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I don’t want to have political discussions with people on the Left. Period.
On the third Wednesday of every month, I have a Zoom meeting with a small group to discuss Jewish topics. Recently we decided to read essays of Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that he produced in an ongoing series about the weekly Torah readings. But I’m already seeing signs that in an effort by group members to relate his essays to current events, we are going to have difficulty avoiding current politics, and I’m not sure how to address the issue. And, of course, they all are on the political Left.
This morning we were discussing Beha’lotecha (Numbers 8), which focuses on Moses’ struggle with the Jewish people on their journey from Egypt. They are once again complaining about all the wonderful benefits they experienced as slaves in Egypt (leaving out slavery, of course) and Moses is exasperated by their frustration. Gradually, with the help of leaders in the community, he finds a way to deal with his own annoyance and discover his own humility in dealing with the demands of the people.
As we discussed Rabbi Sacks’ essay, one of the women in our group offered to tie Moses’ experience to current events. (I knew then we were probably not headed in a constructive direction.) She brought up how much humility Joe Biden had shown prior to his election, but now that he was fighting the Republicans, he was showing less humility.
My slow burn was igniting.
I said that if we were going to relate the Torah reading to the present day, we needed to acknowledge that there was little humility in Biden’s actions (I didn’t mention all the Trump Executive Orders that Biden reversed on his first day in office) and suggested the group reconsider who demonstrated the least amount of humility in the federal government.
And then I changed the subject.
As you might imagine, every person in the group is an uninformed (from my perspective) Lefty, and a couple are very opinionated. In the past, with another group, I banned references to politics from our conversations. (I’m this group’s facilitator.) But I’m quite certain that if someone wants to relate current events to our Torah reading, politics are going to come up, intentionally or not.
And I have little to no patience anymore with people who don’t know what they are talking about.
So, I’m seeking your input:
- Should I ban politics from this point forward as part of our discussions?
- Should I try my best to present the other side (as I watch their jaws tighten and eyes squint)?
- Do you have any other suggestions about how to deal with this challenge?
I must admit that my tolerance for political discussions with the other side has grown very thin. A part of me says that I can establish a rule against current politics, and if they don’t like it, they can lump it (but I will remind them nicely, of course). Another part of me resents having to set limits at all.
And a third part of me wants to disband the group and move on.
Yet I can tell they love having these discussions, and most of the time, I do, too.
What do you think would be my best strategy?Published in