Author Archives: yourjfg

About yourjfg

For more than you'd ever want to know, go to www.yourjewishfairygodmother.com (who I was in 2000) and www.kabbalahglass.com (whom I am now). Stay tuned....

Mother In Law

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My daughter and son-in- law have had problems for years. He is an
alcoholic who has been in recovery on and off. He has never brought in
a reliable income, so she has been the primary breadwinner to support
them and their daughter. They relocated to be near his family, which
first was great but I think the pressures of living up to everyone’s
expectations took their toll. He lost two jobs, fell off the wagon, and
now they have separated. First he lived with his parents, and then
moved to halfway house where they carefully monitor his recovery.
Here’s the question: My daughter is secure in our support and love for
her. I think her husband does not know that we care about him too,
and that we are rooting for the family to stay together. Is it okay if I
call my son-in- law to give him emotional support during his recovery?
He’s a good guy and I think she will be happier with him than single.

Mother In Law

 
Dear Mother In Law:

I’d caution you from just picking up the phone and dialing, certainly
from doing so without a serious and explicit conversation with your
daughter. There are so many things you may not know, because
children always shield their parents from so much of the worst of their
adult lives. I’d start by asking her what she wants, and what her worst
fears are about his returning home prematurely. Do your best to listen
and not defend him. If you think she’s off base in her assumptions or
perceptions, try to ask her questions instead of just telling her what to
do. That’s hard, especially for a worried mom.

 
If you do speak to the husband, ask what he sees as the obstacles, not
just to moving back home but also to a long and stable marriage. Let
him have as much airtime as he needs, and tell him you love him no
matter what the outcome. Try not to get more involved unless your
daughter asks you to, and don’t repeat what he said to you. Also, you
don’t say how old your granddaughter is. I’d advise doubling down on
phone or Skype time with her, because I’m sure all these changes are
very confusing and she may need someone to talk to other than angry
mom or absent dad.

Out of !!!!s

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My former best friend is royally angry with me and I think she is very
in the wrong. We’ve been neighbors for 20 plus years. Our husbands
used to work together. Our sons grew up like brothers; both are
getting married this summer to wonderful young women. But she and
her husband have decided to move to where their son/daughter-in- law
will live. In the year since she made this decision our relationship has
deteriorated, in part because her attention is focused two hours north,
and in part because she’s started to treat me like chopped liver, as the
old saying goes. She assumes I am on tap for whatever she needs,
and has never once asked if I needed anything because she is so
preoccupied with her transition. She’s putting her house on the market
(for sale by owner) soon and asked if I would stand in for her. Why?
Because she and hubby are going to be out of town attending their
son’s Frisbee tournament! If it were the Olympics, I would stretch but
it is &*%^ frisbee and I work 60 hours a week plus care for my
own family. I told her “Sorry. No can do. Not enough time.” Now she is
accusing me of not being supportive of their move.

Out of !!!!s

 
Dear Out of:

Twenty years is plenty long enough for big asks, and I put hostessing
an open house in that category. But her request reflects a lack of
understanding of the status of your friendship. It’s not the same as,
say, Can I list your address for a package delivery? Or Can you fill in
for me when the cable guy comes in case I can’t make it home in
time? Selling a house requires not just a warm body to open the door
but being “on” socially with prospective buyers, and also being
knowledgeable enough about the home to be able to answer questions
that potential new owners might ask. No was a thoroughly legitimate
answer. She should reschedule the open house or pass on the Frisbee
trip.

 

I understand that your No came not only from not having much
discretionary time for yourself but also from your sadness about the
changes in the friendship. That seems like a worthwhile conversation
to have before she moves away.

