Bein Adam Lchavero

Bein Adam Lchavairo is a blog dealing with interpersonal relations within the Jewish community and the interactions of the Jewish and Gentile worlds. We're new. Be gentle.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Point of This Blog.

Yes there is a point. Really.

This blog is (eventually) going to feature multiple contributors. We will be discussing various aspects of Jewish life that seem to be taking a back seat as of late. At least to some, anyway.

I see more and more of a division in our people these days. We're worried about who is frummer than who. If someone's not frum enough, we deride them (often publically). If someone is frummer than us, we deride them too. We say they're fakers or holier than thou.

I don't get that.

I've always liked the response of Hillel to the skeptic who wanted to know the entire Torah while standing on one foot (a euphamism for berevity, as I understand it)

"That which is hateful to you, do not do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah, the rest is the explanation. Go and study it."

If people spent more time focusing on this and less time trying to out-Jew each other, we might find ourselves closer to Redemption.

But then, what do I know?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I've been thinking about what I posted yesterday.

About not needing a specific day set aside to remember the Holocaust. A friend of mine suggested that Yom HaShoah was more for the Nations of the World than for the Jews. I don't know about that. But I did decide one thing:

Just because I don't need it doesn't mean it isn't needed.

By way of illustration, let me share a story with you.

My Grandparents live upstate in the Catskills (yes, of Dirty Dancing fame). Our family has been up there for the last hundred years and then some; my grandmother was born in the kitchen of the house they currently live in. They and the other Catskill families fought hard winters and a weakened economy and still managed to have a Kosher home for their children. They may have not had enough money to go around, but they damn well made sure that there was Shabbos in their house and that the children had a Jewish education. They were fired for asking for Shabbos off and stared at for wearing Yarmulkas in public.

In short, they had to work for their Judaism.

Then came the Bungalow colonies. All of the sudden richer NY Jews decided that they wanted to "summe" in the country. The Catskills became "The Jewish Hamptons". A summer economy built up around these Jews. Resorts such as the Grand Concord and the Nevele Grand Hotel were built, all designed to cater to the Well-to-do Jew. For two months out of the year, The Catskills were a Jewish Mecca.

Then they would all go back to the Upper West Side, Brooklyn or Queens, taking their money with them and leaving their messes behind. Meanwhile the locals would do their best to make the dollars they had made stretch to the next summer.

Recently, there's been an influx of what I have dubbed "New Jews".

The "New Jews" are the children and grandchildren of the Bungalow crowd. In recent years they have bought houses in several Catskill communities. Most use them as "weekend homes", coming up when they feel like it. When they come up there they throw their weight around, making demands ("The Micheitzah (Partition between the men and women) isn't to my taste!", "The Mikveh (Ritual Bath) needs longer hours!"), acting like everyone is the hired help. They have no respect for the locals and treat them like garbage. They expect for the locals to pay for these improvements and offer no money or help. It's all one big resort to them.

(There are, mind you, exceptions. Several of the New Crowd joined my family's synagogue without making any sort of demands and then surprised everyone buy pooling the money to buy Central Air for the Synagogue. The building needed a very specialized system, but they paid for it. They've bought a new boiler and refurbished the kitchen. They make sure there's a Kiddush in the synagogue every Shabbos (think of it as a light buffet after services) and act in a respectful manner, clearing everything with the board first.)

As you might guess, there's some friction.

A bit over a year ago there was a town meeting where one topic of discussion was the erection of an Eruv (too complicated to explain parenthetically). It all boiled down to the New Jews wanting one and the Old Jews being against it. My grandfather, as one of the Old Jews, got up and spoke against the Eruv. He felt that by putting up an Eruv, which is a form of boundary, you are effectively saying "Jews can only live within this specific area". He felt this was contrary to the spirit of the community and a slap in the face to the Gentile neighbors.

The meeting adjourned and one of my grandfather's "New" neighbors approached him. Without so much as a "how do you do?" He stated:

"When you die- and I hope it's soon - I'm going to buy your house." He then added the cherry on the sundae: "Too bad Hitler missed you."

Forget the incredible rudeness and thoughtlessness of the first thing he said (it's hard, I know). Can you imagine saying that to another person? That you hope he or she was caught by the Nazi's? If I were this man's parent I would die of shame. Just and ignorant, hateful, stupid thing to say, especially coming from a fellow Jew.

I wish I had been there. I would have loved to tell him the following:

"Firstly, that house is staying in our family, but thank you for your interest. Secondly, I don't know where your family was in the Shoah, but my grandfather was flying for the United States Air Force. As a result of his actions many lives were saved, Jewish and Non-Jewish. Who knows, he might have even saved your grandfather."

Then I'd add my final touch:

"By the way, what Yeshiva did you go to? I'd like to know so I can avoid sending my children there."

Clearly, there is a need for Yom HaShoah. Sadly, it's not the rest of the world that needs to remember, it's us.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Am I The Worst Jew Ever?

Yesterday was Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

I forgot.


Now, before you all verbally lambaste me, hear me out! You see, when I was a kid, Yom HaShoah wasn't a big deal.

I'm making it worse, aren't I?

It's not that the Holocaust wasnt a big deal. Just the day on the calendar. Which seems odd, when you consider that I went to Yeshiva Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, founded by people originating in Frankfurt Am Main. Or maybe it doesn't.

Growing up we didn't need a special day to remember the Shoah. It's hard to forget it when the people putting Tfillin away on either side of you have numbers tattooed on their arms. It's hard to forget it when everyone you know lost someone. It's hard to forget when your grandfathers tell you stories about fighting in the US Armed Forces.

When I was a small child there was a cliche that went like this:

Child: Why is there a Mother's Day and a Father's Day but no Children's Day?

Parent or Grandparent: Because EVERY day is Children's Day.

Now, this is no longer wholly accurate (Children's Day is November 20th), it's the same mindset I apply to Yom HaShoah.

EVERY day is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

(What is sad is that my daughter's generation may have a real need for a Yom HaShoah, just as we seem to now need a Children's Day.

But more on that in another post)