Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Public Relations

I have to say something about Jews behaving in public. As long as I have been educated, I have been given two reasons for this. The first is that people look at Jewish people as if to expect something better; as if they represent a higher authority. This version plays well into the Chillul Hashem concept. The second reason is that the world hates Jews and it is up to us to change the perception of that. Public image is everything.

Here's my issue: Do others really have that perception of us? Do people who don't believe in our religion (and in fact may think we are wrong altogether) think that we represent G-d? Do they believe that we are a people who are better than they are in that regard?

If you are going to say that the reason to behave in public is that they hate us and are looking for more reasons to hate us, is THAT really true? Do you think we are hated more than any other minority in the world? Do you think Muslims don't tell their children the same thing: "the world hates us, so don't give them more of a reason to." Bill Cosby is always griping that this is why black people are hated. Are we more hated than they are?

This all came about because of a recent story that a friend of mine told me. She is a waitress at a semi-fancy restaurant. One day, a pair of frum mothers came in with their rambunctious children to have lunch. The children (there were seven between them) were running around the restaurant while the mothers were complaining about the service, why it was taking so long to deliver the simple food they had ordered and why the waitress was taking care of other tables before their food was delivered.

Obviously, this is not proper behavior for anyone, but what I didn't understand is why my friend kept hitting on the fact that these were frum women who represent an entire nation and are being judged by the gentile staff. The whole time she was telling me this story I was thinking "Hello! Haven't you ever seen movies or watched TV shows or heard news stories or listened to stand-up comedy that hits on this very topic?" It's not that people are judging frum Jews (or Jewesses in this case). They are complaining about obnoxious customers who need to have anything they want. After all, they are paying.

I just tend to think that people get too carried away in what they represent. Stop thinking that you have to behave well because you are representing a larger group. Be a decent person because you are representing yourself, and if you don't have the self-respect necessary to that, well then maybe you shouldn't venture outside the confines of your own home.

7 comments:

  1. From my experience, particularly in the workplace, it seems that some people do have higher expectations of observant Jews.

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  2. I don't think it matters if people are looking at us as representing god, or the enitre Jewish nation. We should still act as if we are. I definitely think people look differently at a Jew making a scene in a restaurant than a non-Jew, just as they would look differently at any other minority making a scene. I also have had people tell me that they were disappointed when they saw a Jew do something, b/c they thought Jews were better than that.

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  3. Why is it that a guy can be talking in shul but when he sees a yeshiva guy talking, he screams at him to stop?

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  4. Yes, i do think that religious people in general are held to a higher standard. I cannot picture an Amish person cursing his brains out why because i hold them to higher standard i guess because they are religious. Also, whatever motivates a person to have proper manners is good, whether its on a personal level or a general level. Some Jews really need improvement when it comes to common courtesy.

    Anon1

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  5. Both of the reasons are true and I've seen them both in action. And neither have to apply only to us; for the first, take BJG's Amish example or even substitute Catholic clergy (part of why there's such a scandal now). For the second, elderly black people really do think that the younger generation are messing up all the progress they've made.

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  6. I agree with Anonymous. It's not that people think that all Jews are representing a higher authority, it's specifically religious Jews (and all religious people). A secular Jew can not be distinguished from a non- Jew in terms of dress.

    But if you dress religious, then you are making the statement that you are dedicated to G-d in some way, and therefore people hold you to a higher standard. It's not just representing the Jewish people, it's representing G-d. The same would hold true for priests and nuns- we expect them to act in ways that are consistent with their dedication to G-d.

    I completely agree very much with your last point. You shouldn't be good because of who you represent, you should behave appropirately for yourself.

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  7. Religious jews are religious because they follow the torah which tells us to act on a higher standard than the rest of the world. When people look at chassidim they expect even more than the regular religious jew. As a person thats been working in the restaurant business for a few years i would say the worst customers start from chassidim and the nicest are usually non-religious. Does that make sense to anybody?
    Lets their not representing all the people in their group so as you say they should behave like a sensible human being on their own.

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