Back in September this column ran a letter written by an aggrieved Brooklyn resident who had the misfortune of losing her footing one afternoon as she walked along an avenue in Boro Park balancing a boxed pizza pie in her hands. Much to her dismay, not one pedestrian or shopkeeper had bothered to come to her aid as she took a nasty spill on the heavily traversed walking strip.
In general, reader reaction to this incident was mixed – that is to say, some were surprised and some not so surprised, based on their own personal experiences. One reader, however, had quite an axe to grind as she wrote to express her disdain and disgust with what she called “the new character of Boro Park.” (Chronicles 12-19-08) She went on to deride this borough’s residents by claiming 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.”
This column took such a startlingly brash condemnation to be reflective of biased thinking. Our reply read, in part – “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.”
A Boro Park Reader (Chronicles 1-16-09), not about to take such scathing criticism of her hometown lying down, wrote to air her own strong sentiments and to decry the critic’s “Jewish anti-Semitism.” In obvious distress over the aspersions cast on her fellow inhabitants, A Boro Park Reader called it as she sees it: “If you look for the good, you will find it! And when an episode needs to be addressed, one should certainly speak up… without enmity, and without labeling and writing off an entire community.”
The following letter, the latest in the series, is a response by the original “injured party” herself – the one who first wrote of her “unbelievable” experience “on an unexceptional summer day…” (See Chronicles 9-26-08)
Dear Boro Park Reader,
You write in your letter that if there are issues they should be addressed. Fortunately, “Chronicles of Crisis” offers us a public yet safe forum in which we are able to give voice to all sorts of issues.
I am the person who fell on the street in Boro Park, and I had originally written to vent at inconsiderate Yidden who would actually stand by and not move to assist a fellow Yid.
Though I believe it to be just happenstance that this incident occurred in Boro Park, and I agree that there are good and bad in every race, religion and neighborhood, my episode unfortunately reflected very poorly on us as a whole.
I myself was a Boro Park resident for 37 years and just recently moved to another area in Brooklyn. Here too I have encountered both types (good and not so good).
Personally, having expressed my disappointment and anger in Rachel’s Chronicles has offered me some relief; besides for venting my frustration, I can tell by the responses that have subsequently followed that it was a good move on my part. I believe that I made myself heard. And I must add (in direct response to your letter) that it is not the labeling of Boro Park people that creates Sinas Chinam (as you imply) but the behavior of the people who surrounded me at the time that I fell – and who did nothing.
A good thing to come out of this: your letter proves that people are paying attention. Thank you for writing.
Still Bruised Inside and Out
In all fairness, all of you feel justified in your grievances. The Boro Park disparager, Disgusted but not surprised, had written to say that she finds “most of the people I encounter to be rude and completely self-absorbed.” Her letter leaves little doubt as to her intense dislike of the neighborhood she still visits “from time to time.”
In fact, her condescending frame of mind may have much to do with her unpleasant experiences. When a person feels contempt for something or someone, the object of this loathing will sense it. To put it simply, a pleasant and cheerful person will generate reaction in kind. A smile is known to beget a smile
A Boro Park reader apparently shared that thought when she advised Disgusted to “work on herself and her happiness first…”
She also came to the defense of her fellow B.P. citizens who she felt were unfairly maligned. Standing up to their critic, she steadfastly declared, ” there are hundreds of kind and wonderful people in Boro Park, Baruch Hashem.”
As for your own lingering ache “inside and out,” may I suggest that a positive attitude goes a long way toward healing any injury, and we wish you a speedy and complete physical and emotional recovery.
A good way to maintain such positivity is to recognize that there is a reason for everything that happens to us. This in no way is meant to say that anyone has the right to inflict harm on another, nor does it release anyone from the responsibility to help another in need.
“Labeling” is never a good thing; it can create ill feeling both in those being labeled as well as the ones who may be influenced by such labeling.
As for behavior that is wrong or unseemly, it always helps to bear in mind that to err is human, to forgive divine – and to admit to having erred is a vital first step in the right direction.
Hopefully, people are paying attention and will work on strengthening the middah of chesed that is an insignia of our people and without which the world would have no leg to stand on.
Thank you for writing.