Differing Family Views Create Discussion Concerns

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Dear Miriam,

My 30-something daughter identifies as a Jew and is married to a Jew, but she is very left wing when it comes to Israel. She refuses to sing Hatikvah at our family seder, and she has many Muslim friends. My husband and I actively support Israel and pro-Israel causes, and I am cautious about discussing my concerns with her. What should I do?

Signed,

Family Israel Concerns

Dear Concerns,

I can think of almost no way to begin answering your question that won’t lead to a controversy with some component of the likely readers of this column. If I say, “Jews hold a variety of opinions about Israel, and those viewpoints do not validate or invalidate their Jewishness,” I am likely to be criticized by those who believe that all Jews must unequivocally support Israel. If I say, “Your daughter is entitled to her opinions but should also respect yours,” I am likely to be criticized by those who believe that Israel has negative policies that need to be challenged.

Just like I can’t start this column without controversy, you likely cannot engage with your daughter on this topic without some element of controversy. If you are willing to hear what she has to say about why she is critical of Israel, by all means, find a way to work through the discomfort to get to the content. If, however, your goal is for her to listen to you explain why she must support Israel in exactly the same way that you and your husband do, don’t bother having the conversation because neither of you will gain anything from it, and your relationship will suffer as a result.

I’ve honestly never heard of anyone singing Hatikvah at a seder, so I wonder if there is a way for you to compromise on that tradition for the sake of shalom bayit (peace in the home). I wouldn’t suggest skipping dayenu if your daughter had a problem with miracles, but Hatikvah isn’t an integral part of seder. If you don’t sing it, she can’t refuse to sing it. If you can’t budge on that point, be prepared to allow her to sit in silence.

The most worrying part of your letter to me is that you include her friendships with Muslims as part of the reason you are concerned about your daughter’s views on Israel. Friendships with people who are different from us — whether because of background, religion, political beliefs, gender expression, sexual orientation or anything else — are the cornerstone of a diverse and respectful society. If you can’t see that, I don’t know why you would expect your daughter to be respectful of your views on Israel or, frankly, anything else about how society should function.

For you to question her friendships with people who are Muslim, either to her face or just anonymously to me, shows that you likely have a prejudice that goes beyond your opinions on Israeli politics. Before you approach your daughter, please examine your own underlying values that may be shaping your reaction to your daughter’s friendships and beliefs. Unless you are willing to do that work on your own, it’s unrealistic to expect that a truly honest conversation with your daughter is possible.

Be well,

Miriam

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