Make new friends,
But keep the old,
One is silver,
And the other gold.
This was always one of my favorite songs throughout childhood. My family moved around a lot when I was younger, so it was difficult to sustain friendships while changing locations every few years. My friendships, even today, are mostly ones that have lasted a few years, rather than decades or since kindergarten.
Becoming observant also changed my friendships quite a bit. A lot of my friendships kind of slid away, as I had less and less in common with the people I used to be friendly with. I had very few Jewish friends growing up, so when I became religious, it made things even harder – they didn’t understand why, all of a sudden, I couldn’t hang out on Friday nights and Saturdays, why I couldn’t eat their food.
But there were a few special friends who stuck with me. They asked questions, learned a lot about my spiritual decisions themselves. They went out of their way for me – eating with me in kosher restaurants, learning about hechshers, buying paper and plastic plates and silverware for me to be able to eat in their homes. They accommodated me, because they knew that the friendship was worth transcending religious differences.
My group of friends today is much different than it was ten years ago, before I became religious. The friends I see and speak to on a daily basis now consist mainly of other Orthodox Jews (though those span the spectrum of “frum”). But here and there, I have a friend who has been with me through my transformation, who has seen how much I have grown, and who has grown with me, although in different directions. They understand who I am and how important my religious identity has become – and they recognize that it is part of me.
It’s nice to have these “different” faces flower the landscape of my interactions on occasion. It’s wonderful to hear a different viewpoint once in a while, or get asked a question about something I may have taken for granted. And I like the reminder that, though many things have changed, there are some things that still haven’t.
Those old friendships, though not always easy to maintain, are important, and very much worth the effort.