THE MESSAGE I WAS TOO SCARED TO POST ON FACEBOOK
The Facebook post I was too scared to write so I decided to share as blog post. People are drowning in sound bites, they are stuck in their boxes and only hear their own echo chamber. But some things need to be said and considered. A serious forum for more meaningful consideration and not just a quick social media post.
The original Facebook criticized a specific group of Hasidim on my LOT flight from New York to Poland. They insisted on praying while the majority of passengers on the flight were sleeping and just stood in the aisles disturbing people rather than congregating quietly in the back galley. While the praying may be excused, the loud schmoozing afterwards was not. I called them out for their selfish behavior that created resentment for both Jews and non-Jews. Then war broke out on my Facebook feed.
The puzzling thing to me, is that it is not only my opinion that such behavior is contrary to how observant Jews should be behaving in public. There are many prominent Halachic authorities who agree with me including Rav Shlomo Wahrman ( She'eiris Yosef vol. 7, siman 3) who quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, page 75), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim vol. 4 siman 20), Rav Ovadiah Yosef, and Rav Shmuel Wosner who all object to minyanim on airplanes that disturb other passengers.
To quote Rav Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University from his article entitled ‘Davening on Airplanes’:
"The practice of the Orthodox passengers under such circumstances appears simply as an act of harassment. Rather than having accomplished the hidur mitzvah of davening tefillah btzibur, they have violated lifnei iver by causing the non-observant passengers to become more antagonistic towards shemiras hamitzvos. The shouting tone of voice employed by the shaliach tzibbur to overcome the noise on the airplane clearly does not constitute a kavod hatefillah."
At risk of being slaughtered again I am bringing up this controversial issue again because it’s important to point out to people wearing religious clothes how damaging their actions are when they behave badly and with no consideration for others.
While waiting in line for bathrooms at Auschwitz, mind you that the line was about 40 people long winding down the stairs including about 30 secular Israeli school kids. First one pays the fee to an attendant and then enters. People were lining up to the right. The left lane was for those exiting.
A group of religious woman walked down the stairs skipped the line and just entered the bathrooms through the exit line without paying. We could give them the benefit of the doubt that they may not have known one has to pay but it was clear to 40 plus people from different nationalities who were waiting online. Worse still, they were with their tour leader - we had crossed paths with this group in a few stops on our trip previously.
The secular Israeli kids were cursing with comments like, "Typical - they leach off the government and now come to Auschwitz! What do you expect from religious people?, Why are they the most disgusting people?"
These Israeli kids saw all “datiim” (religious people) as one group with the same terrible behavior. We know that’s not the case but the fact is, in that moment to these kids, all religious people were tarred with the same brush.
People tell me you cannot judge people by how they dress. Wrong! You are judged for different reasons by Jews and Non -Jews because of how you are dressed. These people created a terrible chillul Hashem.
I tell my kids because people know we are from Israel or that we are identifiable as Jews we have an extra responsibility from thanking a bus driver, waitress or standing in a line, being kind, courteous and very well-mannered.
My daughter with special needs gets this and I think it’s not acceptable that certain groups do not see this responsibility.
By the way, when I confronted the group leader when she exited the bathroom, she was unapologetic and told me that she had to cut the line because her tour group was waiting.....no words.
People place judgement in just seconds. So if you are dressed as a flight attendant you are expected to have a fake smile and get the job done. If you are dressed like a truck driver in a sleeveless vest no-one will be surprised to hear you burp loudly. And when you are dressed like an Orthodox Jew you are held to the highest standards. People either expect the Jew to be the Light unto the Nations or the stereotype that justifies their hate. The Orthodox Jew in addition has to convince the most cynical of all - his own people the Jews.
This is the standard of any kippa wearing Jew. But when you put on the black and white outfit and add payot to the mix, the standard increases even more. Let’s be honest we stare at the punk skin-head, the lady with pink hair and the excessively fat man. Mr. Joe Average just does not generate as much attention.
People judge the Jews and secular people judge the religious people. I don’t think that calling out a religious group for poor behavior is wrong. In fact it’s a responsibility to call out the wrong. It’s a responsibility to educate. Even if it means that I will not be everyone’s best friend!