Why Are Orthodox Jews So Rude?

Dear Jew in the City,

I was curious about some of the run-ins I’ve had with the women in local Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities. Sadly, they’ve been pretty negative.  I’m gonna guess that majority of my interactions are with the ultra-Orthodox since I can easily identify them by their conservative outfits.  Any attempt I’ve made to smile, say hello or good morning, hold open doors, offer help to carry baby carriages, etc has been met with silence and deflection.

I dress modestly.  I’m not harsh or pushy. I’m not hands-y nor do I invade personal space. I’m just being polite and, personally, am a little determined to break the ice.  I’ve lived in NYC my whole life (31 years!) and have gotten maybe two “thank you’s” in reply. I once even helped a family turn down their thermostat during Shabbat and then was immediately kicked out without a thank you. Orthodox men, on the other hand, have been more mixed with some positive and friendly interactions. So what am I doing wrong with my fellow female gender? Is it me?



Dear Li:

I am so sorry that you’ve been treated this way – you sound like a lovely, thoughtful person! No, it is not you!

“Why are Jews so rude?” is the second most searched question on Google if you type in “Why are Jews…” (“Why are Jews so smart?” precedes it and “Why are Jews rich?” and “Why are Jews so rich?” follow it!) So Jewish rudeness or Orthodox Jewish rudeness (we are the ones most identifiably Jewish) seems to be on lots of people’s minds. Even the image for this post was found on a stock photo site under “Orthodox Jew;” it seems there are, unfortunately, too many people who think of rudeness (or meanness) when they think of our community. (And honestly, I grew up thinking the same thing!)

I asked a Hasidic friend about this, as most of the complaints I’ve heard about rudeness seem to be about the Hasidic community. (Modern Orthodox students at Yeshiva University were recently named one of the ten most polite college kids in the country!) He made an interesting point and explained that a culture of politeness is a very American phenomenon, whereas Hasidic culture stems from the Old Country which operated very differently – more distant, more serious. However, he noted that lack of politeness should not be equated with a lack of kindness. Visiting the sick, having over lots of guests for eating and sleeping, and preparing meals for the needy are all very common in these communities. Far more kindness and giving is engrained into the people of these communities than what most “polite” people would do! (I would say the ultra-Orthodox world also practices more of these kindnesses than the Modern Orthodox world.)

Something else to keep in mind: one of the major divides between the Modern Orthodox world and the ultra-Orthodox worlds (particularly the Hasidic world) is how much interaction occurs with the larger world. While Modern Orthodox philosophy is that God gave us an entire world and we should use as much of it as is kosher, the Hasidic approach, particularly after the Holocaust (as a reaction to the destruction) is that the outside world ought to be avoided as it is both physically dangerous and will cause observant Jews to lose their way. It should be noted that this community is nearly 100% survivors or descendants of survivors, many existing in a closed system. So not only is much of the Hasidic community insular, it is fearful of interacting with the outside world.

Now why have some of the men been friendlier than the women? It’s a good question, and our Educational Director, Rabbi Jack Abramowitz had an interesting answer when I asked him why he thought this was: the men are more likely to have a job in the secular world and have therefore interacted with and are more comfortable around different types of people.

One final point: A story is told about a great rabbi (one of the greatest in his generation) named Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (an ultra-Orthodox rabbi) who lived in New York and died around 20 years ago. After his funeral, when his family was sitting shiva (the Jewish week of mourning), a prominent nun from the community came to the house of mourning to pay her respects. She said that this rabbi would pass her by on the street every day with a big smile and a friendly “hello” and it really meant so much to her. This story of Reb Yaakov is very meaningful to me, because despite the fact that some communities conduct themselves in less friendly ways, I believe that Reb Yaakov’s approach captured the essence of what it means to be a religious Jew. 

All the best,

Allison (aka Jew in the City)

P.S. Li mentioned in a later email that her mother is Jewish and I invited her for Shabbos so we can finally introduce her to some friendly and polite Orthodox Jews!

This article was sponsored by Exhilaread, a thrilling journey to literacy.

If you found this content meaningful and want to help further our mission through our Keter, Makom, and Tikun branches, please consider becoming a Change Maker today.



Sort by

  • Avatar photo Dan Brown says on September 5, 2014

    So if Li didn't say her mother is Jewish you would not introduce her to some friendly and polite Orthodox Jews? Not inviting her for Shabbat I get. Not the not-introducing.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 5, 2014

      I would still offer to connect her with friendly Orthodox Jews if she was interested but the Shabbat part was specifically before she was Jewish. Other non-Jewish people have written in asking how/where they can meet Orthodox Jews and I’ve helped them with that.

  • Avatar photo Lorrie says on September 5, 2014

    Your dinner guest might be surprised to know that she is a member of our tribe. I think that the rudeness is inexcusable but she should not take it personally. We have all experienced it. I try to instill these pleasantries in the high school where I teach, it is how all Jews are judged.

  • Avatar photo chaya says on September 5, 2014

    Thanks for bringing up this important topic! I’m chasidish and it REALLY bothers me when I see frum being rude.

    I love that you talk about topics that are troublesome. We really need to talk about them so that bad behaviour is ruled out!

  • Avatar photo Liz says on September 5, 2014

    I really don’t know what people are thinking when somene portrays Jews as rude. After the Holocaust, most Hasids are probably going to fear that the malach hamavet is hovering above the outside world. I am Noahide and I explain to all of my friends the stereotypes and rule them out. Especially the Orthodox and Hasidic!!

    • Avatar photo Benjamin says on May 30, 2023

      Thank you for acknowledging the elephant in the room – really helpful! I live in a largely Hassidic Jewish area and most people have had very bad interactions and this angle makes sense and makes me see the situation differently

  • Avatar photo Chava says on September 7, 2014

    I don’t believe this letter writer.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 7, 2014

      Why not? Hasidim themselves have told me there is a non-politeness in their culture and a fear of interacting with the outside world.

      • Avatar photo Chava says on September 7, 2014

        “Pulled down thermostat and was kicked out”…. “no thank you’s” …. baloney.
        Fear of interacting with the outside world and non-politeness does not equal rudeness. Are you that gullible?

        • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 7, 2014

          There are unfortunately rude people out there! I emailed the letter writer back and forth a couple times. She seems like a lovely person.

          • Avatar photo Cheskie says on September 11, 2014

            Being a chassid, I would like to point out a few points.
            1) Chassidim, in general, are seen and judged as one lump. Just like any any other community, there all types of people, and some are rude. Proportionally, I dont think there are more rude people by chassidim than in other communities.

            2) Because chassidim are insular, ontop of our history of being oppressed/harassed for thousands of years, there a very strong suspicion of the outside world. So it a suspicion and warriness. It takes alot of courage to overcome that and not everyone has that.

            3) If Li is male that explains why he was shunned by women more than men. Its very uncomfortable for them given that traditionally chassidic women will try to avoid any informal interaction with men outside their immediate family. Same goes around for chassidic men will avoid any informal interaction with women outside immediate family. That’s part of our core values, in order to keep all our “desires” for our spouses.

        • Avatar photo Tara y Terminiello says on February 24, 2021

          No, the rude ones are out there. I’m Protestant, and a few years ago driving home on a miserable freezing cold March day, pelting rain, I stopped for a Hasidim waiting by his car looking glum. Normally I don’t stop for stranded strangers, but I figured he is a man of serious faith, so he’s OK. And he was. Only problem? refused to make eye contact. Refused to speak. I threw out a friendly “Hi there!! car trouble?” and not a word. I continued with explaining there was a gas station/auto place a few miles {out of my way} but I’d be happy to give him a lift there and he got into the car with no acknowledgement. We drove in totally silence, and as I pulled into the station he opened the door, got out, slammed it and ran off like I was radioactive.

          • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on February 25, 2021

            Tara, that was very kind what you did! I’m sorry how he acted and you have every right to be upset. What I’m about to say doesn’t excuse his behavior but I hope it gives it context. The Hasidic community is nearly 100% Holocaust survivors or descendants of survivors. You had people who lost 10 siblings and both parents and then became shells of human beings. Then they married someone with the same experience. Some people rose above that and could continue to thrive. Others spent the rest of their lives and educating their children that everything outside is dangerous. That’s why the high walls were put up. Because the separation were made, a sizable number of Hasidic Jews living today have a memory that’s fresh from the Holocaust. They have almost no interaction with American culture to show them that they won’t be hunted down tomorrow like their grandparents were. So this doesn’t excuse rude behavior, but you saw a PTSD survivor – because his parents told him the outside world is dangerous because their parents said the same thing.

          • Avatar photo jules says on February 26, 2021

            i had a very bad interaction recently with an orthodox rabbi. he is not Chassidic but his lack of compassion was disturbing. it made me open my eyes to the hypocrisy in the orthodox community. Do you feel orthodox rabbis are more focused on scipture and torah and less on true compassion or knowing how too interact? you know how some men turn women gay? well, he turned me into a Christian in one minute LOL thankful as i felt g-d was showing me truth. i was brought up reform.

          • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on February 28, 2021

            Thanks for your comment, Jules, but please understand that your experience speaks to ONE person, not an entire community. When we blame an entire community on the mistakes of an individual or even individuals, that’s called prejudice.

          • Avatar photo jules says on February 26, 2021

            i disagree about the PTSD. i have descendants who were in the holocaust and died. I was never taught to be rude or scared of outsiders because i grew up and went to school with all different people. They are a cult. they are taught to be weary of outsiders and that even other jews are not jews. that is a cult. so why are jews who are not hassdic not scared to others yet have the same history?

          • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on February 28, 2021

            Thanks for your comment, Jules. I don’t think you’re understanding what I meant. There is no other Jewish community that is nearly 100% descended from survivors who put themselves into a closed system where they almost completely only interacted with other survivors or descendants of survivors. This is not said to excuse bad behavior but rather to give context to how some of the problems we see arose.

  • Avatar photo PR says on September 9, 2014

    The letter writer says she was asked to turn down a thermostat on shabbat but I thought you couldn’t ask someone to do for you something you couldn’t do for yourself for your benefit on shabbat? What’s the difference of asking her to do it or doing it yourself? I remember once a story about a rabbi who couldn’t read to his students because it was dark in the room as they forgot to leave the lights on. One of the students asked a non-jewish worker to turn on the lights so the rabbi could read and they did. When the student asked the rabbi to read he said he couldn’t because it was dark. The student said no rabbi it’s light now, but the rabbi said that if someone does for him what he cannot do for himself on shabbos for his benefit it’s like it was never done so to him it was still dark. So how can these (seemingly rude) religious people ask this woman to turn down their thermostat?

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 9, 2014

      Either they didn’t know how to do this correctly. OR they said to her, “Hi, we observe the Jewish Sabbath and don’t use electricity but it’s very cold in our apartment.” (Pause.) What happens next is the person usually says “Oh wait – would you like me to adjust the thermostat?” The shomer Shabbos Jew then says something like “I can’t ask you to, but you can if you’d like to.” So then it is never asked but only hinted at and only happens if the non-Jewish person (who’s made aware that someone is in a bind) feels like helping out. And most of the time they do. The shooing out of the apartment is so troubling! We usually offer (in the few times we’ve needed to rely on this) a piece of cake and profusely thank them. (I’ve heard of others who do the same thing.)

      • Avatar photo PR says on September 9, 2014

        But isn’t that hint just form over substance? You have clearly asked for help and are only fooling yourself by saying “I can’t ask you to but…”. The only reason you told them it was cold was to ask for help. Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? If these people are shabbos-observant, don’t they need to just be cold or break shabbos to adjust the thermostat themselves? This seems like a foolish way to circumvent the law. Just do it yourself in that case rather than play a silly game of form over substance. Surprised to hear, Allison, that you’ve availed yourself of this personally.

        • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 9, 2014

          Thanks for your question, PR. So here’s the thing – as I mentioned in an earlier post – Jewish law is sometimes in tension with itself. Fulfilling one commandment can at times makes it challenging to fulfill another one. So in this case, on one hand we have a mitzvah of not breaking Shabbos, but on the other hand, with the thermostat example, there is a danger of the house being too cold and people could get sick. There is a value in Shabbos being a wonderful day AND a mitzvah preserving our health.

          No one would ever hint at a Shabbos goy to do something unnecessary like “Hey – I wonder what would happen if you started playing with my stove” if there was no need for the stove to be turned on or off. However – if there’s a case where there’s a need related to another mitzvah and health, sleep (Jewish law forbids us from “stealing” someone’s sleep), food (we’re forbidden to waste), etc, we can’t *break* halacha in order to resolve the tension, but we can use loopholes to help keep both mitzvahs simultaneously.

          I know from the outside this may seem weird, but there is a very complex legal system at work in Jewish law. My husband who grew up religious and was on Law Review at an Ivy League law school said that even after a lifetime of going to Jewish school, it wasn’t until he sat and learned Jewish law in depth for a couple years (after we got married) that he began to understand the beauty and complexity of the system. He also noted that so much of American law is based on Jewish law.

          It’s interesting that Orthodox rabbis are often criticized for being too strict, but then in the same breath they’re also criticized for being too lenient and using loopholes. In my mind the greatest Torah value is human dignity and preserving life, so rabbis will stretch all sorts of other mitzvos to find solutions where both opposing sides can co-exist.

          Hope that helps clear things up a bit!

          • Avatar photo PR says on September 9, 2014

            It doesn’t sorry. Sounds ridiculous, and I am, obviously, deeply offended by your use of the insulting word goy. Name calling and degrading me or other non-jewish people who, based on college courses, have been interested and respectful of your religion, is telling.
            Your loopholes are ridiculous and you are obviously rude to use such insulting language.

          • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 9, 2014

            Thanks, for your comment, but it seems you continue to have misunderstandings: “goy” means “nation.” The Jewish people are also referred to as a “goy.” So there is nothing degrading about it. The technical term for having someone non-Jewish help out with melacha (prohibited Shabbos activities) is “Shabbos goy.”

            But if we’re going to talk about what’s ridiculous, it’s you, Karen Anne, now coming back here pretending to be someone else. I’m trying to have a respectful discussion, but you seem very intent on your continued agenda to bash all things Orthodox without trying to learn anything new.

          • Avatar photo tesyaa says on September 12, 2014

            I thought if health is a factor, there’s no need to beat around the bush and “hint” to a non-Jew to take care of the problem. If your health is at risk you can do it yourself or ask the non-Jew directly.

      • Avatar photo Richard Schwartz says on November 16, 2017

        That is outrageous! If god wanted them to be warm and comfy, he would have given laws allowing the thermostat to be adjusted!

      • Avatar photo Elizabeth-Anne says on May 3, 2021

        Not true my dear. I am Christian/Italian and I live in Boro Park and have done for 41 years. I am treated like a social pariah and a leper. Nobody on my block deals with me or even knows my name. I have fallen and had Hassidics walk right around me. They throw your change at you when you purchase from them. They ask and they ask directly. As a matter of fact they only want to deal with me when it benefits them. Last Friday my next door neighbor rang the bell ( yes – RANG the bell at 10pm ) to get my 91 year old Dad to go next door to shut the fridge light off !!!!!!!!!!! If you can’t turn off your own fridge light then how can you ring someone’s bell and bother them ??? I could be here until my 75th birthday ( in 15 years ) with horror stories of my past 41 years around this nightmare area. When I am free to go, I will move as far away as I can to the Catskills and be as Dr King once said ‘ Free at last, free at last ‘

        • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on May 4, 2021

          Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth-Anne. I’m sorry for how you’ve been treated. Being rude and disrespecting fellow human beings is just as prohibited in Jewish law as violating the Sabbath. I can’t speak for the experiences you’ve had. All I can say is that parts of the Jewish community are still very suspicious of outsiders, as they lost huge amounts of their family in the Holocaust and essentially put up high walls after that because they were afraid of the outside world. It doesn’t excuse rude behavior but I hope it puts some of these attitudes into context. Many of us are horrified when we hear such stories and hope you’ll have more positive encounters in real life.

  • Avatar photo E says on September 9, 2014

    I am writting in response to your post on getting criticized on both ends for this article. Let me reinforce the case by presenting a third side, I cannot post this on my FB without risking hurting some friends feelings. My first daily direct contact with the “outside” world was going to college, I was 18, half of my ex-yeshiva friends were doing the same and we would talk about it when we met. One thing that struck me is how everyone agreed “non-jews” were nice people, but somewhat PHONY because “who comes into a classroom and says hello to each person around him before sitting down?”, “compliment every single work others do?”, “apologizes for not waiting up for you?” or “asks retorically to be excused to leave a conversation to study?” and other seemingly normal things for polite people we never did because it felt weird. To us having just entered a foreign place this contradicted with the highly competitive environment (50x more than any yeshiva) so we all noticed the extra finesse and though it to be misplaced. We did not get at first this was just how people behaved, it seemed eerie and probably meant they wanted to show off as better then they were. Now, we are all more mature and learned how to fit in better and hopefully are more polite (those examples were rare in yeshiva and yes we are all male so maybe that plays a role in that aspect of the article). But the argument stands on the different NOTION of politeness in each comunity (we did not even identify it as such) and the time it takes to adapt and the tolerance on either side required when those two realities clash. One more comment everyone had was, that for at least 3 months you could never talk to anyone about a “normal” subject since they had so many questions about orthodox jews and had never had “the chance to actually talk to one” so it always ended up on a Q&A session on judaism. So we all learn something from each other! It’s a microsocial renaissance of sorts. And to those who haven’t yet, don’t forget to keep being polite to them/us it is the best way to show how wonderful that custom is, I am evidence it is not ill will by us and soon they’ll reciprocate. JITC is constantly combating ignorance in the secular world regarding orthodox jews, this is just one case where the ignorance lies within us and our interaction with everyone else takes a hit for it, so don’t take it personally, we all learn eventually!

  • Avatar photo Matty Lichtenstein says on September 10, 2014

    Hasidic men are not very likely to have a job interacting with secular people as they often don't have the basic English skills to function in such a job. Some do, but most work within the community in either religious or blue-collar jobs. In any case, it's not a good explanation for the gender difference. But this is just one woman's anecdotal experience, so maybe it doesn't need an explanation.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 11, 2014

      Some Hasidic men work in Manhattan and interact with non-Hasidic customers everyday. They are more likely to do that than the women, no?