Liberal

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Every year at Passover I am confronted by the fact that my relatives
are bigots. This despite that we’re a family of immigrants. The story
should be a cautionary tale: both sides of the family escaped Nazi
Germany in 1939, with the assistance of my father who had emigrated
a few years earlier. They worked amazingly hard their whole lives so
we kids had it easier. I live a life of privilege compared to the rest of
the planet so do all my family. So why should I have to sit without
speaking up at a ritual that’s supposedly about liberation from slavery
and hear my aunts and uncles say words my first-graders aren’t
allowed to us about people trying to immigrate here now. My parents
give me the eye-rolling looks that say I am not supposed to cause a
scene and confront anyone with their hypocrisy. How can I educate my
relatives that the door did not slam shut on America right after our
meshpochah landed?

Liberal

 
Dear Liberal:

Some families have rules forbidding discussion of politics at
gatherings, especially holidays. Others indulge in free-for- alls. While
it’s always possible that one or more are talking that way to annoy or
provoke you, the more possible truth, and sadly embarrassing
knowledge, is that they probably don’t realize how bigoted and
hypocritical their language is.

 
Given that it’s after the Seder, I’d send a follow-up email to the
offenders, or even to the family as a whole. Say very simply what you
tell your students when they use inappropriate language: that it is
dehumanizing and cruel, and reflects more poorly on the speaker than
the spoken of. Draw the obvious parallels between your family and
current immigrants, and ask some open-ended questions to spark a
dialogue. You might or might not have an impact, but at least you’ll
have served notice that you’re not going to be quelled from expressing
your own views. At a minimum, they’ll have to listen.

Tired of Gossip

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I know you get this question, or a variation of it, every year. But
please remind your readers about the etiquette of family events like
Seders. Every year I end up embroiled in the post-Seder round robin
conversations between various siblings, nieces, aunts, cousins, etc
critiquing the quality of so-and- so’s cooking, the inappropriateness of
someone’s attire, who said what to whom about what, etc etc etc for
every possible way that one human being can criticize or kvetch about
another. And this in a family that generally gets along and likes one
another

Tired of Gossip

 
Dear Tired of Gossip:

The irony of turning a holiday that’s about liberating ourselves from
slavery into enslaving ourselves to criticism is beyond sad. We’re
supposed to be about celebrating the end of 400 years of brick-making
and servitude. Not turning up the heat on those near and dear to us.
I’m reminded of the scene in Avalon, a movie set in Baltimore in the
mid-19th century, about two brothers who feud on a Thanksgiving.
One drives off in a huff while the other screams at him, waving a
drumstick, and they don’t talk for fifty years. (At least that’s how I
remember it.) Imagine 50 years without a sibling. You might smile for
a second after winning a small argument, but it would be a collassal
loss for you and your family.

 
So here’re the rules for all family events, from Passover through
Chanukah: Thou shalt not criticize others. That includes their cooking,
their clothing, their children, their homes, their cars, their choice of
vacations, or their choice of souvenirs for the meshpochah. Thou shalt
not say anything that can be misinterpreted by someone with a grudge
against someone else. When asked about anyone’s cooking, say, It
isn’t as good as I remember my mother’s but a very interesting new
way of doing that dish. When asked about someone’s atrocious new
sofa or dress say, It’s not my taste but it suits her and seems to be
making her very happy. Express joy for the satisfaction of others. Do
not appear to take any pleasure in the misfortunes, shame, failures, or
other life traumas of anyone in your circle. That’s actually a pretty
good way to improve your adherence to lashon hara, the mitzvah that
proscribes gossip. It’s also a good way to get people to like you more,
relatives or not. Kindness breeds kindness, not rancor.

Overwhelmed With Worry

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What can I do to help a friend who has just been diagnosed with ALS?
Her health has been declining for the past two years. She has gone
from a vibrant public figure to a woman who needs a walker to get
from her recliner into her wheelchair. Her husband is overloaded
already caring for his 98-year- old mother. She has no biological
children, but does have adopted grandchildren (long story). I am her
friend and neighbor and usually run quick errands for her like library
books (my office is a block away) and specialty items from a favorite
store. But now she needs more and more help every day, and I’m
concerned the people who have been bringing her meals etc during the
most recent spate of testing and treatment may fad away with this
news. She is very appreciative for help but also very frightened, and
there is so very much to do around the house and in the bigger
picture.

