I Am Very Scared
I was sitting at a Shabbat dinner in a densely religious neighborhood a few weeks ago and people were openly talking about how they scam a government program. These were middle class people discussing how they access an assistance program for low income New Yorkers. They proudly told me how easy it is to do – there is a person in the community who for a mere $75 has a tried and tested way of completing the application forms in such a way that approval was virtually guaranteed. Of course, false disclosure of income etc was a requirement.
I was mortified. This discussion happened in front of our kids and there was no shame or hesitation around the discussion – on the contrary, there was a certain bravado and pride in finding a way to at its most basic level, defraud the City of New York. No-one was whispering, no silent transactions in the dead of night. Here I witnessed theft without any sense of wrongdoing.
As a parent I so worry about role models for my kids. There was a time when kids could look up to sport stars, monarchy, politicians and their parents. Now so many of these public figures make headlines as adulterers, murderers, corrupt schemes and scandals. What happens when parents treat the law with such disregard?
Last year there was a huge outcry when a prominent figure in the orthodox Jewish world suggested in an article that unmarried women facing the “shidduch crisis” should have plastic surgery to make themselves more marketable to potential marriage partners. I would be revolted if Hollywood called for this but this was in the Orthodox world. How this is this sentiment any different to the superficial and materialistic world of Hollywood?
As a ba’al teshuva – someone who wasn’t always observant and returned to Judaism – I was inspired by this world where the values were different, where Torah provided a road map for parenting, education, relationships and business. It is a guide to life.
The Torah may not have changed but the world I am living in is changing and as a parent I am know that kids are influenced by the world outside their homes. Look at the lessons they learned a few weeks ago at a Shabbat table…..
Originally published: March 20, 2013
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