      • Avatar photo Cheskie says on September 11, 2014

        Some?!! Thousands!!!

        • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 11, 2014

          Thousands is some compared to the whole Hasidic population! 🙂

          • Avatar photo Pessie says on February 19, 2015

            You make perfect sense, since it sounds like u r describing a very insular community, like Williamsburg, and many of those men do work in the city! Btw, I am also chassidish, but I always try to be as polite as possible to the gentiles I come in contact with, be it at work or at the mall or elsewhere.

  • Avatar photo Jess says on September 11, 2014

    Hi! I’d like to add something. The Orthodox people that I’ve interacted with online while trying to learn more about the faith, have been very kind, friendly and polite. Perhaps those who blog and join forums would be less insular, but I’ve never encountered anyone rude. I’ve always tried to be polite and respectful as well.

    Shana Tova 🙂

  • Avatar photo Debby says on September 11, 2014

    Lovely article. As a member of an ultra orthodox chasidic community, I would love to point out that there are PLENTY friendly people within the community… “Hostility” should in no way be mistaken for “wary”. It may take time for people to warm up, but once they do they will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, extend invitations etc. Come join us at Pratt community synagogue on myrtle ave (clinton hill – Williamsburg) to see this for yourself:)

  • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on September 11, 2014

    Two comments: first, on the asking of non-Jews to perform acts of labor on Shabbos. This is called amira l’akum and the laws are very intricate. Some things may be requested outright (communal needs like the heat being off in shul), other things may be hinted at if the benefit of the action is indirect (such as turning off a light rather than turning one on), and other things may not even be hinted at (most things). The laws are quite technical and most lay people are not well-acquainted with them. (I have not even scratched the surface and it’s such an oversimplification that one could already quibble with things I have said.)

    As far as what Debby said about plenty of friendly people in the community: true! When we have a preconception that all X are Y, we tend to notice examples that support our preconceptions and not notice those that go counter. If I think that all A are bad drivers and all B are criminals, I won’t make any special notice of all the A who don’t crash their cars or all the B who aren’t robbing me. But if I see an A have an accident or a B commit a crime, human nature is to think, “Aha! You see! This supports my preconception!” So, when one Jew is a jerk, people remember that and not the 99 who weren’t jerks.

    • Avatar photo Derek Z says on September 16, 2022

      As a non-jew, I’m seriously interested by the rules of non labor Shabbos. I began looking into it and wow is it complex! It was interesting to see that there is debate about electric and electric appliances. It got me to thinking, I automate a lot of things in my house out of convenience for myself and it seems that a lot of what I do for automation (I use an amazon Echo device that responds to voice commands) could circumvent the rules that I could decipher. For example, you can automate many appliances with an Echo, such as lights going on and off, my humidifier, television, and my thermostat. I was wondering, is there any rule that exists against voice commands or something like automating lights or other appliances? Even some stoves and washing machines can be controlled by smart devices. In my cursory study, there seemed to be exceptions for asking or suggesting/hinting (depending on the situation) that a goy complete a task prohibited by non labor rules during Shabbos, so does a smart device count as a non person/”goy” (not equating the two, just using it as a term for non-jewish)? Does the fact that an Echo is a device automatically disqualify it in the first place? Are there general rules that govern commanding/requesting a person or even a machine to do something that I’m missing? What about automation of devices on non-Shabbos days so that they work on Shabbos? I understand this may be silly, but I was just super curious to see how current technologies interact with ancient laws that couldn’t consider such devices and figured I would ask.

      • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 21, 2022

        Thanks for your question. Rabbi Abramowitz will do a post on it.

  • Avatar photo shimon says on September 19, 2014

    Corine by any chance do you live in Teaneck?

  • Avatar photo Keith says on October 7, 2014

    I stumbled on this site, due to a very long double shift day yesterday with a lot of dowtown time. I spent all of the downtown time reading up on Mayim Bialik’s blog (she’s absolutely amazing! Pure rennaissance woman to be more accurate), and found information to this blog. I grew up in Brooklyn (which I personally believe to be the biggest melting-pot borough of the city known as such) and am always interested in learning theology in general because of being exposed to the huge variety of backgrounds and beliefs. This blog seems to be perfect for me to learn more of the jewish beliefs, but more importantly to me, the social character traits of people developed from those beliefs.

    With all that being said, I have to agree with the strong sentiments of rudeness being recapped by others. Listen, I’m a pretty passive guy. I go out of my way to break the ice and get along with all types of people. People are people, right? We all have things in common regardless of our beliefs and upbringing. But I have to admit, that Hasidic communities were places us kids DID NOT want to pass through growing up, if anything, we took extra time to walk around them. I know this sounds ridiculous, but let me say that just about every time we’ve passed through for whatever reason, we were met with rudeness, monitered, followed, and suffered indirect accusation (“oh, those kids are definitely up to no good” attitudes, in other words) for just about anything negative currently going on, like a kid down the street had his bike stolen, so it was probably us. You know, I really don’t like to have negative thoughts towards anyone, no matter where they’re from or how they live. But just riding my bike through borough park at the age of 13, was usually met with other kids AND adults asking me where I got my bike from, “no, that’s definitely stolen, you wait right there!” Now being a kid, I’m already scared out of my wits when a handful of the community surround you as to not to get way, thinking what’s going to happen to me, my mom’s going to be really mad if the cops bring me home, etc.

    Why? The popular answer? I wish to God I could say it was just the one given to me specifically, mind you, but let me quote one of the shomrim patrol guards’ answer this 13yr old breathing heavy, with tears streaming down his face was given while he was held until nypd came. The answer was, “Because you’re a dirty spic puerto rican from Sunset Park, who had no business coming through here unless you were up to no good.” I’ll be the first to admit, that is something I will NEVER EVER forget. I really wish that was the worst of all the stories growing up next to borough park, but its by far not. You’d cringe at some others I’ve either witnessed or heard from both friends and family. The theme of those horrible stories seemed to be similar in other Hasidic communities such as Williamsburg. I guess I can honestly say it scarred me, and ruined my conception of them. I’m sorry, I’m sure it sounds sad reading this, and whole lot of other things I won’t say, but now I’m 37 and striving to learn more (not just about judaism, because I’m sure its absolutely NOT the religion that caused this, but some negative social hemorrhage in those communities).

