Three Tips for Talking about Intermarriage and Israel

Last week, two different positions on intermarriage were shared by rabbis who write for this blog. Seth Goldstein wrote in favor of doing intermarriages for the good of the Jewish community and Alana Suskin wrote in opposition for the same reason.

Frankly, that is what this blog is about, different rabbis, holding different views and sharing them on this one space. The Rabbis Without Borders Network is a pluralistic group of rabbis. That means that we do not have to all believe in one way of doing things in order to be in communication and community with each other. We like to hear each other’s divergent views, learn more about each other, and hopefully model for others how this can be done in a respectful way, without the vicious acrimony we are currently seeing in our larger society.

Three tips will help you stay in relationship with people who are different from you:

  1. Curiosity – You have to be able to be curious about other peoples. Why do they believe what they believe? Why do they do what they do? What values are most important to them?
  2. Respect – Understanding that what might be important to someone else may not be important to you, and that is OK. It does not make that other person less than you. They are simply different from you, no judgement implied.
  3. Self-knowledge – To engage in conversation with others you have to know yourself as well. You have to be able to recognize when your own buttons are being pushed, when you are getting frustrated, angry, or out of control. That is when you need to step back, and recognize you have hit one of your own borders. It is OK, we all have them. The key is to be able to acknowledge the boarder and calmly say to another. “I understand what you are saying, but I don’t agree. I cannot go down that road with you.”

Name calling, finger pointing, yelling, are not helpful, and yet it is so easy to let ourselves get riled up over issues that are important to us. We get riled up because we care so deeply. Discussing intermarriage and Israel are the two most emotional issues in the Jewish community right now, and many people are yelling at each other across the divides.

Next time you find yourself getting emotional around one of these issues try to pull back a bit and get curious about the opposing viewpoint being shared, respect that the person behind that viewpoint also cares deeply about the issue at hand, and know when you need to, back away. Doing these things will help us all be better able to communicate with each other and keep open the possibility for deeper relationships.

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