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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘manners’

100 Kids Kicked off a Plane Because No One Taught Them Midos

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

“What’s the Matter with Kids Today”. That is the title of a song sung by actor Paul Lynde from the 1960s musical Bye Bye Birdie.  Whenever I see a story like the following one, it makes me think of that song.  But not in good way. In fact it kind of makes my blood boil. I don’t think it is a problem with all teenagers. But it is a problem with more than a few. Once again a great Chilul HaShem was made. And it isn’t just about those kids. It’s about the parents and schools too.  More about that later.

As reported in both the JTA and Ha’aretz – a few members of a group of about 100 seniors at Yeshiva of Flatbush who had a bad case of ‘senior-itis’ acted like a bunch of Behaimos (animals) aboard and aircraft about to takeoff. Instructions by the flight attendants to sit down, put away their cell phones, and pay attention were ignored. That was followed by the pilot who gave them the same instructions. This too was ignored.  This not only caused a disruption, it ended up with the entire group being ejected from the aircraft.

Then came the predictable defense of these students from a school administrator:

“adults on the trip… said the students weren’t behaving that badly”

and

“Preliminarily, it does not appear that the action taken by the flight crew was justified”

That’s nice. Not only is this a bad response, it almost sounds as if he was justifying the behavior.  It is kind of like saying… Come on… Give me a break! These are just kids having a good time. 100 kids on board a flight to Six Flags? What do you expect? Choir boys?

This attitude is indicative of the problem. Instead of reprimanding these young people for causing a Chilul HaShem, he points to the airline as over-reacting.

You know what? It doesn’ t matter if they over-reacted. This kind of behavior is never justified and should never be defended. Airlines are not in the habit of throwing people off of airplanes – unless the behavior is so disruptive that they feel it might endanger the flight. Maybe they over-reacted. Maybe not. But a group of obnoxious Orthodox teenagers  being thrown off of a flight was certainly not a Kiddush HaShem no matter how you slice it.

I am disappointed in those kids for acting as they did and then compounding the problem by crying ‘anti-Semitism’ or saying  ‘They treated us like we were terrorists’. They should have instead apologized for their behavior. Certainly the school should have. And then reprimanded those students for their behavior – perhaps even canceling their trip!

This problem is not restricted to Modern Orthodoxy. But Modern Orthodox Jews do pride themselves on public behavior. If there is any Mitzvah that is focused upon – it is how Orthodox Jews are perceived by the public.

Are we acting according to our mandate to be a light unto the nations? That should be on the mind of every single Jew every single moment of the day. I know that we can’t always live up to those noble goals. Orthodox Jews are human and make mistakes just like everyone else. But there is little more important than preventing a Chilul HaShem. When a Jew wears a Kipa – or anything else that indicates his religiosity – he is a representative of his people – God’s chosen people – the Jewish people.

One of the things most lacking in all of Jewish education is Midos (character) development. Somewhere in a child’s Jewish education this seems to get lost. A Jewish education means more than studying Gemarah and Halacha. It means more than great academics. It means developing a refined sense of who we are and Who we represent. We have to teach our children that acting like Behaimos on an airplane is not the kind of light we want to be unto the nations.

I am a believer in personal responsibility and therefore the teens who behaved so badly deserve to be called out for what they did. True they probably did not deliberately set out to misbehave. They probably didn’t even think they were doing anything wrong. They were so in to themselves that they were oblivious to everything else… to the point of not paying attention to several warnings directed specifically at them, by the cabin crew and the flight captain. It is understandable that they were all excited about this trip. That should be taken into consideration. But once they were addressed by the cabin crew, they should have had the sensitivity to immediately stop what they were doing,  pay attention, and follow instructions. There is no defense for not doing that.

But the problem is much more complex than that just assigning blame to these teenagers. The lack of Midos development is a societal problem that is not being properly addressed. This  means that more Mussar needs to be taught and emphasized in the schools. More importantly it needs to be role modeled to them by faculty and administration alike. They need to behave the way they want their students to behave.

However, Chinuch begins in the home. If one’s parents don’t live these Midos, their teenage children will hardly live it themselves – no matter what the school teaches.

