Dear Rabbi…

My sister asked me last night if we’d decided to join your synagogue.  I shared with her our positive sense of the shul and our appreciation of your spending so much time with my husband and me.  And we already know some members, so there’s comfort there as well.

But last night, as my husband and I were discussing a piece written by Admiral McRaven about the firing of Joseph Maguire as DNI, I realized that I cannot pretend that I am ok with Jewish leaders not calling out the rapid rise of fascism–and the brick by brick dismantling of democracy–in America.

I am the daughter of Jakob Mogilnik, z’l, a Holocaust survivor who, at the end of the war, fled the Soviets who had just liberated him, but who wanted to recruit him to the NKVD.  After that, my father smuggled Polish army officers, Jews, and others from Poland to the West.  For that act of courage and love of freedom, he was arrested and put on trial in Berlin.  Thankfully, he was acquitted.

After a decade in a German DP camp, my father came to America.  From there, he rebuilt his life, had a family, contributed to and benefited from what America had to offer.  To see that America defiled and destroyed by a self-dealing, corrupt, cruel, Russia-embracing, hate-mongering charlatan is beyond anything my father might have imagined.  Though I miss him every day, I find myself feeling thankful that my father did not live to see this America.

And because I am my father’s daughter, I will not be silent, I will not sit idly by.  And I will not pretend that Judaism does not demand that we challenge the corruption, cruelty and injustice unfolding before us on a daily–and nearly hourly–basis.  From mocking a disabled reporter (I have a disabled son), to mocking a Gold Star family (I have an Army veteran (now FBI agent) nephew and a son headed to the Navy), I could make this entirely personal.  But I won’t.  It’s more than that.  It is the soul-rotting spectacle of a nation in which tens of millions of Americans cheer on a man who exemplifies the worst of humanity.  And a nation in which a small minority of Jews actively support him, and in which other Jews refuse to call out what is happening.

We left another synagogue because I could not bear to read Torah and Haftorah passages alongside the prayers in the siddur, admire the gorgeous music and the perfectly choreographed services, and not feel like I was inhabiting an alternative universe.  I don’t expect to be told whom to vote for by any rabbi, but I do expect to be reminded–with breathtaking clarity–what our Jewish values are, and what they demand of us.  God liberated us from Mitzrayim and gave us the Prophets.  We are a people commanded to pursue justice–tzedek, tzedek, tirdof–a people who must refuse to tolerate abuses of power, cruelty toward the vulnerable among us, mistreatment of the stranger, and so on.  Either we believe and make manifest our Jewish values, or we don’t.

All to say that I will continue to be a spiritually homeless Jew.  Not because I am seeking alignment from any congregation with my politics, but because the Judaism I know and love is a deeply political, morally rooted faith.  And I know that because our bible is a profoundly political, biased document, one that clearly takes sides.  If that’s what God demands of us, who are we to refuse to comply?

Respectfully,

Nina Mogilnik

About the Author
Nina has a long history of working in the non-profit, philanthropic, and government sectors. She has also been an opinion writer for The Jewish Week, and a contributor to The New Normal, a disabilities-focused blog. However, Nina is most proud of her role as a parent to three unique young adults, and two rescue dogs, whom she co-parents with her wiser, better half.
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