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Should parents encourage children to be tolerant of opposing political opinions?


Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

Certainly not. However, the difference between ideas and people is something that should be stressed very clearly.

A parent is obligated to help children understand history, such as the contribution this country has made to Western society and to the world. And a parent should explain there are many opinions out there that are not worthy of respect – such as anti-American, anti-intelligence, and certainly anti-Torah ideas.

At the same time, parents should teach children to be respectful of other people. I may not agree, or even respect, your opinion, but I respect you as a person, so I’ll speak and act respectfully to you.

– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz. His next book, The Ten Really Dumb Mistakes that Very Smart Couples Make, will be released next month.


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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Parents “encourage” their children to be tolerant and respectful by setting the example themselves. Children learn more from their parents’ behavior than from their preachments.

Unfortunately, we face growing divisions within society. The level of vitriol and outright hatred has risen dramatically in recent years. There is a tendency to stick to one’s own views, political or otherwise, and not give careful attention to those who differ. Instead of thoughtful discussion and dialogue, we too often are confronted with hostile shouting and name-calling.

Those who foster extreme divisiveness are part of the problem; for ourselves and our children, we should strive to be part of the solution. The issue isn’t merely tolerance of opposing opinions, but actually listening to what the opponents are saying. If they have any truth on their side, admit it. If they are wrong, then refute their positions respectfully.

Some people are so opinionated; it’s not possible to discuss things with them in a calm way. So it’s best to articulate one’s own views without wasting time in useless arguments.

We want our children and grandchildren to grow into responsible, thinking and respectful citizens. Don’t preach at them: set the proper example.

– Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals


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Rabbi Zev Leff

A child has to have an identity and know what the right attitudes and hashkafos are toward religious and political issues, according to the parents’ worldview. However, that identity should be transmitted in a positive manner so that the child is aware as to what their mindset should be based on the da’as Torah and the political philosophy the parents’ wishes them to follow. It should not be transmitted in a negative manner, i.e., “We do not follow this philosophy,” “This is not our opinion,” or “This is not what we do.”

If transmitted in a positive way, the child can know clearly who he is and can be tolerant that there are others who differ, but we do not follow them. If, however, all the child knows is who he is not, he must totally negate other opinions to establish his negative identity. The Kotzker Rebbe put it poignantly, “If I am me because I am me and you are you because you are you, then I am me and you are you. But if I am me only because you are you and you are you only because I am me, then I am not me and you are not you.”

– Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu, popular lecturer and educator


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Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

It is said that the uniqueness of Hillel was that he had incredible harchovas hada’as. By definition, he was broadminded enough to reconcile conflicting points of view such that he could acknowledge the veracity of both sides of the argument, even as he may have sided with one over the other. Hence he is the one who enjoins us in Pirkei Avos, to be mi’talmidav shel Aharon, ohev sholom …

The point is that inasmuch as the Gemara tells us “Just as no two faces are the same, so no two thoughts are the same,” that doesn’t mean to say that I should be intolerant of the other viewpoint, which invariably evolves into intolerance for the holder of that viewpoint.

It’s not so much about accepting the opposing political position, but certainly learning to separate the idea from the person. One of the greatest lessons we can teach our children is that even though we are two Jews with three opinions, we must always maintain one heart.

– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue


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