Yakov Saacks
Yakov Saacks

Communication gap

If you are or have ever been a parent of teenagers, you will know exactly what I am talking about when I use the term communication gap. It is simply a case of two people talking a different language, albeit in the same language and dialect. The teen does not understand what you are saying and you are mystified by your teen’s response.

I believe that there are many types of communication gaps. I will highlight a few.


In this current hypersensitive political arena, there is a complete breakdown in communication.

In my previous article, I opined that parents need to be the captains of the ship that they both created. Not teachers, rabbis, coaches or actors. I believe this to be a blanket truth in all segments of a child’s formative years (birth to 15/16). To me this not only sounded reasonable but is common sense. I received pushback that I am “repressing” my children. I say ridiculous. Just because I am a conservative thinker does not make me a repressor of children. This is just simply political dribble.

I believe the main cause of the discord we have seen lately is social media. We would never insult someone to his or her face or even on the phone. Hiding behind a screen seems to bring out the worst in humanity. In addition, there are so many nuances that get lost in a text or a digital message that it is hard to decipher what the person is really conveying, and we then jump to conclusions and boom, nastiness ensues.

The best way to avoid social media abuse is to pause before you press the send button and read it again. Is this really what you want to say and do? Could you rephrase, reframe and then send? Just a little thought goes a long way. They say that Abraham Lincoln used to pen many letters to various people. However, he did not mail them right away. He waited for a day or so and then reread them to see if they were written properly, and not simply out of emotion.


Another communication gap would be racism. Growing up my kids used to ask me why is there anti-Semitism. I responded that we have done nothing wrong as a people, and I do not understand it either. Of course, there are answers such as jealousy, bad parenting, etc. It all boils down to the unwillingness to have a conversation with someone who is different. Hence the communication gap. This is true of racism against black people, it does not compute. The pain and misery bestowed on someone because of the color of their skin or a different religious practice is horrific and completely intolerable.

When a close relative of mine was in the hospital for a prolonged period, I visited every day. There were other families also there for many months. A couple of the families were from Egypt and Dubai. I will not lie; I was uncomfortable at first. How do they view me? Do they hate me? After a short while, we found ourselves sharing a cup of Joe together and bemoaning our similar fates. We then became friends. I attribute this friendship materialized because we were able to overcome our respective biases and sit down and talk like human beings and not text each other obscene emojis. We were raw and open to support, and because we were willing to embrace, we did embrace. Willingness is paramount and makes all the difference.

The following is a truism. There can be Jewish hooligans, black hooligans, Latvian hooligans, Peruvian, German, Italian, Muslim and every other hooligan. This is not an indictment of a whole race or nation. As an aside, I don’t know if I ever heard of a Canadian hooligan. I cannot figure out why Canada seems to fly under the radar. You never hear of Iran threatening Canada, do you?


The main character trait my mentor the Lubavitch Rebbe instilled in me is that there is no hierarchy in Jewish people. The way he explained it is that we are all cogs in the wheel who have come into this world to make a better life for someone else. He despised the labels and barriers and identities that are so prevalent. In his eyes there is no such thing as Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews and on and on. We are all Jews and part of the Jewish family.

When someone tells me that they are a Conservative Jew for example, my training kicks in and I respond, “What do you mean? You’re Jewish right?” And the fellow responds, “Well, yes.” I then tell them not to label themselves like this, as all it does is sow seeds of division, discord and distrust. This is so fundamental and something we should practice as this then removes the communication gap that we often feel. A great line I once heard attributed to the Rebbe but not necessarily verbatim is that labels are for dresses and not people. So true.

We definitely have our work cut out for us, as we need to reset a button in our brain to find the similarities as opposed to the differences. Remind yourself that most of the obstacles can be overcome, as long as we talk to each other.

Please feel free to share.

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Saacks is the founder and director of The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY. The Chai Center has been nicknamed by some as New York's most Unorthodox Orthodox Center.
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