SANDY — When Laura Green finds herself home alone, she watches Fox News.
When Larry, her husband, is home by himself, he turns on MSNBC.
When they are home together? They watch the Discovery Channel.
It's one way that Laura and Larry Green, who live in Sandy, Utah, successfully bridge their political views that Laura describes as "180 degrees apart."
They are not the only Jewish family faced with the challenge of finding common ground despite political divides — a task that may have proved especially trying during the faith's High Holidays that began this year on Sept. 9 when Jewish families gathered around festive dinner tables for the celebration of Rosh Hashana, or Jewish New Year.
Rosh Hashana is a holiday of renewal and rebirth, the hope for a sweet new year symbolized by the tradition of eating apples dipped in honey. During the holiday, Jews greet one another by saying "Shana tova umetuka," or "have a good and sweet year."
Nevertheless, since the 2016 election, some Jewish families divided over the election of President Donald Trump have left their holiday dinners with a sour taste in their mouth, unable to relate to or understand the political views of their family members.
This phenomenon is by no means unique to Jewish families — a recent study found that America’s growing partisanship may have led some to cut their Thanksgiving gatherings short in the weeks after the contentious 2016 election.
But for American Jews, Trump is a particularly divisive figure.
American Jews’ 28 percent approval rating for Trump is significantly below the national average, according to Gallup, and exit poll data showed that 71 percent of Jews voted for Clinton in 2016, compared with 23 percent who voted for Trump.
But Trump has managed to drum up a contingent of loyal Jewish voters, many of them Orthodox Jews, their favor earned in large part by Trump’s vocal support of the state of Israel.
But while some Jewish families may be struggling to see eye to eye on politics during this season, Rabbi Avremi Zippel, program director of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, says the Jewish holidays are the perfect opportunity to focus on repairing relationships.
“In this time of divisiveness and tension in our country, the Jewish High Holidays is a wonderful time for people to come together to reconcile their differences,” says Zippel.
Ten days after Rosh Hashana is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The time between the two holidays is known as the “Days of Awe,” during which Jews ask forgiveness from those they have wronged over the past year.
In order to be inscribed in God’s “Book of Life”, it is not enough to pray and be forgiven by God, but a person must also make sure he or she has asked forgiveness from others they have hurt. At the end of Yom Kippur, God closes the “Book of Life,” and your fate — whether you will live or die in the coming year — is sealed.
Zippel says reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with each other, but rather choosing to focus on the things that bring us together that truly matter — such as life, health and family.
“So many of our differences shrink down to size when pitted against larger issues in life,” he says. “During the holidays, we realize how much bigger our lives are than we allow ourselves to see the rest of the year.”
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism based in Washington D.C., says that disagreeing in a respectful way is a critical part of being Jewish, and of celebrating the High Holidays.
“When two people have a respectful disagreement, if both sides are grounded in their Jewish values and their desire to do what’s best for American society, then the words of both sides should be considered divine, the words of a living God,” he says.
‘One look and that’s all it took’
Laura and Larry Green, both 70 years old and in their 49th year of marriage, haven’t always clashed over politics.
They met their freshman year of college at a campus book sale at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York.
“I looked at her and it was like being struck by lightning,” Larry remembers with a grin. “I said to myself, that’s it for me, I don’t want anyone else. One look and that’s all it took.”
They were drawn together by their Jewish heritage, their support for the state of Israel, as well as their values and political beliefs. Attending college during a time of cultural upheaval and change during the late 1960s, they were both pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ rights, and staunchly opposed to the Vietnam War.
“If my draft number had been called, we would have moved to Israel, or at the very least, Canada,” Larry recalls.
They married shortly after graduating from college, and had a daughter. But in 2000, they moved to Utah, seeking a change of pace and more opportunity to hit the ski slopes.
It was in Utah that Laura became drawn to the Republican Party, primarily spurred by her support of Israel. Laura, who has been to Israel 54 times, began volunteering actively with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a bipartisan organization committed to promoting the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Increasingly, Laura says she became a “single issue voter,” voting purely based on a candidates support of the state of Israel. Ultimately, that led Laura to her decision to vote for the Trump in the 2016 election, and she says she has been impressed with his leadership on Israel during his term thus far.
She cried tears of joy after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the embassy there, a decision that was controversial among Jews, with 47 percent of American Jews opposing the move, according to the poll by the American Jewish Committee.
“Other presidents have made the same promise and failed to deliver. Trump was able to get it done,” she says.
Larry also strongly supports Israel. "That's job number one," he says.
But he says he worries deeply about the future of the United States as a result of Trump’s leadership. He is highly critical of Trump’s economic policies, Trump’s relationship with Russia, his treatment of undocumented immigrants, and what he describes as Trump’s alienation of America’s closest allies.
As the 2016 election came and went, Larry and Laura noticed they were increasingly getting caught up in heated debates that frustrated them both. Quickly, they decided such conflict was fruitless and could be damaging to their bond.
They say they made a “conscious effort” to not talk about politics in the house, and to focus instead on what they love to do together — cooking, skiing, going to the symphony, and visiting their daughter and son-in-law and three grandchildren.
“Politics is a bump in the road compared to the totality of our relationship,” says Larry.
Laura says mutual respect is also key — though they disagree, they do not belittle one another’s beliefs.
“I respect him for thinking differently, for thinking and reading and educating himself,” says Laura.
A new meaning
For Larry and Laura, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur have been always an opportunty for joyful time spent with family.
But in recent years, as they have gotten older and watched friends and family suffer heart attacks, strokes, and even death, the Jewish holidays have taken on a more serious tone.
They have been touched personally by health issues — Larry stood by Laura through two difficult battles with breast cancer, and Laura was there for Larry after a health scare with Larry’s heart earlier this year.
“As we get older, the fact that most of our days are behind us as opposed to in front of us makes the holiday more meaningful,” says Larry. “It suddenly starts to hit home that our fate is being decided on this holiday, whether we live or die in the next year. So what can you do about it? Try to be as good of a person as you can.”
After all they have been through, Larry and Laura say they could never let their different political beliefs tear them apart.
“The last thing in the world I want to I want to do is get into a nose to nose battle with my husband, who is the most important person in the world to me,” says Laura. “There is such a strong foundation in our marriage. If something like political circumstance is going to drive that much of a wedge between us …”
Larry finishes her sentence.
“Then we never had a marriage to start with."