Monday, May 18, 2009

Kind and Caring - or a Cancer?

Once again Chilul HaShem raises its ugly head. It was described in a letter to Rebbetzin Jungreis in the Jewish Press. It's about a scenario that I am unfortunately all too familiar with. I have written about my own experiences along these lines in the past. Apparently I am not alone.

There are people who have a certain sense of entitlement among non Jews that creates a huge Chilul HaShem. What do I mean? Here is an excerpt from that letter.

Usually, we stay at home for Pesach - our family likes it that way, but this year, events compelled us to go away. I was aghast and ashamed at what I saw. Among the passengers on our plane was a group of 150 people, all headed for the same resort. Their behavior was embarrassing - true, just a few were guilty, but they gave a terrible impression of our people. I overheard flight attendants saying to one another, "What a night this will be with them on board...those people!"

‘Those people’!

That sounds almost anti Semitic. The problem is that I feel the same way. That's because when I see what was described here I see a major Chilul HaShem.

‘Those people’ are an embarrassment. They are a living breathing Chilul Hashem. I have observed exactly this kind of behavior on flights to Israel before. It happens when there is a large enough group of them traveling together. The first time I saw it I was shocked!

Let me make one thing clear. Though it is true that usually only a few act this way - they were not some sort of exception to the rule. They were families with children. They were an integral and accepted part of that group. They were not outcasts. They were not the delinquents of Meah Shearim with too much time on their hands. Nor were they Kaanaim out to force their standards on others. These people were mainstream Satmar type Chasidim with families - just being themselves.

I could not believe how they treated the flight attendants and other passengers. The flight attendants were ordered around as though they were their own personal servants - making all kinds of demands and requests. Boarding passengers trying to get to their seats were blocked while these Chasidim were taking their time - making themselves comfortable while standing in the aisles. They acted as if they owned the airplane. I was truly embarrassed to be wearing a Kipa.

I tried apologizing for the behavior of my coreligionists to one of the flight attendants. She was very gracious and said she was used it. She realized that not all Jews acted this way. Very gracious. Very understanding. Much more so than I was.

This letter writer goes on to describe additional objectionable behavior by the people beyond just the flight. I will focus on what happened on the airplane because of my own experiences there - which matches what the letter writer describes. And though not identified as Chasidim - my guess is that they probably were.

It is of course possible that they weren’t Chasidim. But I have never seen this kind of behavior on an airplane by any other segment of Jewry. Not modern Orthodox, not Charedi, not Religious Zionists, and not Chabad. Only Satmar type Chasidim. It seems as though whenever there is a large enough group of them together on a plane - you will find rude behavior towards flight attendants and an uncaring self centered attitude towards other passengers.

Don’t they realize the massive Chilul HaShem they are creating? Apparently not. Either that - or else they just don’t care.

How does one explain this disgusting phenomenon? One that seems to be getting worse with time as that community grows?

Let me suggest that it is at least in part due to the overall negative attitude about non Jews. One that is ingrained in them -imparted to them from the earliest ages by the parents, grandparents, and teachers.

A line from a ‘Torah’ tape I heard from illustrates this. It was made by - what sounded like a Chasidic Rav. After explaining that one must try to have good relations with Goyim he said in an increasingly louder voice - 'one must nevertheless hate them'!

If you take this kind of ‘Chinuch’ and combine it with their legendary insularity it should not be unexpected to see this kind of behavior result!

I think that they take the ‘admonition’ to hate Goyim to a new level. They are really Machmir on it. Lifnim Meshuras HaDin. They may think it doesn’t show. But it does. ‘Those people’ are guilty of a Chilul HaShem that makes whatever Chesed they do pale in comparison.

I don’t know what can be done to change their attitudes. It is apparently so ingrained in their thinking that it might be impossible for them to change at this point.

But there ought to be something. Maybe if we scream loud enough them via media exposure they might hear us. As insular as they are they can’t possibly want to be defined by this behavior.

But if nothing changes and their population continues to grow at the present rate it cannot but increase instances of Chilul HaShem. Their current image as devout Jews who are interested in serving God – and as kind and caring Baalei Chesed who go out of their way to help a fellow Jew will cease. It will be replaced with an image as disgusting self indulgent Jews whose actions are a cancer upon the Jewish people.