A Lakeview synagogue's tradition of honoring elected officials has been called into question after it honored Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann on the eve of Yom Kippur and some congregants walked out.
Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 N. Broadway, has a tradition of honoring elected officials who attend services. But some took issue with the honoring of Bachmann on one of Judaism's most holy nights as her anti-gay beliefs may be out of step the practices of the congregation.
A handful of congregants walked out of the Sept. 25 services.
Among them was Gary Sircus, who has worshipped at Anshe for more than 25 years.
In an email circulated following the service, Sircus wrote that Bachmann's presence destroyed the spirituality of the evening.
"Congresswoman Bachmann actively campaigns against virtually every principle on which my faith is grounded, including tolerance, compassion, and respect for the individual," he wrote. "She gives voice to the narrowest and most evil strain of the Far Right, calling not just for condemnation of homosexuals and the denial of their basic rights, but uses federal money to run a shadowy clinic that claims to 'pray away the gay'. "
Sircus goes on to condemn Bachman's statements about Muslims and other beliefs. He called on friends to donate to Jim Graves, Bachmann's Democratic opponent for congress and encouraged Graves to "take away this evil woman's soapbox."
Sircus said he respects the political beliefs of everyone in his congregation, including conservatives, but he wanted Siegel to contextualize her visit by explaining that Anshe Emet is a welcoming synagogue.
"He had an obligation to say that she was sitting with a congregation that values and celebrates tolerance, compassion, knowledge, and respect for individual rights…" Sircus wrote, in response to media coverage on the controversy.
Siegal said the issue was "very painful" for the congregation.
According to Siegel, the synagogue has a strong policy of LGBT inclusivity, performing commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples and working closely with LGBT Jewish organization Keshet.
"When we [honor an official], we are honoring their position, not the person or their policies," said Siegel, adding that the synagogue does not take political stances.
It is not the first time that honoring an official has caused strife at Anshe, he noted. But in light of the recent controversy, the synagogue may be reconsidering the practice.
Siegel said he received word prior to services that Bachmann had requested to attend services but not to speak.
"In my opinion, it would have been inappropriate to challenge her or chastise her from the pulpit as some have suggested," he said.