Is This What G-D Wants of Us?

The current issue of Yated Ne’Eman (U.S. edition) has a letter from a fellow who extols the trips that were available during Chol Hamoed. He writes: “It comforted me that we were surrounded by Yidden only, and were not exposed to the hashpa’ah of some of the parks and sites that were not open exclusive to Yidden on Chol Hamoed. Next year, may we be in Yerushalyim Ir Hakodesh.”

(I will not dwell on the inadvertently mistaken reference to Jerusalem. Alas, if the letter writer were there during Pesach and went to the places frequented by charedim – as a notable example, the Zoo – he will for sure encounter a significant number of people who are not Jewish. I hope that he does not decide against going to Israel on this ground.)

It is understandable that people want to be together with those who whom they are comfortable, whether the other people are friends or colleagues or of the same age group or the same ethnic group. This is an acceptable and far-reaching social phenomenon. If an Orthodox Jew wants to go to an event or a place where the other people are Orthodox, that too is certainly acceptable. I believe that the message conveyed in the letter to Yated is not acceptable because essentially it speaks not of wanting to be together with one’s own but not wanting to be with people who are inferior. Putting aside the relevant question as to whether such a position is legally defensible, I believe that it is despicable.

We have been on these shores for approximately two generations. We have benefited from the blessings of liberty, from the ideal of tolerance. Do we expect that others will respect us if we can’t show a modicum of respect toward them? I am increasingly pessimistic about what is happening in much of Orthodox life. I do not want to develop this theme, except to say that dislike of others is a dynamic force. What will be in another two generations?

Is this what G-D wants of us?

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26 Responses

  1. GS says:

    On a simlar note, don’t you find it highly offensive when Keynote speakers at dinners of heimishe Mosdos give speaches about how good their school/mosod is at keeping out the influences of the outside goyish world … right in front of the gentile staff who most probably understand that it is they who are being spoken about? There’s got to be a better way to convey that message!

  2. Yaakov Menken says:

    I think it clear that when the letter-writer referred to “the hashpa’ah of some of the parks and sites that were not open exclusive to Yidden,” he did not mean to imply that non-Jews are inherently inferior and/or they present a problem if they are there.

    Rather, he wrote that some of the parks and sites represent a problem, and I think the reference is obvious. Most any amusement park, on a warm and sunny day, will have many people dressed (or not dressed) at a level such that observant Jewish men should not look at them. It’s a very straightforward concern.

  3. Yaakov Rosenblatt says:

    But is not the problem that our students in Yeshivos do not get to interact with higher class Gentiles who have a valid spiritual connection? Even English teachers, these days, are frum people. In itself that is good, but the result is that only custodians are not. The less interaction our youth have with spiritual Gentiles, the easier it is for negativity to set the backdrop for their world view.

  4. Joe Schick says:

    Just before Pesach, my wife and I went to Sea World in Orlando, Florida and to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. We had our infant son with us. We were very impressed that the others in these parks politely stepped out of our path and often insisted that we go ahead of them so that the baby is comfortable and safe. In contrast, we were in Miami Beach for the first days of Pesach. At one of the yom tov meals, despite the massive amount of food that continually was being replensihed at the buffet, the frum yidden couldn’t help pushing and shoving each other. More than one person was upset that the stroller was too close to their table. My wife then mentioned that some frum people can learn a lot from average working class middle Americans.

  5. GS says:

    1) Do you have a suggestion of how to sensitize our kids to respecting people around us, while at the same time remembering we are the am hanivchar? I often need to do damage control from what some of my kids’ teachers tell them!

    2)We have certain chazalim that are misunderstood often by teachers in the schools our kids attend – such as the famous rashi about “am domeh l’chamor” – a Rebbi or Morah can really go to town on that one. As can a Rosh Yeshiva.

  6. Joel Rich says:

    It’s an old debate – perhaps some may have written instead:
    “It pained me that we were surrounded by Yidden only, and were not able to expose others to our hashpa’ah as did those who were at sites that were not open exclusive to Yidden on Chol Hamoed. May we be Zocheh to be mashpia on others (Jews and NonJews alike) and thus merit next year to be in Yerushalyim Ir Hakodesh.”


  7. Sara says:

    From the quote cited, I would assume that the writer was referring to a rebuilt Yerushalayim in the days of Moshiach, not “Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh” as it stands today.
    Perhaps that changes the message a bit and perhaps it does not.

  8. Gil Student says:

    I’ll never forget one Hol Ha-Mo’ed Pesah I took my family to an amusement park outside Charleston, SC, totally oblivious to the fact that it was also Easter Sunday, and all of the Christian workers were genuinely happy, even excited, to see Jews. It was probably the only time in their lives that they saw religious Jews and it seemed like an almost religious experience for them.

  9. Gil Student says:

    Sara, You mean when Yerushalayim will house a “Beis Tefillah Le-Khol Ha-Amim” (A House of Prayer for All Nations)?

