Our two Cents | Discussion of Israeli politics disturbs peace at family dinners

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to ourtwocents@jweekly.com.

My brother-in-law has a totally different view about Israel than I do. Though we both care deeply about Israel and its future, we really don’t see eye to eye when it comes to Israeli politics. The problem is that this is making family dinners more difficult and unnecessarily heated. I feel bad for everyone around the dinner table when these discussions escalate and frankly, it has made me less interested in spending time with my wife’s family. My wife is starting to get really annoyed. What do you suggest? C.R., Berkeley


Jessica: Is it possible to have a conversation with your brother-in-law about keeping dinner conversation off the topic of Israel? It is important to keep the peace, and it is completely fair to forbid some topics. While having a difference of opinion may be frustrating for you both, I believe it is important to agree to disagree. Israeli politics do not have to directly affect your everyday relationship with your wife’s family, so don’t let it!

Alexis: Rather than focusing on your differences about Israeli politics, it’s time to start paying attention to your shared love and concern for Israel. The fact that you have a strong common interest is more than many brothers-in-law can say, so consider spending more time discussing those Israel-centered issues around which you are aligned. Sure, talk of settlements and elections may be off the table — but I imagine there are plenty of Israel-based conversations you can happily engage in. I suggest that you pull your brother-in-law aside at the next family gathering and offer a peace treaty — you’ll both agree to avoid the topics that incense you and enjoy the topics that unite you. I’m sure your brother-in-law would be glad to put the fighting to rest as well and enjoy your company again, too.

Saul: I suggest that you approach your brother-in-law and both agree to avoid political discussions about Israel at the family dinner table. That way you will stop making everyone uncomfortable and will also begin enjoying the time with your wife’s family again. It certainly isn’t worth it if it is making your wife unhappy.

Sharon: The passion and emotion that gets stirred up when discussing Israeli politics is understandably hard to control even when it happens around a family dinner table. Since you are finding it difficult to suppress your strong feelings and differing views, it makes sense to leave these discussions to private conversations between you and your brother-in-law or decide to leave the topic of Israel out of your relationship entirely. For the sake of your own family peace process, leave the Middle East out of dinner table conversation. n

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.

Ufberg/Sclamberg Family