Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
For the last five years I have been becoming more active in my
congregation. I am going to services more often and volunteering to
usher, going to classes, Torah study, and generally making more
friends and becoming part of the community. A month ago I was asked
to join a committee, the one that deals with aspects of the worship
service. I was flattered and accepted. Even though this is an area in
which I am not learned I am very interested and thought it would give
me more personal exposure to the rabbis. I also represent a lay point
of view that many people on the committee do not. Now it appears
that the person who asked me, who is also the chair, assume I will
vote with her on every issue. Sometimes I agree with her but I am not
a complacent shill. I am a smart, freethinking person. Is there a tactful
way to tell her that when I think she’s right I will agree but when I
think she’s wrong I will not. She is someone I would like as a friend,
but not at any cost.
Dear Not Obligated:
Your only obligation is to your conscience and your congregation. You
should sit down with the woman that invited you to the committee.
Ask her to tell you anything she wants you to know about committee
history, personalities, old feuds, issues of import, areas of he personal
concern. Tell her you want as much of an education as she’s able and
willing to share. Say you respect that her views are her own and you
will treat whatever she says with confidentiality. But say you sensed
many undercurrents in the meeting and want her insights.
Listen carefully and respect her privacy. End the convo by saying you
want to think about everything she told you.
A few days later call her back. Tell her that you’ve decided that you need to establish your own identity on the committee. Say that if she’s canvassing votes on a specific issue that she’s welcome to try and persuade you before a
meeting about why she’s right. Assure her that you’ll give her the same, but no greater, courtesy than you would others. Explain that
you’ll be most help if people see you as fair and open-minded.
Reassure her of your respect, if not your unflinching loyalty. She won’t
be satisfied, but if that’s the best she’s going to get, better to let her
know it now. If she still wants to be friends, you’ll get that message