It therefore important for us to never act up in the public square, even if we feel we have the right to do so – unless there is something very serious that needs addressing. Like a violation of religious rights for no special reason. That demands an appropriate response. But I can’t tell you how many times I have been embarrassed by a fellow Kipa wearing Jew on an airplane making a complete nuisance of himself by making numerous and constant demands on the cabin crew as though they were their personal slaves.  Their young children see that and end up behaving the same way as adults. That kind of behavior needs to change.

These young teenagers need to learn this lesson now – if they haven’t yet. I would hope that the principal of their school spends the rest of the school year (if there is any left) educating these seniors on the importance of making a Kiddush HaShem instead of a Chilul HaShem. I would hate to see anything like this ever again.

Texting, Chatting, and that Thing We Used to Call a Relationship

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Rachel’s matchmaker had given her the green light. Jacob was going to contact her that night (he was finally available!) and they would arrange a date. As Rachel awaited his call, she thought about what he would look like and wondered where they would go.

Her phone buzzed with an incoming text, interrupting her reverie. To her shock, it was Jacob, texting to schedule their date. “What chutzpah,” she thought (and later told her friends). “He doesn’t even have the courtesy to call and talk to me.”

If you ask someone who was in the dating scene only ten years ago what role texting and e-mailing played in his or her relationship, my guess is that he or she would say it was a moot point. No one I knew had texting (was it even around?), and while its absence may seem inconvenient now, it certainly made dating etiquette less complicated.

The world is a different place today and texting and e-mailing play far larger roles in our relationships. The benefits are obvious; the difficulties less blatant, more complex. Navigating the intricacies of chatting, texting, and e-mailing within the already-complicated world of dating can sometimes require Herculean efforts. When to chat? When to call? Is it rude to chat to confirm a pickup time? Will he think I’m too forward if I text him? The questions go on and on.

With so many uncertainties surrounding texting and e-mailing, why do singles rely on them so heavily? Wouldn’t it simply be easier to rule them out of the dating process?

Not always. Singles often use texting and e-mailing to progress a relationship. Sandy Weiner, dating coach and owner of Last First Date, explains that “you can stay in touch and let someone know you’re thinking of them by texting throughout the day without being intrusive.”

Michael Feldstein, a member of the Advisory Committee for YU Connects, agrees that these modes of communication at times do make things easier for singles – but not always better. “I think many singles are using e-mail and texting as a way to protect themselves from getting too close in a relationship or dealing with issues that they prefer to avoid in a face-to-face environment.”

Case in point? Break ups.

“I’ve heard stories about guys who have broken up with girls after being in a relationship through a text or an e-mail – there is no excuse for doing something like that,” says Feldstein.

As much as a text can help someone express a hard-to-say compliment, its potential to do significant damage to a relationship or allow for such rude behavior makes it a double-edged sword.

Moreover, there have been plenty of cases of mistaken identity associated with texting. “People sometimes text the wrong person, which can lead to pushing away a potential match,” relates Weiner. “For example, you’re set up with two women, and you’re going on first dates with both of them. You’re in communication with both, and by mistake you text Susan and call her Karen. Not a good move!”

At the root of many of these tech-related issues is a lack of protocol informing proper behavior. Many men and women in relationships are flat-out confused by the lack of protocol with texting and the like in dating. There are no set rules and what’s deemed appropriate by one person may be viewed as inappropriate by another.

“Women don’t know if it’s too forward to initiate texting a man,” says Weiner. “And men don’t know if they’re texting too much and possibly pushing a woman away.”

Facebook can also be detrimental to relationships. If people in a relationship post pictures of themselves with members of the opposite sex (who are not their significant others) it can cause jealousy or confusion. Some people go so far as to change their relationship status from “in a relationship” to “single” without informing the person they had been dating.

But more than simply making a dating faux pas, texting, e-mailing and Facebook use can hinder relationships. Gestures, body language, tone of voice, or facial expressions that convey emotions and attitude can never be translated into typed words. As a dating coach, Weiner understands just how vital that face-to-face communication is.

