Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Shalom bayit, peace in the home

Today, I taught second-graders all about shalom bayit. We talked about getting along with siblings and about helping around the house, and I showed them this cute video to help illustrate how we can each contribute to peace in the home. Though I didn’t talk about how the concept is also used to promote marital harmony among couples, I have to admit that events this past week drove home to me how this lesson certainly shouldn’t be limited to one’s physical house.

Last Tuesday, I attended a screening of Lebanon’s first film to ever be nominated for an Oscar. The Insult starts as an insult between a Palestinian refugee and a Lebanese Christian and escalates into a court case that reverberates throughout the nation. Anger abounds, and it is striking. A political party promotes intolerance at their rallies and its followers soak it up (sound familiar?). Still living in refugee camps after all these years, the Palestinians have never been absorbed into Lebanese society, which therefore treats them differently, separately. The trial in the movie brings what was bubbling below up to the surface and it is raw and ugly. This is not a peaceful home.

The women I attended the movie with are part of a Jewish Muslim (and other) moms group I belong to. I’ve written about them twice before, once when I hosted a potluck and another time, when we heard the moving story of a Syrian refugee family. I would consider us the epitome of striving for shalom bayit. We want to learn about each other. More recently, though, members have expressed a desire to have an evening about Israel. We know it is a hot topic that must be handled correctly if we want our group to continue to thrive. All involved recognize the necessity of using well-vetted, well-designed material in order to convey information in the least biased and most accurate way possible, to preserve shalom bayit and to not weaken the tapestry that connects us.

When peace in the home is a goal, then it becomes easier to rethink the hows and whys behind decisions and to shape behavior in a manner which will support a better outcome. This presents us with different choices than when the goal is to win, to complain, to vent.

Another example of where shalom bayit is sorely needed occurred this week too, though in a different sphere. Yet another Facebook moms group I belong to imploded. I’ve witnessed three or four groups experience something similar. A number of women dissatisfied with one group get together and start another. As time goes by, there are substantive differences in how various leaders see the mission or its mandate or its activities or its attitudes. These issues do warrant serious discussion. But removing leaders and/or members, closing down commenting or deleting posts is often not the way to advance those conversations. As I commented on Facebook, “…if someone wants to ‘own’ a group, provide its only direction, but has no room for others’ voices, then it is more than a misnomer to call it progressive and democratic.” I continued, advising, “Introspection is a useful tool to employ when claiming ‘Fellow leadership and I didn’t see eye to eye and so I booted them out.’ If you can’t get along with people aligned to your cause, how can you wholeheartedly move the cause forward beyond the borders of your like-minded friends?” A legitimate question, I think.

This behavior does not promote shalom bayit. Finding a way to allow all to be heard and understood does. Finding a way to work together does. Sometimes the answer is compromise, but not always, since the act of giving up to accommodate the others may eventually lead to resentment. The bigger and better way, I think, is to understand that the success of the family / class / workplace / Facebook group is by internalizing the fact that its health supersedes any one person’s wants and that what is best for the group ought to be the framework within which decisions are made. If I want something to succeed for all those involved, what is the best way? How do I move it forward?

Shalem – completeness – comes form the same root as shalom. Perhaps for good reason. Homes, countries, Facebook groups are all good places to practice shalom bayit, peace in the home. First, recognize how we and our different perspectives complete and complement each other, and then let’s help each other fill in gaps while exemplifying how to get along.

Please. Our world needs this. We need this. Each of our very souls needs this if we want peace in our home in the world.

About the Author
Wendy Kalman, MPA, MA, serves as Director of Education and Advocacy Resources for Hadassah The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Previous roles include senior academic researcher for an Israel education nonprofit, knowledge manager at a large multinational as well as roles in marketing and publishing in the US and in Israel. She has presented papers at political science and communications conferences and has participated as a scholar-in-residence at an academic workshop on antisemitism. Wendy lived in Israel for over a decade and is a dual citizen, fluent in Hebrew.
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