Overwhelmed With Worry

 
Dear Overwhelmed:

There are two levels of support people who have received a terminal
diagnosis need. And be clear, even if it is a slowly progressing form of
ALS, there is no cure at this time. That doesn’t mean that any one of
her friend or family might not go first, but the prognosis is of
progressive decline until death. So the emotional level of support,
among family and the inner circle of closest friends needs to be
addressed first. Because the disease is not linear or predictable, it is
useful to first establish big criteria of needs: assists with meal
preparation or companionship in the house in the earlier stages,
compared to assists with bathing, eating, etc in later stages.

 
Fortunately there are many websites set up to support exactly this
kind of situation. One I know best is caringbridge.org, though I am
sure others are also good. It allows people to identify specific tasks
(e.g. a gluten free vegetarian dinner for two on a specific date, of two
hours of housecleaning) and friends to sign up to provide them. These
sits also allow the patient to give medical updates to people who care
about her welfare. Ask your friend if she wants help setting that up,
and perhaps offer to be her site manager (or recruit one). You are
right that a long haul will wear folks down. But it takes a village to
support us all in hard times.

The Good Daughter

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My brother is addicted to pills, though will just get drunk if that’s all he
has. He has now lost her room in the house she was staying and her
fourth job as a nursing aide in a year. He relocated to my city to live
with our other, who is in the last stages of a terminal blood disorder,
though Mom has already outlasted the doctor’s predictions by almost
two years. Two points: (1) Mom is not supposed to drink, but often
they do that together; (2) David is “exhausted” from the move, and
wants to “take a month off to recuperate” before he looks for work. I
think he should not get a vacation but start putting out resumes today,
but both of them loudly told me off and said I was being “controlling
and judgmental.” I’m the responsible daughter who has to pick up the
pieces when they break things. Is there any way to avoid this train
wreck?

The Good Daughter

 
Dear Good Daughter:

In a word: No. You can try to ban alcohol from the house but addicts
always find a way to get their fix until they get clean and sober. You
can try to scare your mother with mortality, but if she’s already past
the doctor’s predictions she probably figures she can do as she
pleases, and who knows, maybe she is right. But it sounds like the
codependence will not help your mother as much as your brother.
Regarding the proposed vacation, your suggestion makes sense to me,
unless he needs the month to prepare for a pee test that would likely
be required to get a job. But even so, getting his resume together and
sending out letters and applications seems like a basic reality check to
reinforce the idea that he is there to help your mother, not live off her.
It might help to start with optimism when you speak to them, even if
you get heartburn and grit your teeth. But short of a miracle I think
you will be in this soap opera for a while.

The Assistant (No More?)

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

For years I worked for an executive who was very high-powered and
driven. Over time he began to lose his ability to do his job well and
eventually sold the company to younger folks. Five years later they
have paid him off and bought him out and essentially retired him. But
because he doesn’t know how to do nothing he has come up with a
plan that he started out calling “middle class services,” a name I have
convinced him to abandon. His theory is that double-working
households need cheap labor to do all the errands and chores that
they don’t have time for during the week, so they can have some
quality time together. Great theory. But he wants to set up a college
dropout into business to provide the kind of services the kid provides
him to others. That means going head to head with established
concierge and care companies, of which I found several with excellent
reputations and lower prices than he is proposing, all in a two-minute
google search.

He wants me involved as the lemon-sucker and offering to pay for
my time. I think the kid is just nodding yes to the guy who pays him
now, and is too lazy to build a business upon. I don’t mind consulting,
but I do mind batting my head against a wall knowing it is going to
get bloody and bruised.

The Assistant (No More?)

 
Dear Assistant:

You can earn your keep as you did in the past: by being a truth-telling,
lemon-sucking consultant. Before anyone starts a business they need
several important thing. In rough order: an idea for a product or
service that people want; an idea that’s not already being sold by so
many people or so cheaply that there’s not room for more
competitors; enough capital to get the process going and to outlast the
start-up period; intelligent committed staff who are willing to work
extra hard without a guarantee of success; and sufficient
communication, bonding, and common vision among owners and
employees that the folks on the ground can tell the folks upstairs what
needs to change, and the folks with the money can decide how much
they want to commit.

 
In this case, either you or the proposed employee can research the
market and suss out who is already providing those services. The
would-be entrepreneur may falter at your news. If not, he should take
a couple pages out of the multi-level- marketing playbook. That means
identifying all possible people he could approach or the erstwhile
employee could approach in his name to say, Hi, so-and- so has been
employing me to so x, y, and z and thought you might want a personal
assistant too. If he can connect with enough folks who will pay for his
time to fill up the FTE he is willing to work, you’ll quickly be able to see
if he is cut out for marketing and working. But if he’s just looking for a
middle management paycheck, it’s a great time to learn that you don’t
get to the middle till you start at the bottom.

Shell Shocked

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I worked with an abusive boss for 26 years. I am finally free of
working directly with him, but we’re both employed by the same
company. People who do still work with him come to me to vent, and it
causes all the same responses it did when I suffered more directly.
Just thinking about him causes an anxiety spike. It’s a physical
reaction in my body: twisting in my gut, racing pulse, shallow
breathing. All the classic fight or flight responses. I’m not even
discussing my mood, which plummets. My wife encouraged me to
unplug from him, but I cannot afford to quit, and at 58 am unlikely to
find a job as good as this one. What’re some things I can do, other
than avoiding him and conversations that include his name? It’s a form
of PTSD I am eager to finish healing.

Shell Shocked

 
Dear Shell Shocked:

What you are describing is indeed a form of PTSD. Also classic
Pavlovian conditioning. You need to switch off your responses to the
stimulus. Avoiding direct contact with his person and conversations
about him and his abusiveness is a great start. But better is to
cultivate relaxation responses, because you’re still in an orbit that
includes many old cues.

 

Start by identifying a code word for yourself that is your new
command to set the process in motion. Make it something silly and
unrelated to work: tofu, bozo, or papaya. The minute you start to feel
yourself respond in old ways, say the word and start imaging yourself
getting up from a chair at a table where he is sitting, walking out of
the room, and closing the door behind you. If you still hear his voice in
your head, image turning down the volume dial on a radio until it
fades to silence. See yourself walking into the sunlight and going to
meet your wife at your favorite restaurant at a vacation resort. See
yourself sitting at a table with her, looking at an incredible view, with a
plate of tasty tidbits and flight of beer or wine. If thoughts of him
reappear, start over: say your cue; close the door; turn down the
sound; and have another slosh of anesthetic. Do this often enough and
he will fade into your past.

 

PS if you start to develop a drinking problem, change the imagery and get
a therapist.

Off Duty Please

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Can you help me design a “staycation?” My husband has had a raft of
medical problems. Sadly they include orthopedic problems, which
means that our normal hobbies of hiking and mushroom picking are
completely off the table. I’m a teacher and have a few weekends left
and then a long summer. I’m not expecting a two-week period at
home where I have no responsibilities, but I would like to design a
plan where I can get several days in a row to indulge my desire to
write. I have an idea for a children’s book, actually a series of them,
and a good friend who is an artist who can collaborate. My husband is
retired, not to mention grumpy from months of medical aggravation.
So he is lonely and looking for company. I don’t want to be unfriendly,
but I’m stressed by his condition also, and need my summer to
recharge.

Off Duty Please

 
Dear Off Duty:

You need to balance out the mix of responsibility with creativity.
Anyone who works at home will confirm that simply walking into the
kitchen to get a cup of coffee can trigger many hours of
procrastination and distraction, especially if one’s creative work isn’t
flowing. So you will need to set clear boundaries about when you do
what, and get an agreement from your husband to help you reinforce
them, and to keep out of your way in your creative time zones.

