Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
Having received a number of comments regarding my Jan. 1 op-ed article “Its Time to Bring Back the Communal Cold Shoulder,” it’s apparent that I need to clarify my position.
I’ve often thought it would be exceedingly difficult to give out report cards for Jews that would accurately evaluate their adherence to the requirements of an observant Jewish life. For if one were to list all the requirements – all the mitzvos – on such a report card, the term “observant Jew” would take on a meaning somewhat different from what one might expect.
I can actually visualize a Jew who with every fiber of his being relates to, and acts upon, the needs of his fellow Jews and society as a whole but who is not shomer Shabbos achieving a better grade than one who attends hashkama minyan and studies Daf Yomi.
A number of years ago I was a delegate to the annual convention of the then-National Jewish Community Relations Council (now United Jewish Communities) in Washington on behalf of Chicago’s Federation. I was paired with a prominent couple from Chicago during our lobbying efforts on the Hill. As we walked around the Capitol building, stopping for a brief lunch, we began talking about Judaism. I was saddened when Mrs. X stated in an ever so matter-of-fact manner that she understood I didn’t consider her much of a Jew as she did not keep kosher or attend Sabbath services.
I was taken aback, as this was coming from an individual whose entire life had been dedicated to the Jewish people. She and her husband, then in their early 70s, were renowned for their outstanding philanthropy. They’d served on the boards and as officers of many national and indeed international Jewish organizations, played an important role in the American Jewish effort supporting the establishment of Israel, enjoyed a first-name relationship with several prime ministers of Israel, and fought on the front lines defending Jewish rights at home and abroad.
I considered those two warm and dear people exemplary Jews. I have no doubt their overall Jewish report card would be one in which they could take a great deal of pride.
For this woman, however, being religious only meant eating kosher, going to shul, etc. She found it hard to accept my response that many a so-called observant Jew would fall far short of her Jewish report card. She told me that at least her married daughter had taken upon herself a religious lifestyle, keeping kosher and observing Shabbos.
We are taught that the Decalogue is divided into two categories – commandments between man and God (ben adam laMakom) and between man and man (ben adam l’chavero). Commentators have noted that in fulfilling the commandments between man and man we fulfill, in a manner of speaking, those between man and God. For how can we truly serve God if we devaluate to the point of violation His preeminent creation – man?
Unfortunately, many of us in the frum community have for some time now devaluated the importance of the commandments between man and man.
To better appreciate that statement, imagine for a moment that I and another person enter a McDonald’s located in or nearby an observant community – both of us with full beards and wearing black hats, long black coats, and tzitzis out for all to see – and that we seat ourselves near the front window to chow down on a Big Mac.
How long would it take for word to spread that Rabbi Lefkowitz was seen eating treif? How long do you expect it would take for Orthodox Jews to turn their backs on me, to give me the “communal cold shoulder” and demand my removal from the pulpit?
And there lies the conundrum. The activities to which I was referring in my Jan. 1 op-ed are illegal and immoral deeds that hurt others (violations of the commandments between man and man), as opposed to, say, consuming a cheeseburger (for all intents and purposes a violation of a commandment between man and God).
Now it becomes clearer, no? Violations of commandments between man and man seem to evoke little moral indignation in the frum community – certainly not nearly as much indignation as would the report of an Orthodox Jew eating a cheeseburger.
Orthodox Jews all too often transgress the most basic of the ben adam l’chavero mitzvos, leading one to wonder what shortcoming exists in the frum world that allows for such behavior to be so routinely perpetrated – and so casually explained away or dismissed by others.
Why are we so quick to express outrage and give the cold shoulder to a frum Jew for devouring a cheeseburger while we react with such relative equanimity to horrific violations of communal and societal standards by those who would never dream of eating a Big Mac?
There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture.
About the Author: Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz is the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his 43 years in the rabbinate he has led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom and served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Because let’s face it: Hamas obviously can’t defeat the IDF in the field, soldier against soldier
The residents of Gaza were not occupied by the Hamas; they voted for the terror organization in democratic elections, by a huge majority, by virtue of its uncompromising struggle against Israel. For this reason, the separation between the armed Hamas terrorists and those ‘not involved’ or ‘innocents’ is false. The Gazans are now paying for […]
As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.
Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.
UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.
There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]
Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?
Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”
The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.
Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.
So on the one hand Secretary Kerry makes no bones about who is at fault for the current hostilities: he clearly blames Hamas.
King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.
The anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.
Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, died recently. The other day I saw a clip of him singing “Amazing Grace.” The sincerity in his voice was unmistakable. And why not? That hymn is his only saving grace. For Byrd found his faith in the Baptist church, which teaches that all sin can be washed away “in the blood of Christ.” It is divine grace and not good works that rights the wrongs perpetrated against one’s fellow human beings.
In 1890, William Blackstone organized a conference in Chicago of Christians and Jews to respond to the pogroms then occurring in Russia. The group unanimously passed a resolution urging world leaders “to stay the hand of cruelty from these time-honored People which have given them as well as us our Bible, our religion, and our knowledge of God.”
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/cold-shoulders-and-cheeseburgers/2010/01/20/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: