Friday, April 16, 2021

The Onus Is On Us!

Is there any wonder why flight attendants give them extra scrutiny?
Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s latest post is yet another illustration of something that has been bothering me for what seems like forever. Which is the sense of entitlement some among us have. It is a sort of ‘We are better than you but we but we’ll try not to show it too much’ attitude. Except too many of us do show it without the slightest reservation when it suits our purpose. 

I have mentioned more than once my personal encounter with such people and the embarrsament I felt as a visibly Orthodox Jew. The incident happened when a large Chasidic family boarded a plane and preceded to order a female flight attendant around as though she was their personal servant. I later apologized to her on behalf of my people - saying that we are not all like that. She graciously acknowledged that and in any case she was used to it with people like that. 

For me those Chasidim behaved in a way that is the literal definition of a Chilul HaShem. And yet that did not even occur to them. They thought their behavior was quite normal. That the flight attendants are their to serve the passengers and all they were doing is exercising that right. And this is not the only example of this kind of behavior.

I wish this was the exception that proves the rule. Which is (or should be) that whenever we find ourselves in public it is our obligation to make a Kiddush HaShem. Not a Chilul HaShem.  But as Rabbi Slifkin’s example shows that is far from the truth. Too many of us do whatever we feel like and could not care less what others think about us. ‘Chilul HaShem?’ ‘What Chilul HaShem?!’ ‘The Goyim hate us anyway!’

Rabbi Slifkin’s post dealt with Mishpacha Magazine’s cover story - criticizing their spin on a how airlines treat Orthodox Jews. In this case it was about not wearing masks. I absolutely agree with him. Mishpacha does have a good track record of discussing their community's faults. And that they did not do so at all in this case. Which is disturbing – as he noted. 

This is indeed a major flaw among some of us that should not be ignored. It should instead be condemned! Instead they cry antisemitism. As an attorney for a Lakewood based travel agency put it:

There are laws on the books that they can take advantage of if they want to be mean and nasty. 
Mishpacha than went about listing several events that seemed to indicate blatant antisemitism. But  I have to question whether that was really their motive - despite Mishpachas ‘evidence’ of it. 

Even though I have flown hundreds of times in my life on a wide variety of airlines, I have never been discriminated against on a flight. Not once! Even under the stresses of COVID restrictions. I am an identifiably Orthodox Jew as indicated by the Kipa on my head. The opposite is true. Without my ever asking for a thing, flight attendants bend over backwards to accommodate me. Much the same as they do with any passenger.  

I realize of course that there have been some antisemitic incidents in the past by some flight attendants. But I believe those were exceptions rather than the rule, even now under COVID. I believe that any antisemitic incident was carried out an individual. Not the by the airline itself in some sort of systematic antisemitism. It did not exist and not tolerated. Not then. Not now.  If it were, I would have surely experienced it at least once in my life. I  havent. 

But let us for a moment concede that Mishpacha is right. That there is discrimination against Orthodox Jews. Why is it happening now? Might it be because so many of us have disregarded the COVID precautions... and have even had very public violent protests that included mask burning? 

That - along with a history like the behavior I described and personally witnessed in which a flight attendant said she was used to, is there any wonder why certain types of Orthodox Jews get extra scrutiny? (If you are used to something that means it happens a lot.) This is not antisemitism.

Like Rabbi Slifkin, I too am disappointed with Mishpacha’s take. I do not believe that airline personnel are inherently antisemitic. Their reactions may sometimes be unjustified, but not because of antisemtism. It should therefore be no surprise that a flight attendant might give more scrutiny to certain types of Charedi passengers. 

To be clear, I am sure that the vast majority of us - including Charedim - behave just fine on airplanes. No different than I do. Most of us do understand the value of a Kiddush HaShem and the consequences of a Chilul HaShem. The problem is that there are too many of us that nonetheless do make a Chilul HaShem.  

I therefore believe the onus is on us. We need to bend over backwards now to comply with the rules. That will prevent a Chilul HaShem.  We should instead strive to make a Kiddush HaShem.  We should not be suing airlines accused of antisemitism.  The next time we board a plane we should not be demanding our rights. We should instead be striving to make a Kiddush HaShem. That is the only way to fix this.