 

You don’t want him to think that your time together is all about work.
Getting him engaged in household maintenance before you get your
creative staycations is a deal he will have to agree to. Put a carrot in
the stick and make plans for a big date at the end of each one. For
example, Monday and Tuesday are together days doing home care.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday until 3:00 is your creativity zone.
Then weekend is playtime together. Part of your prep is to have your
“creativity bag” ready to go: a tote with a dedicated set of materials
including laptop, clipboard, drawing paper, dictation device, whatever
you need all packed and ready to grab. Then on Wednesday morning,
head out to a coffee shop and set up for creativity. In the house, have
a special flag or sign that says, “The Writer is Out” which hubby should
agree to respect, house fires or broken legs notwithstanding.

Teach

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I work in a relatively poor rural school district. Most of us who teach
here do it for love of the children. Certainly not for the very low
salaries and bad working conditions. Last autumn we finally got a new
superintendent, who replaced an arrogant and I suspect corrupt
predecessor. He diverted all the money that souls have improved
academics to sports teams. The new one is all about classrooms and
getting students access to technology. This week, for Teacher
Appreciation Day, he personally went to each school and put a giant
Snickers bar into each teacher’s mailbox. He also sent a sweet email
acknowledging our professionalism and commitment. I was away at a
training, but came back to an empty mailbox, if you don’t count the
normal detritus of district announcements. A friend reported that a
much-unloved colleague had gone around harvesting the candy from
the boxes of those of us who were away or sick, cheerfully gloating,
“You snooze, you lose!” in front of several other teachers. She missed
any sense of irony, given that she is about 100 pounds above a
healthy BMI. I don’t even like Snickers, but I know folks who do. And
I’m annoyed at her behavior. Say what to her?

Teach

 
Dear Teach:

I’d avoid fat shaming, because you’d feel almost the same if she were
skinny and a chocolate thief, though perhaps a little less self-
righteous. Simple post a sign in the teachers lounge that says this:
Dear Candy Thief: Among the values we try to teach our students are
integrity and honesty. The candy bar you removed from my box while
I was away at a teacher training was a symbolic but meaningful thank
you. I would like to appreciate it in my own way. Please return it to my
mailbox without further ado.

 

Most folks would be shamed and comply. Those that would not be are
so inured to public opinion that virtually northing will impact their
psyche. Either way, thank the new superintendent.

Second Chance at Life

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

This question is at the intersection of family of origin and family of
choice. Or perhaps at the intersection of clashing cultural norms and
politeness. Long life story made very short: I was a happily married
woman for thirty-five years before my husband died. I was single for
ten years. If you can add that puts me in my late sixties. For the last
year I have been in a warm and loving relationship with a woman who
has been my best friend for two decades. She was also widowed, and
we had a long history of taking vacations with our husbands, theatre
and dinner dates, etc, which we continued after the funerals. One
night we had a conversation about very personal and intimate things,
and within a month we were lovers. Now we think of ourselves as
“married” although we live in a state that doesn’t even recognize civil
unions between same-sex couples. A nephew, who used to be a
favorite, is having his third wedding. He’s a successful NYC lawyer and
likes showing off to his colleagues and clients. The invitation received
came with a reply card already checked off in the “Will come
unaccompanied” box, and a quick handwritten note from my nephew
that read “I’m sure you’ll understand.” In fact, I do not understand
and feel both slighted and annoyed. The reality is that my honey has
as little interest in attending as my nephew does in hosting her. But
the idea of a great weekend in NYC seeing some shows and museums
sounds like a grand anniversary weekend. I’m hurt and want to wring
his ears. What’s the right reply?

Second Chance at Life

 

Dear Second Chance:

You have a variety of options. No matter which you choose, it should
be accompanied by a blunt burst of education for your socially
conscious nephew. Tell him in no uncertain terms that your current
partner is your life partner, for better or worse, for nephew or worse,
just as his fiancée will be to him. Assure him that your relationship will
be damaged in some measure if he fails to understand that and
acknowledge that.

