Latest update: March 6th, 2012
In the column before last you were led to believe that the subject of community values (or lack thereof) was coming to a close. Please bear with us for one more round of commentary as three readers sound off – including the young married woman whose letter started it all. Thus, we’ve come full circle; no more letters on this topic, please, for now.
A focused reader with a practical outlook
Regarding the couple forced to move without help from neighbors: some apartments in Israel have no elevators, making moving from the 5th floor of one building to a similar floor of another building hard work. One option is to hire a handyman with a van or small truck to help load and unload.
About the friends or acquaintances who had supposedly declined to assist this couple, could it have been simply a case of bad timing? These people may have already committed themselves to other plans.
As for the relative friendliness of the large city versus the small town, in the former it is virtually impossible to keep track of who may be moving in from another city or whether someone is simply getting a larger apartment on another block. Most people that I know in large cities have guests over for meals every Shabbos, and most are involved in some sort of community activity, such as helping out in their children’s yeshivas.
While the sheer number of volunteer organizations existing in the large city is astounding, there are doers and non-doers in small towns too. Anyone habitually taking advantage of others might eventually find these others less than eager to get involved. Luckily this generation is not post-war and is not directly involved with coming to the aid of refugees or building a community from the ground up.
Generally speaking, I really don’t see the young as more selfish or less committed.
Out-of-towner from many towns
A levelheaded New Yorker with mixed emotions
I’ve lived in New York my whole life and have felt the lack of hospitality here. I’ve been divorced for a while, and although I have wonderful extended family who always invite me out for Shabbos meals, I feel that the people in my neighborhood are into their own lives and don’t pay that much attention to others. That being said, I also see the tremendous chessed that goes on in our community (as the letter writer wrote in response to the reply about arrogant New Yorkers).
Despite some problems, one cannot negate the good. Though I have many neighbors steeped in chessed who don’t realize that there are people living right in their midst who can be the recipients of their chessed, it would be stupid for me to say that New Yorkers are arrogant and only care about themselves. Yes, it hurts me tremendously, but I can’t knock an entire community because of this.
When I read the letter from the original letter writer, I also felt that she came across as expecting too much. Yet, when I read the responses, I started realizing that it’s our constant judging that is the root of many problems. I work very hard at not judging my neighbors, although at times it is admittedly difficult not to do so. When Tehillim groups and various other projects are organized in my neighborhood, I feel like crying at how in tune “they” are to some problems while being completely oblivious to others. I know that this (not judging) is something I have to work on; to say this is the way “New Yorkers” are would be foolish.
Life is not simple
The last word from the young woman who started it all
I thank you for publishing my letter, which seems to have generated some spiteful responses.
To the woman – a member of the older generation – who dared to take me to task: Your criticism of my “self centered attitude” makes it apparent that you missed some of the details included in my previous letter. It also demonstrates a lack of class on your part. Perhaps I was a little harsh with the younger generation after all, since it seems like the older generation can be just as cold and selfish (based on the way you’ve described yourself).
Like you, I am not a mind reader — though I do try to give people the benefit of the doubt. And why would you put people who mooch off their parents in the same category as those who ask for help every now and then? Where is the logic in that comparison?
I used to be involved in chessed projects; at the present time I host people for Shabbos, those who have nowhere else to go. Furthermore, when I host guests I make sure to give them attention and not shut them out, for that’s how I was raised. When my parents hosted people, they made it their duty to make guests and newcomers feel welcomed in their home and did not ignore them.
I happen to be from New York, and while I have met decent people I have also experienced rude behavior, selfishness and arrogance firsthand. People there seem more concerned with their level of frumkeit than with kavod habriyos (respect for their fellow-man).
I find it rather shocking that people would be so hasty to attack me rather than delve into the matter. I was not looking for sympathy nor was I asking you for an apology. I was simply trying to raise communal awareness, which ironically ruffled your feathers.
Who are you to call me out for being self-centered when you are incapable of judging people favorably? You don’t know me and are therefore not in a position to make blatant accusations against me. So excuse me for asking people to have a little propriety. You may jump to conclusions about me, but only the One Above knows what I have been through.
Community (lack of) values
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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