A Letter in the Yated

Below is a part of a letter to the editors of the Yated. It is titled “WHEN THE CITY COMES TO THE MOUNTAINS”, and discusses the problems that sometimes come up when we go upstate.

The formula for this problem is more or less as follows: The people living here are not used to the ‘givens’ of life in New York City. Mix that with the frustrations of a massive increase in population, a measure of various preconceived notions, a dash of hatred, and a pinch of some really foolish behavior, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. (If a reader does not agree that a chillul Hashem is a disaster, then this letter is not for him.)
So it’s not hard to understand why it irks people waiting fifteen minutes more than usual in Shop-Rite to see someone in front of them continue to add items to their grocery cart. And it’s not hard to imagine the reaction of the year-round drivers when one of the thousands of extra cars crowding the streets stops in the middle of the road to let somebody on or off, (which itself is an issue that is a problem in many communities all year round and should be corrected).
It is probably a bit hard for a city person to have a feel for the problem because he doesn’t have an idea of how different it is when things are quiet around here. Thus, he does not know how much, what goes on during the summer, makes a difference to the country folk. It is well known to those frum Yidden living here year-round that the friendly faces that might greet them from behind a local sales counter during the winter months can be expected to become cold and unwelcoming in July and August. During the winter, you do not have to watch so that you are not accused of cutting the line, whereas during the summer, if you are not careful, it could easily happen.
If I were to try to compose a list of the possible situations where the danger of this problem lies, it would probably be too long for this column, let alone this letter; but I know that anyone who has a heart to care about it also has a head to know where to be careful.
Again, I’m not coming to write an essay about the gravity of chillul Hashem; I’m just trying my luck at helping raise awareness of the fact that there is a serious issue here during the summer which is worth bearing in mind.
I do want to share one final thought which I found to be powerful. Even though a person does not usually have control over anyone but himself (and possibly his family), it is very likely that with one genuine act of kiddush Hashem, he can make a positive impression upon an outsider which outweighs and outshines the negative ideas that may have been conceived thorough the actions of others – the same way a small ray of light can overtake a room full of darkness. May we be zoche to be the ones who reflect the light and the sweetness of the Torah to the eyes of the nations.Sincerely wishing everyone a great summer.
P.S. If any good comes out of this letter, it should be a zechus for the Yidden in Eretz Yisroel.
Sullivan County, N. Y

The suggestion highlighted above is so simple, yet powerful. I’m constantly reminding myself that I have no idea what impact I can make on another person. As the media and the world turns its’ eyes towards Israel we need to remember that our neighbors, co-workers, and people we see in the street are watching us, as well. If interested, I’ll be happy to email the entire letter to anyone interested. Good Shabbos and thanks for reading.

8 thoughts on “A Letter in the Yated

  1. Bob Miller

    Neil, thanks for posting this.

    Actually, behavior that annoys people in the mountains tends to annoy people anywhere else, too, no matter how accustomed they have become.

    People need to work at civility on their home turf, too.

    “Concerned” is the type of person who would be a mensch anywhere.

  2. Steve Brizel

    Fantastic letter. I was born and raised in the “mountains”. NYers and others who spend summers there have no concept as to how upset local residents are about

    1) jumping lines and going for more lines while on line at stores;
    2) awful drivers
    3) garbage strewn all over bungalow colonies and camps visible to passerbys on highways and
    4) questionnable or cavalier business ethics with local businesses re paying of bills,etc .

    While some residents are anti O-most are grossly ignorant Tinokei Shenishba whose ignorance turns to hostility when they see behavior as genteely mentioned in this letter to the Yated.

  3. Neil Harris

    Bob-I agree. Often when people live among non-Jews/not-yet-religious Jews they are more careful about behavior and Chillul Hashem.

    1) Thanks for taking time to read my blog
    2)”While some residents are anti O-most are grossly ignorant Tinokei Shenishba “. That’s a major problem, but as people in a halachic catagory we have to deal very sensitively to those Tinokei Shenishba. Thanks for point that out.

  4. Just Joe

    As a kid, I used to work at an amusement park where many of the summer camps would take their kids for day trips. I know about the whole “Chilul Hashem” lecture that was given to the kids before the trip began – but that generally didn’t stop them from acting up once they got to the park.

    I remember pulling one kid aside at the game that I happened to be working that day (most likely the basketball toss) and telling him that he was making a chillul hashem – and watching him recoil in horror at the “Shaygitz” worker telling him that.

    The truth is – many of the people that exhibit this behavior come from insular communities that have minimal contact with the outside world. Etiquette and proper behavior are not generally high on their priority list. If they don’t care about this in Boro Park – why would they do suddenly become aware of this in the mountains?

    I think that the only way to solve this problem is to make this issue a priority amongst the communal leaders, and people of influence in the Charedi communities upstate. Only THEN will this issue have a chance of being rectified

  5. Neil Harris

    Joe hit the nail on the head.
    “If they don’t care about this in Boro Park – why would they do suddenly become aware of this in the mountains?”

    It really is a sensitivity issue. This is exactly what promted Rav Yisrael to start a system of Mussar study. The truth is that most people don’t look beyond their Daled(t) Amos. If we thought that a news team was following us for a day to document the life of a Torah Oberservant Jew I think I for sure would act a little better, and I hope most people would too.

  6. Bob Miller

    I read a book, “The Vanished City of Sanz” that Targum Press published a few years ago on the Chassidic community in Sanz (Nowy Sacz, Poland) before and during the Shoah. The authors recall how refined the Chassidim of Sanz were in their speech, manners, etc., and how they were shocked later on to meet other, similarly dressed Jews who spoke coarsely, etc.

    So I have a real problem with the idea that insularity itself breeds a lack of refinement. Maybe living in certain big American cities works against refinement, and special efforts are needed by both the insular and non-insular city-dwellers to overcome that. Leadership counts, too.


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