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More critically, are the friendships my children are forging worth sacrificing for my political voice?

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Is it possible to disagree or do I need to tape my mouth shut? unsplash | Photo: Maria Krisanova (Unsplash)

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They say the key to a solid friendship is the same taste in drinks, and different taste in men. But what happens when you disagree about your mojitos as well? Or, in today’s age, politics?

Making friends as a child can be hard. Kids can be mean. But that often pales in comparison to making friends as adults. We tend to think that someone else doesn’t want, or need, to befriend us, and that can lead us to unwittingly build walls, and keep others away. As adults, we become entrenched in our views of ourselves, and that is often the greatest hindrance to developing new friendships. 

Adult friendships, particularly within the Jewish community, are generally based on similar life situations, geographic proximity, ages of children, or levels of religious observance. This is not to say that I don’t have friends who are older than me with adult children, or friends that live far away. But generally, one of these characteristics will intersect.

So you finally make some new friends, after lowering your walls, or maybe just lightly chipping at them. They live in your area, have kids in the same age ranges as yours, and share similar levels of observance – enough for you to feel comfortable letting your children eat at their home.

Soon enough, you’re sitting on the front porch together, watching the kids play, delighting in your newfound adult friendship, and applauding yourself for taking the steps to make this a reality, when it happens: Your new friend declares a deep, unapologetic devotion to President Trump, doesn’t understand why black lives should matter when all lives matter, and thinks of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a coarse four-letter word.

What do you do? Do you pretend you didn’t hear a word she uttered, in the hopes of maintaining the friendship? Do you get into a visceral argument, defending your political stance? Or do you absorb it all, and remain silent, because making friends is hard enough, even without involving politics?

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I fully recognize that this choice is borne out of privilege. It is due to my privilege that I am able to pick up these conversations as I choose, and lay them down when they make me uncomfortable. The choice to choose silence is a privilege many do not have; those who are continuously marginalized can’t choose to ignore these conversations, or not engage. They must. 

Having left-leaning tendencies can be isolating in the religious Jewish community. I have learned largely to avoid discussions of politics with most acquaintances and friends. I live in a suburban, Modern Orthodox community, mostly because I have children, and I love what that offers all of us, especially as a single-parent family. However, on my own, my views and ideas don’t jive that well with most people I know, and silence has become a skill of social survival. 

You can argue that friendships should be based on shared values, and I would agree. And admittedly, if someone stood up and said something blatantly racist, misogynistic, or homophobic, I would end that friendship.

Can we have a decent dinner table discussion without arguing unsplash| Photo: Jessica Da Rosa (Unsplash)

But most of the time it is far more nuanced, as discrimination so often is. The young fervent idealist in me says run from friendships that aren’t serving you and your values. The older realist in me knows that it’s more complex, and less binary, than my idealist vision.

The truth is, that I struggle with this, and don’t have the answers. I have left many Shabbat lunch tables where my children played and had a fantastic time, and I felt bereft, lonely, and isolated in my beliefs. I’ve asked myself if these friendships are worth it. Is my silence worth these friendships? Simultaneously, are the friendships my children are forging worth sacrificing for my political voice?

I suppose I could open the doors of healthy, respectful debate. Living in an echo chamber of one’s own making is hardly conducive to growth. However, there is always the fear that “respectful debate” is open to wide interpretation, and suddenly a nice Shabbat meal feels like one of my political Facebook posts, with one or two people arguing rudely, and everyone’s eyes darting back and forth like a tennis ball mid-match, while mindlessly inhaling popcorn. 

I will admit, I often feel defeated on this topic, and don’t pursue conversation when the opportunity arises. And perhaps I should. Perhaps I should give others and myself the benefit of the doubt in being able to converse about difficult topics. Or perhaps, I should just bring popcorn with me everywhere I go.

Daniella English is the author of the acclaimed blog The Not So Single Life. She has written for various publications such as Savvymom and the CJN, and is now a columnist with TheJ.ca. She has been featured on What She Said Talks and The AM 640 Dating and Relationship Show.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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