A political science class for Lia

For my potential journalism major (which I won’t know if I can do or not until at least next winter), I need to take two political science courses–one US, one international.

As a person who can’t stand politics, I’ve been dreading these two classes. Not only will I have to listen to information about politics, but I will have to write papers, take tests, and do well on them.

But then it hit me. I found a class I can take. Though it’s not currently offered at Northwestern, I bet I could find a few people to teach it.

Intro to Synagogue Politics.

In this course, we would learn about all the branches of synagogue politics–the executive branch (the shul president and vice president), the legislative branch (the executive board and board of directors), and the judicial branch (the Big Man Upstairs, located in the Ark at the front of the Sanctuary).

Much of the course material would also deal with the various cabinet departments:
-Department of Education (the Hebrew school and Bar/Bat mitzvah tutoring)
-Department of Homeland Security (the ushers)
-Department of Commerce (the gift shop, and the USYers selling things)
-Department of Energy (the youth group)
-Department of Veterans Affairs (the old Yiddish-speaking men who eat herring at Kiddush)
-Department of Labor (all aspects of the synagogue relating to prayer or worship [the Hebrew word for “labor” is also used for “worship”])
-Department of Housing and Urban Development (the custodians)

Students will also learn about the Cabinet-level rank given to the presidents of the Sisterhood, the Men’s Club, and the USY chapter.

Students must spend 5-10 hours outside of class at synagogue board meetings and Kiddush lunches. They will receive extra credit if they solve synagogue problems, and extra extra credit if they provoke controversy.

Required readings will come from the following textbooks:
Complaining about the Clergy
‘How Many Ways Can You Serve Herring?’ and Other Tips on Making a Successful Kiddush on a Low Budget
Six Characters in Search of a Rabbi: The Art of the Search Committee
Writing Sermons and High Holiday Appeal Speeches for Dummies
You Learn a Lot about a Person by their Seat in the Sanctuary
-‘Aha! That’s the Tradition!’ and Other Tales about Synagogue Customs and the Arguments they Provoke
-Not Separate, but Equal: Why Women are Allowed to Lead Shacharit but Not Wear Pants on the Bimah
-Merge Lanes, Not Synagogues: a Criticism of the Combined Synagogue

As part of their final projects, students in this class will create their own synagogue virtually, using the new software “Sim Synagogue.”

I think I’ll hold off on my political science classes until I find one like this.


8 thoughts on “A political science class for Lia

  1. I ain’t read this article, but I saw it on the houston chabad site a week ago when I was looking for information as to where the judaica shop is located. The “not spearate, but equal” reminded me of it:

    The back of the synagogue is not the back of the bus

    Of course, having not read it, I can only imagine that I totally disagree with everything it has to say. After all, I’m egal.

  2. They’re allowed to at my shul too, but everyone looks at them kinda funny. Actually, I’m not sure, maybe there is a written rule. I don’t know.

    But then you get into the problem of pants vs. the pants suit. Oh man.

  3. Just as the President’s cabinet is part of the Executive Branch, so too should the synagogue executive board be part of the shul Executive Branch.

    Consider the makeup of the exec board: There are officers like president, vice president, secretary and treasurer; then there are the “department heads” like ritual chair, adult ed, head of the school board, which are the equivalent of your Secretary-level positions; and there are other positions representing different departments and interests.

    This would leave the legislative branch as the regular shul board, which makes sense to me. Thinking about checks and balances, now the legislative can check the executive by having to approve some decisions that come out of the exec board (for instance ones regarding contracts and personnel).

    I would also argue that the entire membership can be considered as part of the legislative branch, because the entire membership needs to approve certain decisions.

    My only question is this: what branch of government is the professional staff? Moreover, are the clergy in the same branch of government as the Executive Director or the Youth Director?


  4. You raise good points and questions.

    Unfortunately, since this class does not yet exist and I have not taken it yet, I don’t know the answers. I’m no political science professor. I’ll get back to you.

  5. If you’re looking for a good polisci class, I would recommend taking a rational choice class (assuming it’s offered in your school), which may also be called something like a “strategic approach” or a “strategic method” to IR or politics or whatever.

    The strategic approach applies game theoretic tools to pick apart how people interact. It’s really cool, a little mathy, but you’re smart and could handle it.

  6. Hi 🙂 You seem interesting. Do you mind if I add you? Feel free to add me back.

    I’m a 4th year psychology major at York University. Jewish. Religious. That’s me in a nutshell.

    All the best,

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