May 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We have always been very conscious of the differences in the way that people use English words to explain themselves here and in Canada. For instance, in Canada a person would never vomit—he would “be sick.” He would be “in hospital” as opposed to in the hospital. He would “sleep in” as opposed to staying in bed later. All of these nuances are quite trite and unimportant. However, there are other instances that take on another form of language that absolutely makes our blood boil. We are speaking of the way that some in the “frum world” discuss the people that work for them.

When we arrived in Montreal many years ago, it took Nina a long time to understand what women in the Yeshiva community were talking about when they discussed their “shiksas” or “goytas.” We honestly had no idea what these terms meant, until it eventually became clear to us that these words were used to discuss their household help. One would have thought that over the years, such outright bigotry would have become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, we found out this weekend, while spending a Shabbos in Mount Tremblant (a phenomenal place to visit as a family), that the racism of the past still exists in many Jewish households. We heard families who were visiting from Monsey referring to their household help as “shiksas” once again. Only a few years ago, we all were appalled by the story shown in the movie “The Help.” It was a revolting display of how women in the 60’s referred to and treated their household help in Mississippi. We are beginning to wonder: are we any better than that?

Obviously, this display of disrespect and unacceptable behavior does not take place in most Torah observant homes, but the   fact that it still exists at all is abominable to us. Children observing their parents’ treatment of those who work in their homes will before long only encourage them to do the same in the future.

Although we have had a cleaning lady once a week, over the years she was always introduced as a friend to visitors. Nina never felt comfortable having her present in the house when others arrived in our home without including her in the introductions. Using derogatory terms to discuss anyone who is hired to work for us is no different than the days of segregation in the South. We Jews stood up at marches and requested freedom for all. The world has come a long way, but using this type of terminology sets a tone in our homes which is not conducive to brotherly love. Those in the religious community that exhibit this behavior are tainting all of us. Perhaps we are not doing a good enough job of teaching our children about other cultures and how important it is to be respectful of them.

Each Shabbat morning, there is a crossing guard on the corner of New Bridge Road helping those on their way to Beth Abraham. His name is Isaiah. He is lovely, and we are sure that if anyone crossing that corner would take the time to greet him by name, he would greatly appreciate it. Taking these little steps in making the world a better place for all of us can be rewarding and we hope that one day the words previously mentioned in this article will be unheard of for future generations.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick

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