Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
Once again, Yom Tov has come and gone. I was hoping that with all the things going on in the world, people would have learned something…or at least would want to change. My glimmer of hope has faded – I have always loved people and have been a people person. Lately however, to put it mildly, I am beginning to wonder what it is all about. One would think that, in light of all the tragedies that constantly assail us – illness, untimely deaths, broken homes, financial stress and global anti-Semitism, people would wake up…but no such thing. Instead of becoming nicer, kinder, I see chutzpah growing by leaps and bounds.
So why am I writing to you? Simply put, I have always viewed your columns as a vital and accurate sounding board on the issues of our day. I have been reading your articles over the years and found them to be always on target, so I thought I would write to you now in the hope that you would publish my letter and perhaps some people would understand and join me in calling for a change. The changes I am hoping for are within our reach and realistic. They are not contingent upon Washington, Jerusalem or the UN, but depend solely upon us, so allow me to get to my concerns.
Usually, we stay at home for Pesach – our family likes it that way, but this year, events compelled us to go away. I was aghast and ashamed at what I saw. Among the passengers on our plane was a group of 150 people, all headed for the same resort. Their behavior was embarrassing – true, just a few were guilty, but they gave a terrible impression of our people. I overheard flight attendants saying to one another, “What a night this will be with them on board…those people!” So what, you might ask, prompted those remarks?
Young parents let their kids run up and down the aisle unsupervised, disturbing people who wanted to sleep. Throwing things in the aisle and not picking them up. I almost tripped over things three times. And the adults were not much better. Many of them stood in the aisle, blocking the screen and preventing other passengers from seeing the movie. The pilot had to tell everyone to be seated numerous times so that he might take off. The expressions on the faces of the other passengers reflected sheer disgust. And the chaos didn’t end with the plane trip, but continued at baggage pick-up…kids pushing and shoving – preventing people from getting to their luggage… mind you, all this before we even reached our hotel! As for the goings-on at the hotel itself – that merits a letter in and of itself.
Just to highlight a few points: 1) lack of respect for property. It was apparent that these children never learned the prohibitions regarding bal tashchis – being wasteful and destructive. I couldn’t help but wonder what they were learning in their schools or in their homes. I cannot imagine why the management of any hotel would rent their facilities to such a crowd. Admittedly, as I said before, this behavior was representative of only a minority, but it was so blatant that it overshadowed all else. I found it a challenge just to navigate the lobby without being knocked over by wild kids whose parents were nowhere in sight.
One morning, I found a two-year old wandering around unsupervised. These resorts are huge. They have large grounds, swimming pools and lakes, and a child can easily find his way outdoors -not to mention the cars on the grounds and the “strange” people who nowadays can be found everywhere. I shudder to think of what might have happened to this little boy if I hadn’t found him. These mothers do not have to cook or prepare for Yom Tov meals, and the fathers are there to devote their time to their children – so why don’t they?
The dining room presented yet another hazard, with waiters carrying heavy trays laden with hot food and kids running underfoot like. It was truly a miracle that there were no accidents. Then there was the tea room…children milling around the well-stocked refreshment tables, putting their unwashed hands into platters of cake, fruit and chocolate…once again unsupervised. I could go on and on, but I’m sure that by now you get the picture.
I must add that it was not only the behavior of the little ones that I found objectionable. The conduct of the teenagers also bothered me. When I see teenage yeshiva students spending hours playing cards or hanging out in the lobby until the early hours of the morning, I wonder what happened to their chinuch. Didn’t anyone ever teach them to appreciate the preciousness of time?
Some of these teens were so wrapped up in themselves that they never saw an elderly person pass by who might need a chair or help in opening a heavy door, not to mention wishing others a good Yom Tov or honoring the mitzvah of “Mipnei seivah takum” – rising for the elderly.
I watch parents today. They are afraid to tell their kids anything. Recently, five of my friends admitted to me that they are afraid to “say boo” to their children. They are afraid to lose their love. They are afraid that their kids will turn on them. And this holds true, not only for parents of the young or adolescents, but unfortunately for mothers and fathers of married children as well. In short, parents are afraid to be parents and children grow up without discipline and direction. Is it any wonder then that’s how we look?
Nor does the picture improve when families decide to stay at home. Allow me to cite just a few examples from the experiences of my friends and myself.
(To be continued)