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I have a question about family. - jonathanP - 07-04-2021

Hi everyone,

I'm not clear on what the etiquette of this is , so apologies if this question is out of place. This may not even be the right forum - so please feel free to point me elsewhere if that's the case. 

I'm not Jewish but I have a question about family that feels appropriate to ask. I have a number of very close Jewish friends, and there's a closeness and a quality to their families that I admire tremendously - but which is starkly lacking in my own. I've tried broaching this with my friends (of Jewish heritage) - but they inevitably laugh it off and segue with a "haha - if only you knew!". As an outsider, I can appreciate that the history of the Jewish people is such that strength of community and family are more than just "nice-to-haves", they are existential. What I'm asking here is in no way intended to minimise that history - but I hope that there is something I can learn to create a better family - and therefore future - for my little ones. 

I know there's no such thing as a perfect family, that knows nothing but peace, joy and connection. Life is challenging - so I'm not looking for a key to a utopian dream. But my wife and I both come from families where the discourse is often so poisonous and protracted that generations of families are affected and effectively walled off from each other. On my side - the focus of all of this originates in my parents. It's sad and despite years of trying to negotiate a better pattern - it persists and those efforts only seem to amplify the problem, which I find confusing. This was less of a problem before my wife and I had children - but we now have two amazing little boys.

The arrival of my sons (actually, the announcement of our first pregnancy) enflamed things further. These days, my mother will visit for 20 minutes every month or two, and my father hasn't bothered in months. My two sisters (my boy's aunties) haven't acknowledged, visited or ever even seen our youngest who is almost 7 months, and it's been a been a year and a half since they saw his older brother. Invitations to Christmas were never made, and I've reached the point where I'm consciously choosing to block further contact. And this hasn't arisen from any cultural or religious animosity either. I'm a white, anglo-saxon Australian: meaning we are about as lacking in cultural traditions as anyone on this planet.  And it's not COVID - no one in the family lives more than 15 minutes drive from each other. My question isn't how to solve the challenges above - I don't think there is one. My question is about ensuring that my own family doesn't grow to repeat the same mistakes. So why am I posting here?

I’m very fortunate to have a close circle of extremely good friends - and as it turns out, most of them are Jewish. These are friends that I’ve come to know through university, through work and the social networks that grow over time. It’s not a huge circle of friends - but it is a wonderful source of support, constancy and insight. My friends are the very best people I know. Brilliant, successful, happy, hard-working, kind, supportive - and as I mentioned: Jewish. And it's in my Jewish friends and their families that I've noticed a pattern of empathy, intelligence, education, solidarity and maturity that I really admire. My friends are close to their families, and obviously benefit from their involvement. I doubt the cultural tradition is coincidental. In addition, they are well-rounded and driven.  They are intelligent, and well-educated. They are successful, yet humble and supportive of others. They have an empathy and tendency to share and support that I appreciate and try hard to emulate. There’s also a quality that is hard to put language to, but that sits somewhere in the middle of love, strength and intention. Nobility wouldn’t be far from the mark - and a lot of them have a deep passion for justice and soecity. I hope you understand what I'm getting at - and it saddens me that it feels so different to what my own family has cultivated. 

So my question is this: In your experiences, what is it that cultivates these qualities? I want my family and children to be more are aligned in spirit to that of their uncles (my friends) than they are to their familial legacy. And I’m hoping you all might be able to give me some insight into how this might be possible.

If you made it this far, thank you.

Thank you and kind regards,
Jonathan


RE: I have a question about family. - searchinmyroots - 07-04-2021

Hello Jonathan and welcome to the forum.

Just to let you know, the first 3 posts are moderated to help keep out spam and bots.

Give us some to time read, digest and reply to your post and thanks for your questions!


RE: I have a question about family. - Alan_Boskov - 07-05-2021

I myself am one of the least qualified here for answering this basic question in depth. But, to keep the thread from going stale, I'll stick my neck out and take the first shot.
From what the thread's author has just written, his Jewish friends are of the type of which recognize their ethnic identity and not of the type of which either don't know or don't care to know (the latter type resembling typical non-Jews of whom I've often met in North America who haven't even a clue as to their European origins. "He's American and that's that and that's all that matters").
Woody Allen, like comedian Allen King, had the habit of using his own background as fodder for his films. As soon as I discovered this thread, a scene from the following film immediately came to mind. Despite being interpreted as comedy by many, there might be some truth in the following portrayal of both stereotypes. Since my mother is of northern Italian origin, I can see some similarities here to her family's side:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYY9Epog0rs


RE: I have a question about family. - jonathanP - 07-05-2021

(07-05-2021, 04:53 AM)Alan_Boskov wrote: I myself am one of the least qualified here for answering this basic question in depth. But, to keep the thread from going stale, I'll stick my neck out and take the first shot.
From what the thread's author has just written, his Jewish friends are of the type of which recognize their ethnic identity and not of the type of which either don't know or don't care to know (the latter type resembling typical non-Jews of whom I've often met in North America who haven't even a clue as to their European origins. "He's American and that's that and that's all that matters").
Woody Allen, like comedian Allen King, had the habit of using his own background as fodder for his films. As soon as I discovered this thread, a scene from the following film immediately came to mind. Despite being interpreted as comedy by many, there might be some truth in the following portrayal of both stereotypes. Since my mother is of northern Italian origin, I can see some similarities here to her family's side:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYY9Epog0rs

Hi Alan,

Thanks for responding - and thanks for the link. It's been a very long time since I saw Annie Hall, and it hadn't occurred to me that Mr. Allen might have something to say about the question I'm trying to answer. The way he lights, composes and art directs these two scenes is really interesting. There's an immediate earthiness, warmth and closeness that comes through on the reveal of his own family. He captures the contrast really well. Thank you - I know what I'm watching this weekend.