    Don’t get me wrong, I have many a friendship with Jewish people. It took years to warmup, but I’ve developed healthy relationships over the years with jewish people. I love them! They’re Brooklyn, and grew up eating caramel popcorn while having fun by the coney island boardwalk, enjoying astroland rides just like me! As I said, people are people. I’m trying to really learn much more on a social and academic perspective, to see if there is something behind this common attitude towards others, not of their faith (us gentiles, if I’m not mistaken).

    So here I am…reporting for education!

    P.S. You’re blog is awesome btw.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on October 7, 2014

      Oy, Keith. I am SO sorry for how you were treated. This is not how Torah observant Jews are meant to conduct themselves. I’m so glad you found us. We try to explain on these pages what Orthodox Judaism is supposed to be about (and how many are living).

  • Avatar photo John Doe says on December 5, 2014

    I finally googled “Why are Jews so rude” to get some answers for myself and stop all the speculation in my mind. I have to say, my interactions have been far above simple greetings on the street or holding the door for somebody. My line of work takes me into the Jewish communities all throughout New York City and upstate. I have spent hours with these communities and witnessed rude behavior I have never before seen in my life. Most of them are incredibly rude and that is what my opinion will be.

  • Avatar photo Wes says on February 21, 2015

    They help people because they have to, it’s like a commandment, it’s different from kindness.
    Like the farmer should not collect things near the street, they should let people eat what is near the street.
    So it’s not because they have a good heart, they are rude too, but they think that they are fulfilling G-d’s law.
    Jewish people are strange and rude… A friend with me tasted that rudeness in a Jewish museum/cemetery in Europe, and we regretted every wasted penny… being a Brazilian and having Jewish Sephardic’s surnames in my family, I know I’m a Jewish descendent too, but from many generations ago…
    I think the only thing I really like is the language, Hebrew, which I will learn in the near future

    • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on February 26, 2015

      I’m sorry for your negative experiences. I imagine that you have probably had plenty of positive or neutral experiences as well but those typically fail to imprint themselves on people because they are unremarkable.

      You do raise an interesting question. Is an act of charity or kindness less praiseworthy because someone considers it a religious duty? Is giving $5 to a homeless person worth less if the donor considers himself obligated to give charity? I’m not so sure. What do others think?

      • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on February 27, 2015

        i think the goal is for the obligation to turn into a love for the act itself. do we not feel bound by morality which causes us to do the right thing?

      • Avatar photo Eric says on February 5, 2022

        For the recipient of a kind act, it may not matter (in terms of practicality) the motives behind the act. However, I believe that God does concern Himself with such matters of distinction. In the holy scriptures, God reveals Himself to be both perfectly loving and just. Why does He want us to help and serves others? Because He loves us. Because He has and continues to do so much for us and bless us. God is under no obligation to do so or to be concerned about our affairs. He created us. His ways are infinitely beyond our ways. And, yet he does love us and concern Himself about us and in our affairs. And, He expects us to do the same for others. We should first love The Lord. So, we should obey his commandments and laws firstly because we love Him. And, if we love and serve Him truly, He will give us a portion of His love for others. God will give us both the desire and obligation to obey Him and the love and fulfillment to obey Him and to serve others.

  • Avatar photo KayCee says on October 13, 2015

    I think there has to be something cultural….some sociologic explanation as to why Chassidim seem unaware of societal norms regarding shared use of space. They seem to have no clue of the space they occupy nor the needs of others to negotiate around them appearing non- anticipatory and non- reactive to such norms as a simple “excuse me please”…and immovable – will not step aside to allow others to pass (even when it is they who are the visitors to another town). They will often appear oblivious to blocking thoroughfares such as aisles and paths while engaging in conversation and leaving strollers or shopping carriages -blocking access to others who also have to come and go. This is not a language barrier, but some failure to conform to societal norms regarding one’s place in space and time. I have observed other cultures who for example will as pedestrians bear left and not the American norm of right, (funny to watch the collisions in a city like New York), but never this seemingly oblivious lack of awareness. Can you relate at all to what I am saying or shed any light?

  • Avatar photo Rabbi Jack Abramowitz says on October 14, 2015

    It’s entirely possible that such seeming “obliviousness” is cultural. Cultures are funny that way. In some cultures, for example, people stand very close when they talk – so close that others consider it a violation of personal space! It’s funny to watch as one person steps back and the other steps in to close the gap. (It’s less funny to be in that situation!) Some cultures are loud, others are quiet, etc. So it completely wouldn’t surprise me that this is just a cultural norm. (In a community where families routinely have 12 or more kids, jockeying for position is probably an important survival skill!)

    • Avatar photo judy says on November 1, 2017

      It’s NOT our culture, because out culture urges – Hevei mekabel et kol adam b’sever panim yafot.
      Just because many were not taught better, doesn’t mean that’s our true culture.
      Our true culture was that practiced by [not only] R’Kamenetzky, but also R’Mendel Kaplan, R’Freifeld, R’Aharon Schechter, R’Aryeh Levin, and no doubt many others.

  • Avatar photo KayCee says on October 17, 2015

    Yes, Rabbi, this is exactly what I am referring to! In some Hispanic cultures, women will not generally make eye contact as a show of respect. Irish people dance with little arm movement, arms held at their sides because there was limited space in local pubs where dancing was done. I think the personal space issue has been defined as eighteen inches….intrude beyond this and people will react as you stated. At any rate, it is something to consider this differential use of space, a certain failure to yield in Chassidic culture that is mistaken by non -Chassidics for rudeness and leads to misunderstandings.
    I love to probe these cultural issues. Another one I think of is this: American Irish people like to eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. No true native born Irish person does such. I theorise that perhaps the American Irish grew fond of corned beef from living in close proximity to American Jewish people in the old Lower East -side, New York tenements. This is mere speculation on my part, but I wonder if it is a blending of cultures at work there.

