Is it proper to vacation in a place where you will
have to hide being Jewish for your personal safety?
One is prohibited to put oneself in a dangerous situation or do things that are dangerous. However, where the danger is warranted for valid and compelling reasons, such as the ability to earn a living, then one is permitted to do so. Additionally, if the danger is not great and people take that risk as part of the normal flow of life (i.e., crossing the street even though not doing so would be safer) then this is permitted. Sometimes if a mitzvah is involved and the risk is not overwhelming, one is permitted to expose oneself to minor dangers.
Therefore, to take a vacation in a place that presents one with a physical danger would depend on why that specific venue for vacation is needed for that person, and how great the danger is. One must also take in consideration if there are spiritual dangers involved in such an environment which should be considered even more so than physical dangers, given one who takes a physical life is not as serious as one who causes another to sin. This is temporal while the other is eternal.
Bottom line, it would seem that if only a vacation for relaxation and pleasure is involved, find a more suitable place to vacation.
– Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu, popular lecturer and educator.
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Why would anyone want to vacation in a place where one’s personal safety is at risk? There are so many wonderful places to enjoy in safety and security. Why not choose a site that will provide a happy environment for oneself and one’s family?
If one travels across the United States or in foreign countries, it is likely that one will be in the presence of a majority of non-Jewish fellow travelers. While most of them will be peace loving and respectful, there may be a few who harbor hateful attitudes towards Jews. Rabid anti-Semites can create unpleasantness and even become violent. If one fears possible threats against Jews, it is prudent not to flaunt one’s Jewishness. When some years ago our family visited a city in Europe, the rabbi there warned us not to wear kippot in public but to wear caps instead.
Jews should always be proud to be Jewish. We shouldn’t have to hide our identities or feel at risk. But if we indeed find ourselves in a situation where we perceive danger, it is best to diminish the threats to the extent possible.
The real pity is that we even have to deal with such questions. Will Jews ever feel totally safe? Will the world ever free itself of anti-Jewish hatred? As long as Jews have to worry about anti-Semitism, the non-Jewish world remains unredeemed. Enemies of Israel: heal yourselves!
– Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
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Any question about how to live in this world, I try to approach with a Torah/hashkafah perspective. In this case, I don’t see a clear way that such a perspective applies. I can only offer two conflicting personal opinions. First, it’s a very good idea to remember we are Jews in exile and we don’t belong here, we belong in our homeland.
As Jews in North America, we’ve come to enjoy a tremendous amount of comfort and security. Often we lose that sense of being in exile. So perhaps for that reason, there could be a value to go to a place where you have to hide being Jewish out of fear of being harmed. On the other hand, who needs that? Who needs to be reminded again and again – to cower, to be afraid. I read about it, I know about it well, and I don’t need to live it. I would rather find another place to vacation.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz and author of the new book The 10 Really Dumb Mistakes Very Smart Couples Make available on TheShmuz.com
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The question to consider is why anyone would want to go somewhere that is essentially antithetical to their core identity? Notwithstanding the broader halachic concerns of putting oneself in potential sakana, if one has to hide being Jewish that means they are in a distinctly antisemitic place. Why would one want to support the economy there (hotels, kosher dried goods, tourist sites, etc.)?
I am generally opposed to Jewish people ever feeling the need to hide their identity. When some rabbis in Europe instruct their congregants to replace their yarmulkes with baseball caps, I maintain it is scoring an own goal; feeding the virus that is antisemitism. That’s when it is in their host country. But to, in the first instance, look to vacation somewhere where one would feel unsafe as a Jew, is wholly absurd. Save the money and go to Israel instead.
– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue