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


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