Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Chasidic Behavior on a Plane

Image for illustration purposes only (Rationalist Judaism)
I just know that I will be accused of bias against Chasidim. I am absolutely convinced of it. But this has nothing to do with bias. It has to do with a search for the truth. Which in this case seems to be pretty ugly.

For the record. None of the Chasidim I know are like this. And I know quite a few of various different stripes - including Satmar. The Chasidim I know are kind, generous, and will go to the ends of the earth to avoid a Chilul HaShem. They will certainly not break any rules when on a plane. They are all decent people with good values, that follow the rules.

And yet it has been my experience that the Chasidim I know may very well be the exception rather than the rule. I do not make this charge lightly. Nor does it give me any joy to even suggest it. It actually pains me greatly. But there have just been too many instances where what happened to the owner of Dusizneis, to make it  the exception. I do not have any statistical data to back up my suspicions. But what he describes on his blog is an attitude I have myself witnessed and cringed when I saw it. (More about that later.) From Dusizneis

...the entire plane was (filled with) chassidim. 

During the flight, they got up to make minyanim. I went with the psak of Harav Eliyashiv who suggests you daven in your seat without joining the minyan. 

Suddenly, we hit turbulence, and the crew "begged" everyone to get back into their seats and buckle up. 

You guessed it.... אין קול ואין עונה

They totally ignored the crew and the pilot's warning, and even ignored when the crew got a Hebrew speaking passenger on the speaker system to "beg" them to get back to their seats. 

Mayhem broke out, as the stewardesses couldn't get the food carts back in the galley fast enough, since  the "daveners" were in the aisle refusing to move. Food and drinks were flying over the entire aisles and seats but the "Daveners" refused to budge.

Finally the pilot started to itemize the numbers of all the empty seats, and announced that those who bought those seats will be forever banned from flying Delta again.

When they heard that in English (suddenly they didn't need any translators) they abandoned G-d, and ran to their seats. 

In that post, he republished a comment on Rabbi Slifkin's blog, Rationalist Judaism that describes a similarly negative experience. I realize Dusizneis has in the past expressed bias against Chasidim. But I do not believe he is not a liar and doubt he is making any of this up. Nor do I believe Rabbi Slifkin is making it up.)

There seems to be a sense of entitlement among certain types of Chasidim that makes them oblivious to the Chilul HaShem they make. It is as though their comfort is far more important than the negative impressions they make in trying to assure that. I recall my own experience along these lines (which I have mentioned before but bears repeating again here). 

A few years ago, after my wife and I boarded a flight to Israel and found our seats, a relatively large Chasidic family boarded. But instead of quietly taking their seats they started ordering the flight attendant as though she was their personal slave. I could not believe what I was witnessing. I was wearing a kipa and to say they embarrassed me is an understatement. 

What a terrible Chilul HaShem they were making – I thought. After things settled down and the flight attendant was able to get away from them, I spoke to her as she was about to pass me by - and apologized saying that not all Orthodox Jews were like this. She appreciated it and added that she was used to this kind of behavior from this type of Orthodox passenger. And that she knew that not all Orthodox Jews behaved like this.

Their defenders will surely say that the behavior described here does not represent the majority of Chasidim and that they are exceptions. 

That they are not the majority may or may not be true. But when a flight attendant tells you that they are used to this kind of behavior form them – that tells you that it not an exception. Which means that there are significant numbers of Chasidim that behave like this. Whether they are a majority or not is irrelevant when it elicits a response like that. 

The question is, ‘Why?’ Why do these Chasidim feel such a strong sense of entitlement? Why do they not seem to care about making a Chilul HaShem? What makes them think they can get away with this kind of behavior without negative consequences – not only for them, but for all Orthodox Jews? 

I don’t really have any answer other than some speculative ones which includes the following.

First there is their disdain for the ‘Goy’ – seeing them all as antisemitic on the inside regardless of how they appear on the outside. There is no such thing as making a  Chilul HaShem to people that hate you anyway.  

Secondly there is the fact that they go to great lengths to isolate themselves from the secular world so as not to be influenced by cultural values which they see as negative and anti Torah. This gives them little chance to know what their non Jewish fellow citizens are really like. And leaves them with the aforementioned hateful impression. Concluding that they need not give them any honor or pay any attention to them - other than to get whatever they can out of them.   

I will be happy to entertain any other reasonable explanation for that kind of behavior but as far as I can tell this seems to be the most plausible. 

Condemning their behavior is not enough. And surely excusing it isn’t. They somehow must be disabused of their terrible attitude about non Jews that results in treating them accordingly. 

Like I said. Not all Chasidim behave that way. None of the Chasidim I know do. But there  must be something in their culture that gives rise to so many of them to behave this way. And it has to stop. How to get the accomplished is above my paygrade.  But that should not diminish the urgency of doing something about it. I just wish I knew what that might be.