  10. Shimon says:

    I’m afraid one would have to be an ostrich to suggest that our boys and girls are not being taught in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways not to fully respect the humanity of non-Jews. This is, as Marvin Schick suggests, a big problem and certainly not deracheha darchei noam.

  11. Joel Rich says:

    I’m afraid one would have to be an ostrich to suggest that our boys and girls are not being taught in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways not to fully respect the humanity of non-Jews.
    I would say this is also true of what is taught in some circles about non-Orthodox Jews. I’d be interested to hear why others think this is the case. I’ve always suspected it’s a lack of self esteem/confidence in one’s own position so that one is forced to cut down others in order to feel positive about ones own position. Avi Mori ZLL”HH taught me that it’s better to build oneself up rather than to knock others down.

  12. Shimon says:

    I think its partly lack of self-confidence, and partly a lack of a coherent, all-encompassing vision.

    From the same rabbeim that I’d hear “schvartze this and schvartze that” I’d hear stories about the Bluzhever Rebbe zt”l who greeted warmly a non-Jewish man who would later save his life during the war. I’d be told about R. Yaakov Kamenetzky warmly greeting nuns each morning in Monsey. Why weren’t these rabbeim otherwise unable to connect the dots? I’d say it is that they lacked an ability to view the many strands of thought about kedushas yisrael, our tachlis and the place of the nations in the world in an organized and coherent way that reflects the darchei noam v’shalom of our religion.

  13. Shimon says:

    And perhaps the trouble is that some people think that “warmly greeting” someone is equivalent to truly viewing them as a tzelem elokim and a fellow Benei Adam. Say “good morning” and you’re yotze.

  14. Edvallace says:

    Here we go again. Sometimes it seems like the comments on the board we written by the editorial staff of the Jewish Press. Remember how each week the headlines spoke of Syrian warships poised to strike Israel?
    So, again we have another thread devoted to the horrible Chareidi negative worldview of non-Jews.
    Somehow, from the utter lack of disrespect incessantly hurled toward a large segment of Ehrlicher Yidden, I suspect that many of our esteemed commentators are more concerned with loving and respecting non-Jews, than with loving and respecting their own brethren.
    For goodness sakes, take a break and find something positive to say about them already.
    Scroll down the last ten articles with their comments [and I’m not including the Slifkin affair] and you will be hard-pressed to find a single positive thing written about them. How’s that for tolerance and respect!
    All the writer meant to imply was that there was a warm feeling in the air that comes from spending time among other Jews and it is something he/she looks forward to in the future. Not worth spending much time on and certainly not an invitation to start your Chareidi bashing.

  15. Sara Jones says:

    R’ Student-

    Yes, but I still wonder whether this was the writer’s original intention.

    (p.s. many thanks for ‘Hirhurim’ from one of its regular readers)

  16. GS says:

    Edvanlace, I am charedi and know exactly what Dr. Schick is talking about. I don’t understand why you don’t.

  17. Zev says:

    I think it’s obvious that the letter-writer was not referring to gentiles per se, but to those who would be immodestly-dressed in the warm weather, be they Jewish or gentile. I agree that we should be careful not to denigrate others, but in this particular case, this was clearly not the intent.

  18. Edvallace says:


    You may know what Dr. Shick is talking about but you clearly have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m not confirming or denying his assertion [although I read the same letter and saw nothing of the sort – it’s just one more of the foolish letters the Yated prints]. What I’m saying is that basically this board has become a rambling anti-Chareidi rant, wherein they’re assailed for every conceivable shortcoming, especially a lack of tolerance toward non-Jews. That’s my point and I challenge you or anyone else here to deny that.

    It’s about the only thing that gets talked about on a regular basis and it is blatant Lashon HArrah on a very serious level.

    This is all besides for the fact that there are serious holes in the arguments as well. After all, is this really such a strong point: “’ll never forget one Hol Ha-Mo’ed Pesah I took my family to an amusement park outside Charleston, SC, totally oblivious to the fact that it was also Easter Sunday, and all of the Christian workers were genuinely happy, even excited, to see Jews. It was probably the only time in their lives that they saw religious Jews and it seemed like an almost religious experience for them.”

    I too, have been applauded by chrisitans when they’ve seen my children and my beard. For the first time in history they’re actuall glad to see us alive. What does that prove about where we should socialize on Chol Hamoed? Or is Joe Schick’s story about pushing in florida really that relevant? Are the Jews who frequent Florida the same Chareidim who teac their children to disrespect Non-Jews?

    I have quite a few children in Cheder too, and none of their Rebbeim ever explained “Am HaDomeh L’Chamor” to them in a negative sense. Nor did mine teach it me that way. I’m sorry that yours have. But please don’t make it the rule and smear a large section of devoted Mechanchim in the process.

    Bottom line is cut out the incessant ranting against Chareidim and try to contribute something meaningful and positive.

  19. GS says:

    Edvallace, I was in chinuch for quite a few years and heard the other rebbeim and even the principal talk this way. When I was in kollel, my rosh kollel spoke that way too. Obviously, I can’t give any more info but I’m really surprised that you don’t know what I mean.

