Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Friendship and Non-Jews

My 10-year old niece is back in town after spending a month away in summer camp. I met her (and her mother - my sister) on the subway after they were coming home from a doctor's appointment. As we approached her home, she was re-telling some of her camp experiences when I heard her say "my shiur teacher says you're not allowed to be friends with someone who's not Jewish."

"She said what?" I repeated.

"She said that you can't be friends with someone who'se not Jewish."

Now, I know that there are all sorts of halachos that are designed to prevent intermarriage with non-Jews and that some of these halachos do have the effect of distancing Jews from non-Jews socially. And, I suppose, to some degree, that *is* a good thing. Intermarriage is a terrible calamity and positive steps should be taken to avoid it.

However, I'm not aware of any blanket prohibition against making friends among non-Jews. After all, just about everyone who has worked among non-Jews in the workplace has made friends with some of them. Of course, I can't go out to bars with them, and I can't eat at their houses, etc., but that doens't mean that they aren't my friends and that I can't count on them when they need help (and likewise, of course, they know that they can count on me).

I think it's sad that this is being taught to young kids without at least some qualifications. From the way it was described to me, it sounds like the shiur teacher was telling them that you'd better not have anything to do with "them" - or else. Sigh.

The Wolf


Jewish Atheist said...

I was taught that if you're friends with a non-Jew, the non-Jew will eventually turn on you.

Why can't you go to bars with non-Jews?

BrooklynWolf said...

Well, I can tell you from personal experience that I have not yet been turned on by a non-Jewish friend.

Bars, as with most establishments where non-kosher food is served, is problematic because of maros ayin. If the example still doesn't work for you, substitute "resturaunt" for bar.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

-->After all, just about everyone who has worked among non-Jews in the workplace has made friends with some of them.

AHA!!! See what happens

Neil Harris said...

I've worked day in and day out for the past 9 years with non-Jews. Some I can call "friend." Respect is key. My 6 year old is in a neighborhood camp run by the Chicago Parks District. It's open to everyone, but b/c of the frum 'hhod it's in the camp is like 85% shomer Shabbos kids, there rest are non-Jewish. It's a great experience in learning respect and tolerance.

Anonymous said...

Respect? Tolerance? Isn't that against the yeshiva code? Isn't that why only a certain "type" can go to a certain school? So even tolerance of other Jews shouldn't be learned? Sigh.

Zev Stern said...

Reminds me of a story I heard about a yeshiva HS grad who went away to college and quickly learned that everything his teachers told him about Gentiles was not true. He ended up leaving mitzva observance. Sigh.

queeniesmom said...

It's scary the things that are being taught to our children. As the right moves further towards a "shtetal" (sp, sorry) mentality this is going to become more of an issue. It is already a major cause of strife in the 5Towns, as many won't let their children play with the neighbors children because they aren't jewish or "frum". talk about engendring bad feelings.

Given this type of brain-washing/indoctination, Don't know how they will function in life and earn a living. Silly me, they'll stay in their kollel community and expect the rest of us to support them. Think not.

Like you, I have some very close friends who aren't jewish and who are very respectful of our life style. They know all the kosher brands and willingly go out to eat with us in kosher places, despite the higher cost. As you said respect is the key issue here. I respect them and they respect me in turn.

Pesky Settler said...


Hence the need to teach children the greys and not just black (hat) and white. If children become indoctrinated in well, just the severe interpretations of Halachot, when they do go out into the world and discover they've mostly been force-fed Masorah, they'd be more inclined to leave Judaism altogether. I call it the "lies my Rebbie told me" syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Kinda wonder what your sis's take on the matter was..does she condone that sort of behavior?
I'm beginning to think you should change your blog name to the "Wolfish Sighs". :)

BrooklynWolf said...

Kinda wonder what your sis's take on the matter was..does she condone that sort of behavior?

She didn't say anything one way or the other.

I'm beginning to think you should change your blog name to the "Wolfish Sighs". :)

Sure... *now* you tell me. After I've commissioned a new banner heading! :)

The Wolf

Ezzie said...

Hey, I heard you can't be friends with MO people either. (Or UO, sometimes.) And definitely not people of the opposite sex.

Larry Lennhoff said...

The halacha says 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. I'm unaware of any halachic permission to have friends at all, of any sort. Since there is no tradition of friends in Judaism (with the possible exception of David and Jonathan) wouldn't having friends, Jewish or not, be considered as chukat hagoyim? :>(

Orthonomics said...

There are laws preventing mingling without question. But, I think there is a time and place to teach these lessons. . . and 10 years old is not the time and sleepaway camp (where the parents cannot discuss) is not the place IMO.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, I can't go out to bars with them"

WHAT? Why on earth not?

I don't know about the rest of the world, but here in England plush hotel bars are the favourite meeting spot for charedi shiduchim.

I am a strictly Chasidish male and have no problem going to bars. In terms of taste, safety and pleasantness I would limit my choice of bars and company, but I feel nothing is wrong per se with going to a bar with a goy.

Michael Koplow said...

A heartfelt "badoomp-CLANG" to Larry Lennhoff.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

First of all, nice new banner title!

A former friend of mine once told my brother that it's asur to have a non-jewish roommate [this is when my brother started going to college]. My brother called her on it, and said "hey you made that halakha up, that's not true!" And her response was... "yeah, i did. so?"

Anonymous said...


So nu, did anything contribute to her transition from friend to former friend?

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Well, that, and similar issues. When i put a picture of me eating Kosher Israeli Burger King she sent me a very concerned email about how "that stuff isn't really kosher, it's rabbanut!"

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik once said that we can have "friendship" with non-Jews, but not "fellowship." I believe he elaborated on this idea in his book Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind.