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Bridging the cultural gap

Created date

August 21st, 2012

I ve produced several documentaries about families. One, Surviving Salvation, showed what happened to Ethiopian Jewish families who were transported from their very traditional culture to the modern Westernized culture of Israel. The accompanying book demonstrated how quickly these families changed with two images: one of a family that had just arrived, all in their traditional garb, showing the elders in the front row with the young people in the back; and the second, taken six months later, where the young people were now front and center, wearing blue jeans and sneakers. Our culture favors the new, and thus the young. It also pushes the newest trends over older cultural values. People are hesitant to expose their opinions about political or religious matters because we are a melting pot in this society you try to blend in rather than stand out by speaking what s on your mind.

Speak up or shut up?

Given this situation, how do you, as part of the older generation, share your values and political viewpoints with your grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Do you sit by silently and watch as your beliefs are dismissed out of hand, or do you speak up, knowing that your words will be swimming against the tide? My answer is that you have to choose your battles. Let s say you can t stand tattoos, but you also want your grandchild to attend religious services with you. If you aren t seen as someone who makes a face every time your granddaughter with the tattoo on her ankle walks in the room, then maybe she ll acquiesce when you ask her to come with you to church or synagogue. Your family will listen to you, but you have to instruct them through gentle coaching, not in your face opinion giving. You still have some influence, however, so think about how you can best use it, and then, as our young people would say, Go for it!