Michele Bachmann's Chicago Synagogue Visit Drives Attendees To Leave, Donate To Her Opponent
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) swung by a Chicago-area synagogue for a worship service on the eve of Yom Kippur last week, upsetting congregants and provoking one man to mount a campaign for her Democratic challenger before the end of the night.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Rabbi Michael Siegel of Anshe Emet Synagogue observed protocol by offering a customary greeting to Bachmann during the services. While elected officials are traditionally acknowledged during such events at the temple, the presence of the conservative Minnesota firebrand prompted particular displeasure.
Some reportedly walked out of the ceremony, while Gary Sircus, a 25-year member of Anshe Emet Synagogue, voiced more active opposition to Bachmann's attendance.
"The holiness of the room and the holiness of the evening was greatly diminished for me, if not completely destroyed," said Sircus, according to the Tribune. "Our congregation values and embodies tolerance, compassion, respect for individual rights, intelligence, science -- all of the things that I think Michele Bachmann stands against."
Bachmann has been an outspoken supporter of Israel and an unabashed opponent of gay rights, an awkward policy duo on that particular night; Siegel told the Tribune that the night's service had included a piece honoring Israel for its openness to the LGBT community.
Hours after storming out of the service, Sircus donated to Jim Graves, Bachmann's Democratic opponent in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, and included a note.
"I felt that the best way to 'honor' Ms. Bachmann's visit was to make a contribution to your campaign," he wrote to Graves. "Even though I do not vote in Minnesota, please do everything in your power to take away this evil woman's soapbox."
The Graves campaign told the Tribune that it experienced a 400 percent growth in donations from the Chicago area last week, though it's unclear if Sircus is to credit for this trend.
A strong fundraiser and prominent Tea Party figurehead, Bachmann's congressional seat has long been thought of as secure. According to a recent poll, however, Bachmann's once large lead over Graves is now within the margin of error.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the Chicago Tribune