 

As for the wedding, you can choose to not attend at all, and the same
with a gift, or nothing more than a token. You can tell the truth about
why, or say you and your honey already have plans to be in NYC
another weekend and cannot do both. (You could ask if he’d like to
meet her, if only to goose him a little.) You could choose to attend the
ceremony, because, after all, family is family, but skip the party. But
in no circumstances should you let him off the hook for his rudeness.
You don’t need to trash him to your common kin. But if a little guilt
seeps into his head, maybe he’ll grow up, as he should.

Stunned

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What, if anything, should I say to a friend who is breaking the law?
Since I have known her (twenty-five years, first as work colleague
then as social friend) she has always been an upstanding person:
reliable, honest, and the type of person not even to run a yellow light,
let alone break a serious rule. I was at her house for a party and used
her personal bathroom because the other was busy. Then I looked at
the new décor in her bedroom, which she had told me she wanted me
to see. While I was looking around, I saw a marijuana pipe and a jar of
leafy herbs on her nightstand. I wasn’t just surprised, I was shocked! I
know the younger generation uses pot like we use alcohol, and doesn’t
think twice about it, but to find a respected senior and member of the
temple board with a pipe seems strange. Ask, or keep my big mouth
shut?

Stunned

 
Dear Stunned:

Pot-smoking, among all generations, is becoming more common, and
in some states legal as well as socially more acceptable. Like other
social trends, the national acceptability of gay marriage for example,
society is changing fast. Conspiracy theorists have hypothesized that
big pharma and big tobacco see this as the next big cash crop. While
many people smoke for recreational reasons, many others do so for
medical ones, from pain relief to a cure for insomnia. In the absence of
more information that would be my guess for your friend. Given your
summary of her life, I’m sure she hasn’t advertised this.

 

The reality is that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in
their own home and in their bedrooms. So for you to open your “big
mouth” in an accusatory way to her, or, worse, to gossip about her to
others, would be a true violation of the friendship. Either let it be, or, if
you suffer from insomnia or some other ill that pot might help, bring it
up casually in a conversation, saying that an anonymous friend had
suggested it to you as an option for remediation and that you are
curious what she thinks. She might suspect something, so if she does
ask you outright, confess and say you didn&'t know how to bring it up.
If she declaims all knowledge, let her off the hook and let it go,
keeping your mouth shut to others, even in what you might think
would be a subtle probe. We are rarely as opaque as we hope. If you
want to gossip about someone, let it be you, not her.

Sick of Being Sick

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Long, ugly, medical story made short: I had ankle surgery that went
bad and I was on too many meds for too long. Even after I got off the
opioids I was on anti-inflammatories for a long time. Two weeks ago I
landed in the emergency room with an attack of diverticulitis.
Apparently the meds had inflamed my gut in bad, and hard to
remediate way. My birthday is in two weeks, fortunately one ending in
a 7 not a 0 or a 5. In my social circle most people like to take the
birthday gal out to lunch. But right now food is sweet potatoes,
steamed vegetables, rice, broth, and applesauce, with an occasional
treat of oatmeal. I’m not eating gluten, sugar, dairy, salads, pizza,
alcohol, or a host of other delicious things. While it’s making me
healthier it is also very boring and unequivocally not very festive. As
people are asking about taking me out to celebrate, I sound like an old
wet blanket. Do you have an idea about how to enjoy being the center
of attention without destroying my tender tummy?

Sick of Being Sick

 
Dear Sick:

I have two ideas and suggest you employ them both. Idea number
one: Tell folks what you can and cannot eat and a safe set of
restaurants you can go to. Explain that what’s much for fun for you
now is doing and experiencing rather than eating. Suggest that your
friends invite you to a movie or a show, with a light bite or cup of tea
before or after. Say the pleasure of their company should not be
overshadowed by the after-effects.

