How to respectfully ignore someone?

Posted on February 8, 2007

In a previous post, I talked a little bit in the comments about a handful of not so nice people at shul. I got an e-mail from one of those people today. She was angry because when I saw her last at shul, she was verbally bashing another group of people and even though everyone else who was listening to her were just nodding silently, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but all I could think of was how horrible these people would feel if it got back to them. This woman is one of those who thinks she’s right and everyone else is wrong and she’ll only be nice to you if you agree with her. I was just so overcome with emotion, and I thought very carefully about what I was going to say because I didn’t want want to make it worse but I wanted it to stop.

I told her, this is what I hear you saying, and I summarized it as, you don’t like … because they … That was all I said. My summary was exactly what she’d been saying, and the others around later confirmed that. But when I summarized it, the irrationality of her dislike and subsequent verbal attack on these people was evident. She took it to mean I was calling her a racist.

She’s very involved in shul, socially and politically. I want to just ignore her, but I don’t know how. We aren’t a huge congregation, and I’m sure to run into her now and then. I’m also apprehensive about retaliation from her.

Do I just avoid looking at her? Do I look at her and feel sad that she’s carrying around so much anger? Do I keep a wide physical space between us? I have a bad poker face and when I’m feeling low it’s very hard not to take things so personally.

I don’t know how to avoid her and retain my self-worth. She’s very angry at me and even though I think I handled it as best I could, I can’t help but feel like I’m in the wrong. Am I? Do I just talk to my rabbi about all of this? I don’t want to feel scared or unwelcome in my own shul.


  1. Unknown

    Amen to Ayelet. You forced her to see what she was saying in a nutshell, and she didn’t like how it looked.

  2. Ayelet

    Rivka! You dolt! Of course it was the right thing to do. Not only was it the right thing but it was the hard thing and that makes your action all the more commendable. Standing by and saying nothing is giving your approval and you were brave enough to take the moral high ground.

    I have a feeling that she knows this as well as you do deep down. Nobody likes to confront their negative traits and she was forced to do just that. I don’t know if this will work and I don’t know if this is possible or if she’ll even give you a chance to get your words out but…I would try telling her something like this: I feel so sorry that I hurt you the other day. I certainly in no way intended to cause you any pain or to accuse you of anything. It must have felt really bad to feel that way, especially with people around. I hope we can put this behind us because I value your regard/opinion/friendship? as a neighbor and fellow shul member.

    In this way you are validating her feelings of hurt (which are clearly there) and holding out the olive branch so that maybe she won’t go around besmirching your rep (which sounds like the sort of thing this woman would do:().

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