Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review June 6, 2002/ 26 Sivan 5762

Sacrifice my happiness or my family's?;
bad call on 'friend'

By Wendy Belzberg | Q: I am writing with tears in my eyes. My family survived the Holocaust and now lives in New England. Several years ago I made aliyah - settled in the Holy Land. I own a modest home in the Gush Etzion area, and I have a job in Jerusalem that I love. Life in Jerusalem is uncertain at best; the threat of suicide bombers is a daily reality. My family is begging me to return to the States, on the grounds that we have already suffered enough. But even now, in the midst of daily threats, I have never been happier or more at home. Israel is our future.

A: Whether to sacrifice your own happiness for the happiness of a family member is a major quandary - and a dilemma that has inspired countless works of art. But it does not happen to be your dilemma. There is nothing you - or anyone -- can do to relieve the anguish of a survivor. I agree entirely that your family has suffered enough. But your moving back to the United States does not protect you from danger or mishap. Nor does it guarantee an end to your relative's pain.

Begin with reason: Let your family know that you have never been happier, that you are living out your dream and that you are building the land of Israel, which is our people's dream. When that argument fails-and it surely will-you must still do what is right for you. You may choose to call and to visit your family more frequently. But the guilt and the pain are not your burden, and your turning your life inside out will not alleviate them.

Q: When I was a graduate student and a single mother on a limited income, I used my credit history to help a close friend with bad credit get a cell phone. Fast-forward several years: I receive a letter from a collection agency about an outstanding bill for an old cell phone account. I paid immediately since I didn't want to damage my credit rating. My friend was apologetic but said she could not afford to pay me back right now. I haven't heard from her since.

I'm upset about the money but even more upset when I consider that a close friend could behave this way.

A: Forget the question of close friendship. Would a real friend place a hot fudge sundae in front of her obese girlfriend? Your friend had a bad credit rating before you loaned her the money-and you loaned it to her anyway. So don't take her debt to you personally.

Your friend's behavior is unattractive-even more so because the intervening years do not appear to have brought maturity. She has done nothing to improve her credit rating any realm. I doubt that the friendship is salvageable at this point. But consider this: none of this would have happened had you not "enabled" her in the first place.

To avoid this situation in the future I urge you-and all of my readers-to abide by the following hard and fast rule: Do not lend money to a friend. Or do so only with the expectation of never being repaid. That way you may well find yourself out of pocket, but never out a friend. And if ever you are reimbursed, you will find yourself delightfully surprised.

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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg