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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/19/08

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Dear Readers,

Several weeks ago, this column ran a letter from a woman who had slipped on the sidewalk of a main avenue in Brooklyn’s Boro Park in daylight hours. The author wrote of her pain from the wound inflicted by the fact that no one had stopped to offer assistance or to see if she was capable of continuing on her way.

The following are some of your reactions to “Unbelievable but true”

(Chronicles 9-26).

Letter 1

Dear Rachel,

Unfortunately, I cannot counter the woman’s complaint about falling on 13th Avenue and no one helping. I had a similar experience in Crown Heights about 20 years ago. I was nine months pregnant, walking on an icy day. I was passing by a yeshiva dorm, fell, and went sliding on the ice on my back. Swarms of young men were walking around me, and I was totally ignored. I got up myself and walked away, shocked, never to forget that experience.

No longer shocked

Letter 2

Dear Rachel,

I would like to respond to the woman who fell on 13th Avenue. Unfortunately, this incident does not surprise me in the slightest. In fact, is goes right along with the new character of Boro Park.

I grew up in Boro Park, and when I got married I moved out (thank goodness). I am a young mother, just like many of the people walking the streets of Boro Park in the afternoon. I do come back from time to time to visit family and to do some shopping.

I find most of the people I encounter to be rude and completely self-absorbed. I can come back to my car and find fresh dents or nicks with not even a note of apology.

I once asked a woman to please move her stroller because it was blocking the steps inside a store, and she looked at me like I had three heads.

I am only 33 years old, but the young people today were not raised with any sort of manners in dealing with other people. I have found that the frumer the person, the greater their “holier than thou” attitude, and there is no way they would stoop to a lower level to help a stranger.

It is horrible that no one would come to her aid, but this is what Boro Park has become, and I know many people who feel this way. If you even mention Boro Park or Brooklyn as a whole, for that matter, people that I have spoken to immediately have something negative to say about the frum people.

This is the reputation Boro Park has from the outside looking in. I still live in New York, and I can only imagine what real out-of-towners must think.

I could go on and on, but I know your column has only so much space.

Disgusted, but not surprised

Letter 3

Dear Rachel,

The letter from “Unbelievable but True” is truly unbelievable. I am slightly disabled, which makes me prone to falling, which I’ve done several times on the sidewalks of Boro Park where I live. In every case, at least one person stopped to help me up and sometimes even accompanied me to my destination. These people have been men, women, and even teenagers.

Once a chassidishe man lifted me up from the sidewalk when there was no woman around to do it.

So, as I said, it truly is unbelievable. The only thing I can think of is that “Unbelievable” must have come across as someone totally capable and totally in control of the situation, not as someone who required help. It would be highly unfair to brand Boro Park people as being insensitive to, and uncaring about another’s plight.

Please sign me as

Feeling cared about in Boro Park

Dear Readers,

Your reactions have certainly been varied. To the woman from Crown Heights who had no one stop to help her when she fell on the ice: Some young men are under the erroneous belief that they are not supposed to help a female for this would necessitate physical interaction which they are taught is a no-no.

As our third letter-writer demonstrates in her reply (when she cites her chassidishe rescuer), it is perfectly permissible and, in fact, a requirement to assist a person in obvious need of a helping hand.

Speaking of “obvious,” the same writer suggests that the subject of our discussion may have come across as “totally capable and in control of the situation.” Indeed, she seemed to have gathered her wits about her quickly (as inferred in her letter) and even managed to “clean up” after herself. However, this would still not excuse any person who actually witnessed our pizza-toter losing her balance. Anyone in the vicinity should have immediately seized the moment and offered to help.

Regretfully, our second letter-writer seems to harbor a slanted view and undue resentment of “frum” people. (The Yiddish word “frum” denotes devoutness and piety reflective of a Torah-observant lifestyle.) While objectionable behavior is especially repugnant when displayed by a supposedly frum person, rudeness, disrespect and disregard for others are mannerisms of individuals, not of ethnic groups. To think otherwise is naïve, at best … and let’s leave it at that.

Having served as a haven for the observant Jew from way back, Boro Park has of late attracted a massive influx of orthodox Jewry from other burgeoning communities. Those with the wherewithal to escape to quieter and calmer regions should be grateful for their lot and exercise patience and tolerance for fellow Yidden who continue to reside (for whatever their reason) in an overcrowded hustle-bustle environment. Above all, it is incumbent on us to give one another the benefit of the doubt and to teach (by example) rather than condemn.

In the final analysis, nothing that befalls us is happenstance; we are meant to derive a lesson from every occurrence − for our own benefit. Thank you, dear readers, for enabling us to highlight these lessons.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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