  20. Toby Katz says:

    The tension between seeing ourselves as part of the world and an ohr lagoyim (light unto the nations), on the one hand, and seeing ourselves as an am segulah (unique nation) and an am levadad yishkon (a nation that dwells alone), on the other hand, is as old as the Torah itself. Fortunately, Jews are an am chacham venavon (wise) and are able to handle complexity and dialectic.

  21. M. Hillson says:

    Dear Edvallace,

    Without dealing with the question of Lashon Hara (badmouthing), or whether Dr. Schick’s opinions might be veering too far left of the golden mean of balancing Universalism with Separatism, the Hareidi-bashing of these articles and comments are actually self flagellations of people who are fed up with too many of us (including us commenters ourselves) who are veering far too right – neglecting or de-legitimizing Universalism altogether. We are witnesses to too many instances of:
    – Xenophobia given a Kashruth certificate of Haza”l (Rabbinical teachings).
    – An attitude of spurning “mentchlichkeit” (human decency) as if it was an invention of the Maskilim.
    – Embracing Bein Adam laMakom (because that emphasizes our separateness) at the expense of Bein Adam laHaveiro (because that emphasizes our commonness with all mankind).
    The question is: Should this public self-introspection be a subject for a separate blog, since the original intents of Cross-Currents were elsewhere? Or maybe the self-flagellation actually serves the original intents – by showing that we contend with issues by thinking, instead of manning barricades?

    Moshe from Jerusalem.

  22. Edvallace says:


    If you read both of my posts you might have picked up that I’m not denying the existence of what you claim. I repeat for the benefit of those who still may not have understood my point: I am not denying the validity or confirming it. My point was and still is that the incessant bashing of Chareidim is innapropriate and I dare say hypocritical.

    M. Hillson,
    I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to deal “with the question of Lashon Hara (badmouthing)” when that was a large portion of my point? It is not something trivial, it is an awesome problem – most likely, a much bigger one than the ones you propose we discuss ad nauseum.

    If you, or anyone else, feels that too much of this behaviour goes on [and there is no self-flaggelation – I haven’t seen a single person claim to be guilty of this behaviour – it’s always the “Chareidim” who do it] then there are ways of writing and talking about it. One of those ways is not by indiscriminately writing all kinds of nasty and in many cases untrue things about Shomrei Torah U’Mitzvos.

    I challenge you or anyone else here to show me where in Hilchos Lashon Harrah it is written that one may write indiscriminately about these matters.

    Whatever our faults may be [and yes, there are some or Moshiach would have been here already], we have many Maalos, and as a person who spends a large portion of my time in the secular world, I assure you, we’re not doing too badly after all.

  23. Eliezer Barzilai says:

    The problem here is not chareidi bashing, it is preaching to the choir. The people who are sensitive to the problem don’t have a problem, and I don’t think anyone who thinks of ‘them’ as chamorim has ever changed his/her mind on the basis of argument. To borrow a concept from Pirkei Avos, if you think your (krummeh) shittah is l’sheim shomayim, it’s ‘sofo l’hiskayeim,’ you will never change your mind. The same is true for the ‘blind starving herd syndrome’ we all know about.

    Anyway, the prevalent dehumanizing attitude has its advantages. As the Beis Halevi says in “hatzileini noh miyad ochi miyad Eisov,’ friendship leads to respect which leads to assimilation. We don’t just respectfully disagree with other dei’os; we deplore and abhor them.

  24. Zev says:

    “friendship leads to respect which leads to assimilation.”

    You mean, respect leads to friendship which leads to assimilation.

  25. Shira Schmidt says:

    In his initial posting above Marvin Schick mentioned that if one visits the Jeruslaem Zoo during chol hamoed, “he will for sure encounter a significant number of people who are not Jewish.” During Hol Hamoed in Jerusalem there are hundreds of chareidi families, along with throngs of non-religious Jews and many Arab families. (You can even hear the loudspeaker announcements, “Minha will take place near the lions’ den”).

    As Yaakov Menken and others have written above, there is definitely a problem in the immodest dress of a large number of visitors. I would like to point out that the non-Jewish Arab families are almost always attired in a modest fashion, while the dress of non-observant Jewish Israelis is often an embarrassment. I think this compounds the conflicts we have with our non-Jewish neighbors.
    7 b Iyyar Netanya

  26. Shraga says:

    Dr. Shick, you must be happy that the Yated Ne’eman this week actually posted your letter. So am I, after reading the letter AFTER it. Let me explain: at first I couldn’t understand why the Yated would actually publish your letter, but it’s juxtaposition to the next letter, which talks about Shmiras Einayim, was absolutely perfect. It seems SO clear that that was the original poster’s point. I’m still trying to understand what you could think is wrong with his being happy that he and his children weren’t exposed to the way some Goyim walk around these days. Yes, Shmiras Einayim and being happy that we were able to do it IS DEFINITELY what G-D wants from us!

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