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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/29/11

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A Gentleman Speaks Up…

In defense of “Community (lack of) values” (Chronicles March 18) — his wife, who complained bitterly about the “narcissistic behaviors among the younger generation” and whose letter generated scathing criticism in a follow-up column (Chronicles April 8).

 

Dear Rachel,

I am the husband of so-called “lack of community values” and I write this letter utterly appalled by the responses to my wife’s letter. Allow me to shed some light on the situation.

I don’t know how it works “in-town” as you would call it, but I’m from a smaller community in the Southern U.S. Where I come from, people welcome newcomers, invite them out almost every single week for the first few months they live in the community, and are generally welcoming. My parent’s shul – and the entire frum community as a whole – has a worldwide reputation for being one of the most welcoming in the USA. So excuse me for expecting the same of people my age.

The spiteful remarks were uncalled for. For the record, we live in Israel and do not own a car. We are also olim chadashim. We rented a furnished apartment, which means we didn’t own anything particularly bulky other than a table, chairs and mattresses — a one or two car trip, since I had already pulled everything apart and packed to go.

Since when did it become selfish to ask for help? I have helped numerous people move, without asking for pay. I wouldn’t dream of such a thing! I am a Baal Koreh who is always happy to fill in when needed — again, never dreaming of being paid. In fact, I get upset when people insist on paying me. Why? Because my parents taught me to help out when needed, regardless of whether you will be paid or not.

My wife is part of a group of women who prepare meals for people who are sitting shiva or have just had a child. She used to cook for her entire family because her parents needed the help. How dare any of the writers attack us! Talk about a lack of social graces. What happened to “Al tadin et chavercha ad sh’tagia limkomo?”

You cannot assume anything based on a letter. Why did we ask for help? Because I had thrown out my back two days before and my wife had a sprained ankle. These writers would have expected us to move everything ourselves, without a car?! First of all, there wasn’t enough furniture for it to be worth paying movers. Second, it is the height of chutzpah to expect two injured individuals to move things themselves without help.

My wife intentionally left out details to protect our privacy. The people who have belittled my wife and myself as being spoiled brats should be ashamed of themselves. I can hardly be considered spoiled; I’ve worked since the age of 16, never experienced sleep-away camp or any day camp, for that matter, and have never enjoyed the luxury of fancy family vacations, which my parents could never afford.

This is not to say that I am ungrateful. In fact, I dare say I learned more from my parents about how to behave than I did from my 13 years of schooling and one year of post-high school study in yeshiva in Israel. I dream of having the integrity my parents do. My wife’s family is better off, but not by much, and she, too, struggled financially. We still struggle now, even while we both work, and we do not mooch off of our parents like many of these responders’ children do when they learn in kollel in Israel indefinitely.

Again, I don’t know how it works in-town since I am apparently an uneducated, incapable Southerner (even though I speak three languages fluently and am nearly done with a Master’s program taught exclusively in Hebrew and Arabic), but it seems that my parent’s generation is just as rude. Must be a New York thing, because this behavior doesn’t fly in my neck of the woods.

I hope this letter is published — readers must know the other side of the story before writing letters half-cocked.

Hateful responses are unwarranted

 

Dear Rachel,

I happen to know the young couple referred to by readers who wrote to criticize Community Values. They made aliyah a year ago and have no close family there except Klal Yisrael. They have been struggling just to survive. The husband is studying at Bar Ilan and working part time; his wife has been unable to find a full time job as her degree is not recognized in Israel, and she has been told that they do not like her American accent. She has, however, been tutoring and is part of a group of women who prepare meals for families sitting shiva and for new mothers. The neighbors have not been very welcoming. The couple does not have a car and were only asking for a little help in moving a few large pieces.

When my husband and I lived in Israel, we Americans all helped each other out, but we were the generation before cell phones, computers, etc., and the current narcissism. If they were here in Atlanta, they would have been welcomed by the community and would have received the assistance they needed. Why did the husband ask for help? Because he grew up with neighbors always asking his parents for help. And it was always given, not only by them but by their children as well.

The responses they received in your newspaper are so typical of arrogant New Yorkers who don’t seem to help their own enough, so they have to come down here with their solicitations. We can always recognize NY transplants. They are the ones who can’t smile or respond to “Shabbat Shalom.”

 

A neighborly neighbor in Atlanta

* * * * *

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.

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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