  • Avatar photo Sean says on January 1, 2016

    Dear Alison, Thank you for your column and comments. It’s great to have a place for dialogue as the opportunity in the neighborhood is hard to broach. I live in North NJ (Passaic-Clifton) which has a large Orthodox community. Many are very nice and say hello and make efforts to be polite. Most unfortunately treat the neighbors pretty badly. I don’t know how or to whom it would be addressed.

    I have the regular occurrence of people walking two abreast towards me on the sidewalk, not wanting to yield space for a passing person. Most don’t say hello (or respond to a greeting) and many give me the aforementioned “death glare”. It may not help that I am not white, though the neighborhood had diversity – black, white, latin, Asian/South Asian residents. Some neighbors who ignore me have asked me to turn on appliances during Shabbos – when suddenly they’re friendly. At a recent poetry reading in the local cafe (I was invited by a rabbi at a previous open mike night), an Orthodox woman verbally challenged me about my presence at the event (the nicest comment was asking if I owned or worked at the cate). The rabbi’s wife came to my defense to inform I was invited, and I’m a neighbor who lives two blocks away. Last night, two women jogging together side by side were “tail-gating” me as I walked on the sidewalk. Instead of going around me in single file, they stayed within a foot of me until I stopped to let them pass. I found this very aggressive – imagine if I and another black or latino guy followed two women (Orthodox or not) so closely while jogging! On the commuter train, the rudeness in similar ways – not wanting to clear an empty seat (even where a middle seat would remain open) is one example.

    I like my neighborhood and want to get along with neighbors. I know not every Orthodox person behaves badly; there are many poorly behaved people of all races – including my own – and I know we aren’t all this way either. How does one whose been slighted in the ways I and other writers have mentioned address this? I’ve been a homeowner in the neighborhood ten years and feel as welcome in my own community as a fox in the chicken coop. Thanks for listening and any suggestions. Warm regards

  • Avatar photo Miriam says on July 19, 2016

    I think it’s sad. Some people from the orthodox community (not everyone) feel that they are more religious than other jews for wearing a black hat, a black kipa, or for their wives wearing sheitels or covering completely with socks or not. Dress or custom does not make you more religious nor does it entitle you to be rude to anyone.

    When Jethro told Moshe to elect leaders from the people to decide on small issues while Moshe consulted G-d for the big issues, the “Rabbi’s” (aka leaders) that were chosen were to decide on small issues. The problem is that these same rabbi’s (not all) have now elevated these small issues (ie. bugs in lettuce (that the 2nd temple rabbi’s btw were way more lenient)) into big issues. Such is true when it comes to dress.

    You are not more observant necessarily than someone who looks mod orthodox (providing their actions are tznius) or someone who is bnei akiva or netivot just because you dress a certain way. Moshe, King David, Ruth, Rivka, Sarah, Leah, Solomon, Joshua and so on did not dress like frumkeit today. If they travelled in time and saw women wearing sheitels and men dressing like menonites, they’d probably think you were all nuts.

    Anyway, you’re not more religious than Moshe. Moshe didn’t wear a black hat and he talked to G-d. It’s important for us to treat everyone with respect, Jewish or not and we have to stop raising eachother above eachother. If it weren’t with religious, we’d be raising eachother above eachother for wearing Abercrombie and Finch (I know as I’ve seen the baseless hatred that exists in the secular community as well).

    It’s one Israel and we need to stop being rude to everyone because we’re all Jewish. I am observant and just because I don’t look black hat does not give you license to call me “spiritual” rather than observant. You don’t know where I stand with G-d and I don’t know where you stand with G-d. We should all stop judging eachother.

  • Avatar photo Leslie Malone says on December 29, 2016

    Thank you for your insightful article. I am an African-American woman who works in a law office. Over my career, I have been drawn to my Jewish male attorneys partly because of their intellect and humor and partly because of their warmth and kindness. However, my feelings s have often been hurt by what I consider rude behavior. To me, rudeness and kindness were contradictions. It is a liberating concept that rudeness and kindness dof not have to be part of the same spectrum. It may also explain the tolerance my attorneys have shown me. Again, thank you.

  • Avatar photo BD says on July 7, 2017

    Why do Jewish drivers tailgate and drive agressively? Also, I’ve had several instances when I’m either waiting on line to pay for something or asking a question to an employee of the facility and they either attempt to cut on line or interrupt me while I’m asking a question to the employee without saying excuse me?

    • Avatar photo Beth Jacobs says on November 9, 2017

      Have you never driven aggressively when in a rush? Have you never interrupted someone when you were in a hurry? And honestly, were ALL the tailgaters and aggressive drivers you’ve encountered Orthodox Jews? Were none of the safe drivers you’ve passed on the road Orthodox? Don’t lump all of us (we are a diverse group of very different individuals) into the category of “rude and obnoxious” because there are rude people in the world and some of them happen to call themselves Orthodox.

  • Avatar photo judy says on October 24, 2017

    Whenever these things happen to you, whether in stores, on the road, whatever…here’s my suggestion:

    TREAT FIRE WITH FIRE. If they interrupt without an excuse me, say FIRMLY:

    “Uh, exCUSE me! You’ve interrupted me!!!”

    If shop-carts are blocking your passage, say FIRMLY:

    “Uh, exCUSE me! You DO realize there are other people in the world, and we need to pass thru the aisle too??”
    In response, they may both stare at you oddly. So stare right back, in a meaningful way.

    If enough people do this, THAT’s how they’ll get trained.
    People can only get trained IF YOU SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE.
    How do you speak the language of others?
    Try to be like actors – they put themselves INTO THE MINDSETS of the protagonists.

    • Avatar photo Elizabeth-Anne says on May 3, 2021

      Will that work with the annual horror of chicken slaughtering all over Boro Park ??? Right out on the open streets. I have to strategically plan my walks every Oct to avoid running into a sight I would not for love or money want to witness. Yes, I am a vegetarian and animal right person.

