Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Embarrassed To Be A Jew...

I remember a time back in the early eighties, when I would sometimes wear a baseball cap on my head so that I couldn't be identified as an Orthodox Jew. The reason for that was because, at the time, a kid of my age and build was liable to get beaten up by some of the tougher elements of the street for his religion. Of course my mother wasn't happy with it, but at the same time, I believe she understood the necessity. As time went on, it seems, the need for hiding lessened... and eventually I no longer needed to hide my religious affiliation.

After Ma'ariv last night, a fellow at shul was talking about some of the recent allegations of criminal activity that have been going on in the Orthodox Jewish world. Right on the heels of last week's arrests in Brooklyn and New Jersey, we had yesterday's news of mail thieves and welfare frauds who were arrested and publicly identified.

The man to whom I was talking to, a ba'al teshuva, told me that, because of all the recent scandals, he was becoming so embarrassed of being identified as an Orthodox Jew that he was considering a baseball cap to and from work. He was at the point where he no longer wanted to be visibly identified with Orthodox Jewry because of the recent actions of his co-religionists.

It's sad when someone has to cover up their religious identity out of necessity because he fears physical attack. But it's far worse when a person wants to hide it willingly out of embarrassment.

Something to think about.

The Wolf


BrooklynWolf said...

To the previous commentator:

I really don't like to censor my comments section. I believe in keeping as open a discussion as possible.

However, I don't allow off-topic spam. Had you even made a comment that was relevant to my post, I probably would have left it up, even with the link to your blog.

The Wolf

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

People have to remember that the religion isn't to blame, there's no reason to be embarrassed of being a Jew, Judaism doesn't say to act this way, if anything it's all about honesty, and one of the questions your asked after 120 is "did you deal honestly in business" so Judaism doesn't condone this kind of behavior, it's the individuals who may have done something wrong.

ProfK said...

There's two ways to look at this: 1)hide your frumkeit, your "jewishness" so you don't get tarred and feathered because you physically resemble someone in how you are dressed or 2)wear your "jewishness" openly so that others can see that it is not all Jews who are doing things wrong. It may be easier to hide but, for me, being open is the way I choose. I've worked for years in programs where I am the lone Jew and so get asked the Jewish questions when things like the news articles come up. My answer has been an unequivocal "It's wrong when you break the law, it's wrong when I break the law, it's wrong when they break the law. And every group on earth has their share of lawbreakers, unfortunately. It's not a Jewish thing, it's not a Catholic thing, it's not a New York thing, it's just the wrong thing, done by an individual."

Either you shine your light, to be a light unto the nations, or you hide your light, and are a light unto no one, yourself included.

And no, it's not easier for a woman to blend in today--just look at the styles prevalent and look at a frum woman and it's obvious who we are.

Ariella's blog said...

Clearly Av is not a good month for Jews.

Michael Koplow said...

Yes, being an OJ is often embarrassing. It's embarrassing that before Bernie Madoff came along, America's best-known Ortho was Jack Abramoff.

I would guess that Wolfish's friend wasn't embarrassed by our religion, but by some of our coreligionists. It's embarrassing that we can be so open among ourselves about our petty larcenies. It shows that those who brag about this stuff are confident that they won't get any serious disapproval except from a few cranks. This is a community problem, not just an individual one.

Zev Stern said...

I'm not sure about that last paragraph. I also grew up at a time when a kippa made you a walking target, and some of my friends were attacked. I can't control "yenem's" ethics, but I can control me. I "fixed" my build in the summer of 1967 (look at my profile pic). And throughout the 1980s I ran through every rough 'hood in Brooklyn with my kippa proudly and securely (with a pair of bobby pins) on my head. People sometimes looked and did double takes, but they left me alone. I switched to a baseball cap only when I no longer had enough hair on my head to hold the kippa in place.

Anonymous said...

>It's embarrassing that before Bernie Madoff came along, America's best-known Ortho was Jack Abramoff.<

Madoff an Ortho? Who knew?!