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Playing It Safe: The Jewish Third Rail Strategy

Playing It Safe: The Jewish Third Rail Strategy

With Chanukah and holiday season weekends coming up, it is extended family time again. To help promote shalom bayit (“peaceful home”), JInsider offers our Jewish Third Rail Strategy for avoiding treacherous conversation topics during these intergenerational and interdenominational family get-togethers.
A quick definition: In transportation, the third rail is the powerful and dangerous electrified track. In politics, a “third rail” topic is one so charged that it is untouchable. With that in mind, here is our Jewish guide to a safe and peaceful holiday kibbitzing. Tell us what you think at

Safe Topics (Low heat and minimal conflict)

“Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” by Dan Senor

Embarrassing Jews: Eliot Spitzer, Bernie Madoff, et al.

Mel Gibson’s plight & God’s existence

Joseph Telushkin: Thoughtful, inspiring and books make great bar/bat mitzvah gifts

Redundancy in Jewish communal world

High cost of Kosher

Jewish World Services video

Aliyah and Gabbai politics

Revamping the Jewish federation system

Lack of Jewish leaders or role models (except Elie Wiesel and anonymous benefactor to Lincoln Square fiasco)

Holocaust fund fraud

Tea Party meshuganas

Hamas & Iran

Third Rail Topics
(Potential high heat and maximum conflict)

Chelsea Clinton marrying into Tribe (and on Sabbath)

High rates of intermarriage

Fox News. It’s Jewish?

Female rabbis and the women’s role in Judaism

Anything Israel except Birthright

Israeli settlement freeze

Israel’s loyalty pledge proposal

Israel through a liberal perspective

Democracy & Zionist values (similar to above)

Plight of Palestinians

Obama & Israel

Obama’s birth certificate

Same sex union announcement in The Times

Same sex union announcements in Jewish newspapers

Jewish and Yiddish names for different ethnic groups

Dissent in Jewish community

Endnote: Agreeing to Disagree

“Whether or not we can fulfill Rav Kook’s command of causeless love, we must be committed to disagreeing with each other without hating each other. There are too few of us, and we have too much in common. Once we lose respect and tolerance for a fellow Jew, we have sinned against him — and against ourselves.”

Classic quote by Jewish Week Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt, 1993

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