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Q&A for Teens: Cliques
Q&A for Teens

Q&A for Teens: Cliques

I hate the tension and conflict that exists between these two groups in my school.


Dear Lauren,

I live in a rather small Jewish community with a Jewish youth group. Within this group two smaller “cliques” have formed. One is comprised of girls and guys who are less religious, all very academic and artsy—typical American high-schoolers. The other “clique” (of which I'm part) is comprised of just guys, is the more religious group, and we're less academic and artsy but have a wider range of interests.

I think there has been some concealed tension between the two cliques for a while, but just this past week the conflict became open and verbal. My clique feels that the other views and treats us as if we're inferior to them, and they feel that we are too loud and obnoxious (though I will admit, we are rather loud). I hate to see conflict within our Jewish youth group, especially considering its small size, but I can't see the whole group getting along very well without the tension bothering many of us. I really hope you can help me solve this dilemma!

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

When I first read your question, I had to re-read it a few times to try and decipher and distinguish the character of each of the two cliques. And therein lies the key to dissolution of the tension between the groups: differences schmifferences. You’re all teenagers. You’re all Jews. You’re all people.

Okay, so you’ll tell me the two groups differ in the “feel” of the kids and the “feel” of the group. So what? People are allowed to be different! I love the many variegated friends I have, and I would hate to have a homogenized mush of equal, boring friends, all just like each other. Blah!

So they’re more artsy. Wow! I’d love to hear what an artsy person has to say about the world! So you’re more religious. Wow! If you live your “more religious” life with your “more religious” sensitivities in front of that other group, what an interesting experience that would be for them! So you guys are loud. Include the other group in the loud, gregarious behavior! Walk up to them, clap ‘em on the shoulder, and say, “It’s great to see ya today!” They won’t mind the loud behavior if it’s positive and directed towards them.

If you want that other group to respect you more: respect them more.

Your group feels that the other group treats you as inferior. I have a solution for that: whichever way you treat someone else, that’s the way they will treat you. If you want that other group to respect you more: respect them more. It’s magic that works (trust me, I’ve tried it many times, with amazing results).

More than anything, I would challenge all of you in your binary thinking. Stop thinking about “the two groups.” It was convenient for me to keep the terms “one group” and “the other group” as I was writing about what “you guys” could do and how “they” would respond, BUT I only used those terms because it helped readers understand who could do what and who would respond and how. Now it’s time to let go of the divisions. There is no “us” and “them.” There are no “two cliques.” There are no “two different groups.” There is just one group, of disparate, individual people, each person with wants and needs and desires and capabilities and talents and personalities of his or her own, that you can learn from and grow from.

In my life, I have learned the most from the people who were most different from me. Embrace the differences as a chance to explore unknown territories. Take down the dividing line and be kind and respectful to all the members of the group.

Simple things like, “Hello! How are you today? Nice to see you!” can go a long way. Walk over the line, to the other side of the room, sit down next to someone from “the other group,” and strike up a conversation. “What classes are you taking in school?” “Did you try that new Chinese place?” Or even just “Hi. Mind if I sit here?”

Divisions between people are created by us. And they can be dismantled by us, too.

November 3, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Miriam, January 16, 2014 1:42 AM

I agree with Lauren

"Fake it till you make it!" Make believe there's no tension, you're all friends, and eventually it will be true! Takes some guts but works every time!
Good luck!
P.S. I also think learning the halachos is a good idea as well as that will get you to act friendly even when it's hard to since you'll know that's what halacha requires you to do.

(4) Anonymous, November 5, 2013 10:12 PM

Its hard to make friends at my school.. all of the jewish kids are "popular" and they are really cliquey. I tried hanging out with them but they don't seem to care about me all. I hang out with other kids in my classes. there is a jewish club at my school and im part of that as well. What should i do?

(3) , November 4, 2013 9:44 AM

Hi Lauren.

I just read your response to my question from last week about the division amongst the Jewish youth in my community, and firstly wanted to say, thank you so much for addressing my question, especially so quickly (I sure wouldn't have wanted the problem to carry on itself much longer). I'd obviously been thinking about the whole situation quite a bit since I'd sent you the question, and I suppose some of what you said I almost came to realize myself, though wasn't prepared to act on it, and other parts I had never considered. Actually just a few hours ago I was thinking about how menial the whole conflict was, and I suppose your response really confirmed that in my mind. On Shabbos I said to one of my buddies that we should probably sit down to take a look at some halachos concerning mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro, but now I'm thinking that (although the study of the halachah is important) that we don't need to delve into it to figure things out, your advice really is so much simpler (and at our level, will probably more effective). However, I could only dream of striking up a conversation of any new kosher restaurant in our city, never mind Chinese.
Thank you so much, and best regards,

(2) ana, November 3, 2013 10:09 PM

Love them all

If you decide to love someone as if you already previously loved that person - like if that person was already your best friend since you were a baby or your sibling or your cousin - then the differences wouldn't matter. This person would be a real person to you, not someone who you think is thinking something of you, not a difficulty, not an enemy. Love one another like you are already friends and family - because you are.

(1) Anonymous, November 3, 2013 6:56 PM

A common goal which is worthy and uplifting can unite the two groups. So can, unfortunately, a common enemy. America was never so united as after 9/11 where everyone united against terrorism. Look at what happened in South Africa in October: 20.000 Jews who never kept Shabbos before were inspired to keep one holy Shabbos. Two groups can unite in a holy purpose; it will give meaning and elevate all who participate. The reason teens fall into cliques (or gangs) in the first place is to raise their self-esteem, and the years where the teen is trying to separate and individuate from the parents are the most difficult and scariest of all. Aiming towards a higher purpose with the good of others in mind, can be very good medicine for a clique problem.

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