When I took over the English Circle from Hanni, the previous chair person, I had to adhere to all the rules and regulations which were previously imposed by her. I suppose she had a good reason for boycotting discussions about politics and religion, maybe due to overheated debates, arguments, or whatever took place there before I joined the circle about 7 years ago. There was the additional caveat which concerned language; whoever uttered a Hebrew remark, sentence, or just one word during this exclusively English hour, had to pay a penalty consisting of chocolate, size and quality unspecified, I remember a time when we had a considerable stock of chocolates until the members learned to converse in English only.
One of the rules which were strictly respected by the time I took over was the boycott of the two subjects mentioned above, politics and religion. In absence of these two very burning issues, what remained? Actually not much. We discussed conditions prevailing here in the Towers, some of the members criticized the food in the restaurant while others claimed it was excellent. We discussed TV programs which we had watched, we occasionally mentioned our aches and pains , a discussion quickly discouraged except for the one who wanted to tell about it; we also brought along the better jokes received on the internet which were read out aloud by the person who had found such a pearl. . From time to time our marvelous Mildred sang an old and forgotten English ditty, something which we enjoyed very much. But these occasions were rare.
So, in truth, our English meetings lagged. I noticed people looking surreptitiously at their watch, and I was so sorry to face a situation of slow and boring death. From time to time it occurred to me to wonder what I am doing there at all, Rumanian-born, German-speaking with still limited Hebrew and acceptable English. How could I hope to make a go of it?
I started to think about resignation, being sure that someone else could do a better job.
But then, quite unexpectedly, I got help from some of the members, I don’t remember exactly who was the first to suggest we lift the boycott on politics and religion and things should certainly get lively then. However, before getting down to discussing these inflammable subjects, we had the inflammable debate whether we should lift the boycott at all!
“This might lead to serious disagreements which may become unpleasant!” I heard the first objection and then came the objections to the objection.
“This is a democracy, and we should be allowed to speak our minds like in every other democracy! These sessions have become boring!”
So now, even before getting down to a debate pertaining to one of the two questionable subjects, we had a heated debate whether to have them at all.
We are about a dozen people in our circle, depending on attendance, and we’ve known each other for many years. What are the chances that we’d get at each other’s throat to the point where it gets unpleasant?. In my opinion – nil! We are all in our eighties more or less and in the course of our long and often hard lives we should have acquired enough tolerance to understand why this or the other person uses the Shabat elevator, or this or other person has a non-kosher meal outside the Towers.
Could such matters lead to a small war? I personally don’t think so. And as far as the circle is concerned, maybe we should take up a vote! Now, next time we meet, a heated argument will ensue as regards this vote, should we take it up or not?
Finally the circle is alive again!