Idea number two is to spread out the joy. Explain that your system
is on overload, both from the medical events and the number of folks
who want to express their love. Ask if you can take a rain check until
your gut is healed, and set a specific date on the calendar that feels safely
far off. Good friends would understand either option, and you can give
them a choice. Sound appreciative for whatever they say yes to and focus
on getting healthy. By next birthday I hope you are eating everything that
you enjoy and that’s good for you.

Feeling Annoyed

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

For the past two years I have played ping pong for exercise. The club
has about 100 members and at the time I play, 9:00 am, many retired
folks, some of whom are completely out of my league excellent and
others welcoming and helpful. I was a newbie for a while, but got
pretty good, certainly mid tier. One of the very regulars is a man in his
80s, who had eye surgery that seems to have failed utterly. He used
to be mid-pack but now couldn’t hit the ball if it were the size of a
basketball. In addition he tells long stories and jokes to cover up his
frustration, which just slows down the game even more. I like him,
and I feel sorry for him, and I know this will happen to us all. But for
me this is exercise time, and I cannot give it all over to kindness, even
though I feel guilty saying that. Is there a gentle way to convey my
need to rotate with other players without offending someone who was
kind to me when I needed it?

Feeling Annoyed

 
Dear Annoyed:

There’s a certain amount of kindness and grace that’s required from us
all, in every situation. Here’s your chance to step up. When you play
with him, gently suggest that stories are great and interesting, but
they slow down your need to keep in motion, something your own
doctor has said is essential. Say you’re happy to hear them but could
he please keep playing while he talks. If he complies, hooray. If not,
try to rotate to a different table after a politely appropriate amount of
time.

 

Most clubs have some kind of manager or facilitator. Quietly take that
person aside and ask if s/he has noticed to decline in this person’s
play. Say that you like him and are happy to keep playing with him a
little while each time you come. But that given the large number of
players, there should be a rotating pool of people to help care for the
elders. Ask him if he would be willing to speak to the man directly,
suggesting that he schedule a follow-up with his eye surgeon. The
difficulties might be temporary, or they may presage something that
requires more medical attention. No matter what, stress your
willingness to be a good person. You’ll need the same grace someday,
as will we all.

Time’s Too Short

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m a senior living on a limited income. My congregation has a policy of
reduced dues for seniors, and also an option to pay 2% of one’s
income as dues, with the understanding that part of the “missing”
revenue will be made up for in volunteerism. I have served on a
variety of committees and just volunteered to be a “Welcome Mensch”
for new members. I was assigned a couple who moved here a year
ago, who joined a few months ago, and whom I met yesterday. To say
there was no fit is not even close. While we shared some common
background, and should have gotten along, the hour plus coffee klatch
seemed to last forever. Finally, in attempt to either bond or create
distance, I brought up politics. When his first words were about
privatization and then a long tirade denouncing “political correctness,”
I suspected another problem. The wife pursed her lips grimly, and
declined to speak. To break the tension I said cheerfully, “Bernie and
Elizabeth Warren is my dream ticket!” They excused themselves soon
after. In theory I am to see and/or call them monthly for a year. Do I
have to?

Time’s Too Short

 
Dear Too Short:

This particular election season is bringing every bad type of feeling and
behavior front and center. Not just from the politicians but among
ordinary folks as well. If you truly cannot stand these folks, you have a
legitimate reason to talk to the committee chair and ask that they be
assigned to a different person. But if the true point of the role is to be
both welcoming and a mensch, this is a wonderful opportunity to
practice tolerance and compassion, two Jewish values that might have
more of an impact on these folks and on you than rudeness and
running.

 

Follow up your meeting with a bread-and- butter note saying again how
much the congregation welcomes new members. Suggest some
committees they might volunteer for, or other activities that will get
them more engaged with the community and less dependent on you to
be their personal guide. If you know other members with whom they
share interests, send an email to both suggesting they meet for coffee.
In your next meeting with them, which you can push off at least six
weeks, find a place that’s distracting, like an art fair or farmers’
market. And avoid talking politics. There’s enough of that all around
us.