  • Avatar photo Wm says on December 25, 2017

    To My Jewish Friends,

    Please allow me to first introduce myself by saying I am commenting as a conservative Catholic, who is very interested in and compassionate toward understanding Judaism. If I may, I would like to respectfully address something Allison said about the search engine rankings, specifically the comments on intelligence, wealth and rudeness. To be clear, I happened upon this article while trying to understand Jewish wealth; I work in public accounting, and we have several Jewish clients, and – in an effort to identify with them – I’ve wanted to better understand what it is within Jewish culture that makes money such an important thing. That said, my intent here is to speak more to the search engine rankings than Allison’s experiences, as I thought it might help to shed some light on social perceptions across people of different faiths.

    A few years back, I wanted to understand what Jesus saw, and so I asked a local conservative Rabbi if I could visit a service one Friday night. He welcomed me, and put me with a guide, who helped me to make sure I could follow along. My guide was very nice, but I was new, and it was evident I wasn’t Jewish. I got some pretty interesting looks, until after the service, when everyone went into a different room, and I stayed with my guide in the “main” room where she was answering my questions. Eventually, some people came back in, and – after getting an explanation from the Rabbi – they were all more than welcoming. The great irony was – just as the Jewish folks didn’t quite understand me at first – so too are a lot of other people out in the dark when it comes to Judaism.

    With respect to “rudeness”, I dont know how one Jewish person regards another Jewish person as rude, but, growing up Catholic, we were always taught grace comes through humility – like in the scene where the Blues Brothers visit the Nun at their old orphanage, if you’ve ever seen that movie. Our whole Christian sense of spirituality seems largely based around attaining salvation through grace that comes from virtues like poverty, charity and being very humble and thankful. That’s not to say Jewish people do not maintain the same virtues, as many obviously do, but the sense of how those virtues are instilled somehow seems different.

    When speaking of differences, my intent isn’t to push Christianity, but it might help to understand the Jewish sense of grace, humility, thankfulness, and so on.

    I dont know if this post will help much, but I wanted to try to share something, even if along the lines of someone from another faith.

    God Bless You All.


  • Avatar photo Lisa Smith says on January 26, 2018

    I have a question. My husband and I live in Canada and were recently at a ski resort for our first time tubing with the kids. There were about 40 Orthodox Jewish peoples there. I was saddened that only perhaps 3 or 4 of the people in attendance were kind (words and demeanor). Others either went into our water and some of our food (which we were surprised and perhaps some of the members thought it was theirs) and that stopped after seeing we had pulled pork, some would not move when we said excuse me because we needed to get through, one woman almost knocked my husband over instead of waiting her turn and a lot were staring at us (which I have to admit was very awkward. The worst though was that when they came down the hill on the snow tube, they only brought the tubes so far and then dropped them (like 100 feet where they would be used or put back). This made a lot of extra work for the staff. I said to my husband “well it is their Sabbath (Friday night) so it is my understanding they can’t do work/labour”. What I don’t understand is that if this is the case why would you drag the tube till you get to the top, but not drag it back where it belonged or more specifically, why would you snow tube on the Sabbath? There were many many other comments from staff that couldn’t believe the rudeness. My husband was quite offended and I was a little. I was more sad because I was raised to treat everyone the same (smiles, courtesy etc). Is there something I’m missing that I can explain to my husband. Thank you for your article.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on January 29, 2018

      Thanks for your comment, Lisa. I can’t really apologize for complete strangers’ rudeness, but I kind of want to! It is very frustrating and embarrassing when people look so religious yet don’t act so religious. I’m sorry for your experiences. You and your husband are right to feel offended. Please know (and tell the staff) these are not our values. This group may have the outer trappings of religiousness and the rituals but have missed the foundational point of being an observant Jew which is to be a “mensch” (a good person). I hope you’ll get to see some people from our community one day who can show you how exceptionally good we can be.

  • Avatar photo Emily says on September 6, 2019

    I am a bit puzzled that there are so many articles saying Jewish people are rude. I would never have believed it of not for some shocking experiences I had dealing with two Jewish men on separate occasions. One was a rabbi and I thought they were like Christian priests with a sort of professional benevolence. This rabbi had a side business and even though I was not late paying him, he demanded money from me without any courtesy as if I has done something wrong. No hello or thank you just “You didn’t give me my money!” On this and the second occasion, I had to keep making excuses for them in my mind and trying to convince myself their rudeness was unintentional, but the second encounter was much worse.

    Because I had known Jewish kids in school and they were all nice, I thought the rabbi was just one quirky individual until I met the second Jewish man. This was an old man who looked like a sweet old grandpa so it got my guard down. I thought I could be casual friends with an old man in the neighborhood. But he kept saying the most intrusive and insensitive things. He had known me less than half and hour when he criticized aspects of my life based on assumptions he made and told me where to live and what to do with my own property and money. He pursued me for over a year demanding that I take his advice on everything and saying my entire life was a mistake and I needed his intervention. This man was about 40 years older than me but I suspected in the end he might have had romantic ideas because he talked about non-jewish women he dated in the past and compared them to me. His behavior was unbelievably arrogant and chauvanistic as if my age and gender made me unqualified to manage my own life. He still emails but I never respond and hope he will give up eventually.

    Because I have not encountered other Jewish people as adults, I wondered if the bluntness is a tradition among Jewish men. Both were Americans and not foreigners. I imagine that the women might be easier to get along with based on girls I knew in school but I see a lot of articles saying Jewish women are rude so maybe I’m mistaken. I know plenty of rude people in other cultures but the way these older Jewish men talked to me was not like any rudeness I have ever encountered in the several countries I have lived in. I would have been less shocked to hear the f-word or have someone give me the finger.

    So does anyone know if jewish men raised in America have a certain culture of extreme bluntness and seeming indifference to how their comments affects other people? Or was it a complete coincidence that I met two rude people who happened to be Jewish men of similar ages? Maybe it’s my personal ignorance but I had somehow gotten the idea that old Jewish men would be kind and likable because an ancient religion has a mythical sort of appearance to outsiders like me. But then I know plenty of mean and inconsiderate old people so it’s probably that every culture has their share of unpleasant seniors citizens, right?

