. 6 or during COVID-19.
Or you could explore the story of David and Batsheva. In it, David commits adultery and rapes Batsheva, and then attempts to cover it up, ultimately arranging for Batsheva’s husband to be killed. Confronted by the prophet Nathan, David then admits guilt and prostrates himself before God, accepting his punishment. (Ultimately, God forgives him.)
The first part sounds pretty familiar, no? Trump’s indictment, after all, is a result of paying hush money to Daniels, a porn actress who says they had a sexual encounter. Still waiting on the whole admission of guilt and penitence bit, though. Discuss!
Want to talk about Ivanka’s seeming attempt to distance herself from her father’s misdeeds since Jan. 6, a trend that appeared to continue with her bland Instagram statement about his indictment? Well, David’s kids weren’t all that close with him either — Absalom literally waged a war against him. Get into it.
Just remember to cede the floor to whoever else wants to air their opinions, too. Even if they love Trump.
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