Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Jews and their Interaction with Non-Jews

Today at work, i experienced something which was very weird to me. As someone who came from a pretty secular background, I am comfortable being around non-Jews as well as being friends with many non-Jews. For someone who did not grow up secular but in a closed knit Jewish orthodox neighborhood, interaction with non-Jews rarely occurs and being good friends with a non-Jew is almost never happens.
While speaking with a new co-worker who is not Jewish, a fellow co-worker who is a Chassidic Jew told me that he was going to be flying to the Kever of the Noam Elimelech for his Yarzheit. This non-Jewish co-worker asked me why someone would be going to some town in Europe for only a few days. I explained to her about death in Judaism and how on the anniversary of the death people go to the cemetery to pray by the grave. It was a simple answer to a question this person asked.
Later, a woman who I work with who lives in a Ultra Orthodox enclave started to yell at me in private saying "I can't stand when Frum Jews try to explain things to a Goy". "They don't and can't understand and will use whatever you explain to them against you". I wanna know how can they use an explanation of the Jewish religion against you? If a non-Jew asks a question about your religion, you should ignore them? I just don't understand why there was a need to yell at me and I don't see what harm giving a simple explanation can do. There are plenty of righteous gentiles out there and how do you know the people you are talking to might become a righteous gentile because of the kindness you showed towards them?
I think Charedim should re-think how they interact with non-Jews and realize that many times because of their actions towards them they could be causing a chillul Hashem.


Shmendrik said...

What a paranoid idiot. Generally non-Jews are just curious, they are not searching for things to "use against you."

Litvak said...

I basically agree with you.

However, if you look at history, it's not that surprising. In the old country, where anti-semitism was much more rampant, Jews were more careful with such things. There was also much anti-semitism from churches in the past. So people got very cautious and apprehensive, sometimes to the point of paranoia. Some people may still maintain such attitudes. Maybe they inherited it from their ancestors who had bad experiences in the recent past.

To those fortunate enough to be born in countries like the USA (G-d bless America), such attitudes can seem strange and incomprehensible. But we have to realize that relations were not always as relaxed and friendly as they may be now.

"I think Charedim should re-think how they interact with non-Jews and realize that many times because of their actions towards them they could be causing a chillul Hashem."


yingerman said...

DING we have a winner!
Tell that chasidisher lady that Jews are meant to be an example for the world. That means behaving in a manner that would not be in any way embarrasing to one self, or towards other jews AND especially to other human beings, who after all are Hashem products.
While there are prohibitions of being overly friendly with a non-jew there are also prohibitions against acting like a jerk.
If she has a problem with that give my email address!

frumhouse said...

Doesn't this woman know that people are afraid of what they don't know? The more we try to be secretive the more the world will misunderstand us. I have heard that it is not appropriate (read assur) to teach Torah to a non-jew. However, providing a surface explanation of a cultural question and being a mentsch - no one ever said that was assur.

Anony1 said...

Somebody modern-orthodox once told me a similar thing, and here's what it's meant to imply: It's like if you start telling a goy about something simple, say that you can't rip toilet paper on shabbat, without delving into the whole background of the 39 av melachot, then they can go and misinterpret the information you told them and NOT "hold it against you," perse, but rather use it to argue that Judaism is stupid or we have weird traditions, etc. because they don't understand the full Torah in the same perspective we do. Likewise, if you were to say something out of context, ie, a husband can't pass his wife the salt 2 weeks out of every month because they might accidentally touch... this would also seem unusual and is very easy to misunderstand. I think that is what that woman meant when she made that statement. If you can go into deeper background or find a way to thoroughly answer a question, then fine- but make sure it's accurate and not challenge-able.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

This is the second time I am commenting, I don't know why my first comment didn't show up. I agree with you. You did the right thing and I disagree with that frum lady. It could only cause a chillul hashem if you do not answer. Sometimes I have told goyim (when they ask)that I simply do not have the answer(that is if I really don't know the answer), I think they can respect that.

DixieYid said...

I think what that lady said is not so representative. Rav Yosef Veiner from the Aguda of Flatbush told a story in one of his tapes how once a non-Jew who he was sitting next to on a plane asked him a quesiton, implying a negative understanding of the story of Yehuda and Tamar (I think). He went into one of the famous commentaries explanations of this story, which the lady appreciated and understood. He tried to do it in a way that didn't teach Torah She'ba'al Peh to her, but gave her an understanding of Tanach, which a non-Jew is allowed to study. He certainly didn't take the attidude that you ignore non-Jews' questions. So I'd say that would be the guidance of that "hareidi" Rav's psak.

-Dixie Yid

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