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 6, 2019

      Thanks for your comment, Emily. I think you met some weird people. Replace “Jew” with “Black” or “Asian.” Would you assume everyone from that community was weird because you met a couple weird ones? There are weird people everywhere.

  • Avatar photo Manos Anyfas says on October 24, 2019

    I used to respect Jewish people very much, due to their history and I have have always been defending them in arguments against racists. Right now I am on a trip in Israel and I am really shocked and dissapointed with the behavior the locals have towards foreign people. I have traveled in many countries and I baldly say that I have never seen so many rude people in one place. Of not all of them, but the majority and much people wearing a kippa (small hat on their head) are the rudest people I met. I dont know why this occurs, so I googled it and I found this thread. It is very sad because I have met a couple of nice people as well and plus I hate racism. Only my arguments in this case will be weaker from now on.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on October 24, 2019

      I’m sorry to hear that. It is painful to the many Orthodox Jews that strive to live up to real Jewish values.

    • Avatar photo Nellie says on December 29, 2019

      May I please just say that I have family in Israel and go there every year for a month’s visit. My observation is the tourists find the Ultra-Orthodox or Hasidics or Haredics a curiosity and push their way towards them being rude themselves. All you need to do is respect their live style and privacy!

  • Avatar photo dog says on November 10, 2019

    I don’t think Jews are rude, Christian churches have downsized, I have talked to rude pastors as well.

    I kind of like to think Religious placement is dumbfounded.

    I like some christian churches, but went home empty. It takes work to get to a good place with your religion.

  • Avatar photo Maured says on August 5, 2020

    Why in the ultra orthodox areas of Israel is it so dirty and why don’t more of them work for a living they take all the government money they can , so dishonest about benefits

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on August 11, 2020

      I have wondered the same thing. This organization explained why and is helping to fix it https://jewinthecity.com/2017/02/this-organization-teaches-charedi-kids-to-protect-the-environment/#.XzKghS2z1p8

      In terms of many Haredim not working, more and more are. Also, there is definitely a Holocaust PTSD going on in the community. Their community is nearly all descendants of survivors. So they have a strong desire to try to rebuild the Torah that was wiped out by Hitler. This is why so many of the men go into learning instead of working. The ketubah says a man is supposed to support his family. The Talmud tells us that if you don’t teach your child a trade, you teach him how to be a thief. So this idea, unfortunately, is playing out. Additionally, there is an old world mentality where the government officials treated Jews worse and would tax them unfairly. This doesn’t apply in Israel, but some people keep this mindset until present day.

    • Avatar photo Elizabeth-Anne says on May 3, 2021

      Do you want to see filth ?? Come to Boro Park, Brooklyn. Everywhere and mean everywhere there is trash. All over the gutters, the sidewalks, the steps going into the houses, around the trees,etc. Practically everyone has a cleaning lady to worry about the inside, but the outside looks like one big trash heap. I am the only woman on both sides of the streets that cleans up every scrap in front of my home and driveway.
      Take some pride people. grrrrrrrrrrrr

  • Avatar photo Dave S says on February 18, 2021

    I’m just seeing this post from 2014 while searching on Google for something else.

    I’m Jewish (Conservative) and grew up in White Plains, NY. OMG, I can’t tell you how many times I wondered the same thing (Why are Orthodox Jews so rude and arrogant in the City) because nearly every interaction I’ve had where I try to be friendly has been answered with rude behavior. It’s funny because each time I have been to B&H Photo, the people THERE have been incredibly rude and arrogant. I have never understood this.

    I have seen the same behavior from anyone I’ve met who was here from Israel, lol.

  • Avatar photo Simon says on October 6, 2021

    I’m Jewish (secular) and live in Manchester UK close to an area where many religious Jews live including Hassidim. I don’t have much to do with them but when I do I find most of them rude too. For example today I was out walking my neighbour’s dog and a young frum Jewish woman was walking towards me with a pushchair. There wasn’t room for us both on the pavement (sidewalk) so I stood to one side to let her pass. Any normal polite person would say thank you. It’s a nice thing to do and it costs nothing. She didn’t. This kind of thing happens all the time. It may not cause antisemitism but it certainly doesn’t help.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on October 14, 2021

      That is very frustrating. On one hand, there are rude people everywhere and if she looked secular and white you wouldn’t have been able to label her as a rude Hasid. On the other hand, in more insular communities, there may be different standards that are not like secular standards and the person was just raised with a different set of expectations.

  • Avatar photo Julia says on August 1, 2022

    I live near Stamford hill, London UK. There are plenty of Jewish people living in this area, today I searched for ‘why Jewish people are so rude’ because I had enough speculations in my head. When I go to the playground with my baby, Jewish kids would stare at me and my baby, EVERY single one of them! I guess they are taught to not interact with non-Jews…? On the bus, I run into a lot of Jewish moms with babies, and if I smile at them to break the ice, none of them smile back. !!!???? I just got curious about this bizarre behavior, frankly I didn’t really notice this behavior until I had a baby. Now I really want to move to another area.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on August 8, 2022

      Thanks for your question, Julia. Many Hasidic Jews interact with non-Jews. The ones who stick out the most as not interacting are likely from the families that were hit hardest from the Holocaust and carry serious interngenerational trauma and fear about the larger world. The Hasidic community is nearly 100% survivors or descendants of survivors. I don’t say this to excuse rude behavior. I say this to ask you to extend some grace to a community that is still reeling from one of the greatest atrocities in modern times.

  • Avatar photo Eochai says on May 11, 2023

    Thank you for this article, I came with the question if Jewish people hate Irish people, because I keep having odd interactions with people who look so nice but seem to act in a way that is not their nature.

    After all we share the Herzog family, no?

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on June 6, 2023

      You can’t lump an entire people together but there is no known anti-Irish bias. There are rude people and there are people who are scared of outsiders due to intergenerational trauma. But nothing connected to anything Irish.


Contact formLeave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts

Have We Reached 1930’s Germany? A Historian Weighs In

Will The Coming Of Moshiach Affect Passover?

Previous post

Israeli Bomb Shelter Date Leads to Marriage Proposal!

Next post

Can You Ever Pull The Plug? Life Support And Jewish Law

We’ll Schlep To You

In Your
Inbox Weekly