Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Standards

In the previous post, Walking Away from Judaism, many of the commenters took the post to be about Judaism's own standards, and began heated debates on the subject. While interesting, it was not the focal point of the post, nor was it what was being driven at. 

Growing up, I was always told that Jews were honest, good people. I was told this by Jews, but I was also told this by gentiles. They trusted the Jews, because we were trustworthy, and we were honest. We would treat them fairly and treat one another fairly. This was still true as I got older, too - it was the Jews who would tell cashiers if they were given too much change, it was the Jews who would go out of their way to help others - whether the person being helped was Jewish or not.

Today... this is simply not the view. When numerous people were defending criminals in the Orthodox community in a situation I was directly impacted by, it was the gentiles who had lost tens of thousands of dollars from those criminals who were the biggest menschen about it. Others have told us similar stories of Jews acting horribly, while the non-Jews involved performed well beyond the call of duty. The gentiles in the first story not only were incredibly kind and pleasant, meeting up with some of us afterward and being genuinely great people, but they even went beyond and tried to help a couple people who were struggling to find something to get a job. Meanwhile, in the community, people told those struggling that they should be thankful a criminal gave them a job for a year. Another friend was upended from a teaching job in a Jewish day school where he was performing wonderfully, because an administrator was rubbed the wrong way. Another administrator said it wasn't right, that he would fight for him... so the school held his own job over his head. He kept quiet. The only one to speak up? The non-Jewish general studies teacher who worked with him, who wrote a glowing recommendation, noting that what was being done was just wrong.

What happened? When did our community become so... horrible? We used to have standards of decency; expectations of how people act, a dedication to honesty and integrity, and an understanding of what the best way of doing things was. Now, we have nothing - no standards, no expectations, no honesty, and certainly no good approach of how to do things. We cannot continue in the direction we are going, or there will be nothing left worth salvaging. When, indeed, did we become so horrible? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?

I don't have a solution. But it certainly needs to start from within - we need to care about our standards. We need to care when people don't live up to them. People can't simply ignore the negative issues that surround them constantly. The more people speak up about the little things, the more it may begin to have an impact on all issues. It's time to start living up to our own standards.

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