To Be (Anonymous) or Not to Be

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Last Tuesday, CrossCurrents featured an article by Rabbi Yaakov Menken challenging anonymity on the internet.

I find myself mostly in agreement with it. Although I allow people to post anonymously (albeit with at least an alias) I would prefer that people stand by their words and not be afraid of them.
But as Rabbi Menken pointed out there are sometimes repercussions to using your own identity that can harm you professionally, which has nothing to do with standing by your view.
There are some Charedi people who comment anonymously on my blog who are prominent personalities. And their views are almost always among the more intelligent ones. But often they go against conventional wisdom of that community. Had they identified themselves, it could hurt them professionally in their own community. I am not talking about members of the Agudah Moetzes or the like. But they are nevertheless well known Charedim who could be hurt if their identities were to be made known.
I understand that and respect it. But that is different from a rabbinic leader whose very identity is defined by membership to a group that has “Gedolim” in its title. There – anonymity has no place.
The fact is that Rabbi Menken never did defend the anonymous rabbinic personality spoken about by Rabbi Adlerstein in the original post that eventually generated this one. In fact his own silence on the matter actually seems to endorse my own view of the matter. Professional harm was not likely the case with this individual.
When it comes to commenting on a blog being anonymous in your comments is a double edged sword. On the one hand it allows you to say what you really think without suffering any personal consequences.  If truth is the main concern one might think that anonymity is the best way to get it. You can speak your mind without fear. This is the way to know what people really think. There is no holding back or mincing words.
The problem is that there are unintended consequences to that type of candor. Anonymity allows mean-spiritedness and coarseness of language without the slightest care about how that affects the people you are challenging.  It was almost as if there were elements of hatred about the person you are attacking.
Making vile comments instead of arguing on merit may be cathartic. But it is also harmful. Abusive language is harmful not only to the victim of the attack but to the attacker.
Freeing up rage is not a good thing. It also shows a flaw in your character. A flaw that needs to change. Sadly it reveales that there are so many people who are vile and disgusting by nature but hide it in their daily lives. (That they keep it under wraps and hidden is good. But that their nature to be vile and disgusting is not good.)
But isn’t a civilized society all about taming the savage beast in all of us? Civilization (not to mention a Torah Hashkafa) should teach us to hold back these negative impulses and treat every human being with dignity, even when we strongly disagree. That is the kind of person that is respected among peers. When people want to continue to get that kind of respect they do not speak in vile and insulting language. They speak in respectful tones.
But the inner beast in some of us wants to let it all hang out. Anonymity on the internet provides an opportunity.
The desire to insult people you disagree with is an ugly character trait. Those who are predisposed to it would do well to learn to control those impulses and never let them see the light of day.  The best way to do that online is to use your real name when you comment. In that way civil discourse will be furthered. And your own character will continue to be refined.
If one must remain anonymous even for legitimate reasons, they should write their comments as though they were using their real names.
Dovbear - who himself chooses to be anonymous – is a good example of why he shouldn’t be. His writing is sometimes very nasty. A luxury he affords himself because of that anonymity.  While I may agree or disagree with him, I find it very distasteful when he writes that way – and that occasionally it crosses the line of respecting human dignity. I would be willing to bet that this is why he guards his identity so religiously. He does not want people to think of him the way they do about “Dovbear.”
In a very self-serving way he thus tries to actually make an argument for anonymity as a better way of communicating ideas. Anonymity – he says – forces respondents to consider the argument rather than focus on the identity. That would be true if it were not accompanied by the insults that frequently come with anonymous comments.
He makes note of the fact that Rabbi Menken actually misused the knowledge he thought he had gained googling a commenter who used his real name. Rather than focusing on the content of his message he focused on the individual  and used it to discredit him rather than respond to comment. But googling that name produced information about someone else with that name.
Dovbear is right about that. Rabbi Menken was wrong. But that does not diminish his point  about lowering the level of discourse when the comments are made anonymously.
Bottom line for me is that if one wants to argue with me or some of the other commenters, please do it as respectfully as you can. It will generate a far better discourse, make for a lot less hurt feelings, and make you a better person. And it will make my life a lot easier.
Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

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