Cheers
J


RE: I have a question about family. - Blue Bird - 07-05-2021

I guess that Jews also have challenges in relationships.

Perhaps the Jewish view, that every Jew is precious, makes it easier to get along with each other.

I like this seder reading from RabbiO, how children are addressed.

https://www.thehebrewcafe.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=190


RE: I have a question about family. - jonathanP - 07-06-2021

(07-05-2021, 08:10 PM)Blue Bird wrote: I guess that Jews also have challenges in relationships.

Perhaps the Jewish view, that every Jew is precious, makes it easier to get along with each other.

I like this seder reading from RabbiO, how children are addressed.

https://www.thehebrewcafe.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=190

I like that a lot - it's a very generous way of looking at people. One thing I have learned about my friend's parents is that they were a careful mix of very hands-on, and very hands-off. And unfailingly supportive - and I think that's what has given risen to very well established self-efficacy and self-esteem. It really is a very different approach to where I came from - where my parents STILL compete with their children. It's intensely childish. Another person posted in the channel last-night, a link to Woody Allen's Annie Hall - a great scene between the two families. 

And how about yourself - where are you in this strange, modern world of ours?

Cheers
Jonathan


RE: I have a question about family. - jonathanP - 07-06-2021

(07-05-2021, 08:10 PM)Blue Bird wrote: I guess that Jews also have challenges in relationships.

Perhaps the Jewish view, that every Jew is precious, makes it easier to get along with each other.

I like this seder reading from RabbiO, how children are addressed.

https://www.thehebrewcafe.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=190

This is a really nice way of looking at children. Knowing how to accept children as they are certainly helps to avoid the pitfall of being critical of what they're not. My wife has been in two community mother's groups - and our eldest is only 2.5 now. But even before he was 1, there was a lot of competition between the mothers: "my child has 6 words, how many does yours have?",  "Oh - he's not very steady on his feet is he... mine was walking at 3 months. Are you concerned!?" That sort of thing. It's pretty sad - and my wife eventually drifted away from the group as the group was intended to be about mutual support - not vicarious self-loathing. That sort of thing is really common in Australia. 

And you've just helped me realise there is another difference that I've noticed between my friends of Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds. This one does have some exceptions actually, but a number of my Jewish friends are far more honest about the more problematic aspects of their home lives and children. Not all of them - but my friends of Anglo backgrounds very, very rarely share that kind of news. They are far more competitive, and conversation can often centre around pretty mundane subjects like property values, addresses, cars, etc. etc.

Interesting. Really nice link to the Rabbi's post.


RE: I have a question about family. - Alan_Boskov - 07-06-2021

A child should never be walking at 3 months already, first of all  Sad
Secondly, I've never raised our children in the New World. Therefore what I've just read is shocking. I suppose, there are some parallels between Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.A. (in particular) where individualism continues to play a strong role. Strong to the point where even mothers are pitting their infants into some sort of imaginary wrestling ring or sport arena of sorts. This sort of behavior is utmost irresponsible.
In more collectivist cultures, particularly those of far eastern Asian types, this behavior is unknown. I would guess that the collective survival experienced by Jewish people is one of the reasons as to why they've rejected this extreme form of individualist mind(less?)set.


RE: I have a question about family. - Blue Bird - 07-06-2021

(07-06-2021, 12:19 AM)jonathanP wrote:
(07-05-2021, 08:10 PM)Blue Bird wrote: I guess that Jews also have challenges in relationships.

Perhaps the Jewish view, that every Jew is precious, makes it easier to get along with each other.

I like this seder reading from RabbiO, how children are addressed.

https://www.thehebrewcafe.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=190

I like that a lot - it's a very generous way of looking at people. One thing I have learned about my friend's parents is that they were a careful mix of very hands-on, and very hands-off. And unfailingly supportive - and I think that's what has given risen to very well established self-efficacy and self-esteem. It really is a very different approach to where I came from - where my parents STILL compete with their children. It's intensely childish. Another person posted in the channel last-night, a link to Woody Allen's Annie Hall - a great scene between the two families. 

And how about yourself - where are you in this strange, modern world of ours?

Cheers
Jonathan


It sounds strange to our (western) ears and I also have to learn this perspective (which is hard sometimes). But deep down I know that this is a wise way to look at people.

Where am I? I live here in the middle of this world... at the same time, I try to stay away from the most harmful things like drugs, alcohol, TV, and follow the advice of Psalms 1.