Speak Up As An Orthodox Jew Who Believes in Common Decency

Speak Up As An Orthodox Jew Who Believes in Common Decency

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When I was first making the transition from Conservative to Orthodox, an observant Conservative family I knew invited me over for Shabbos essentially to have an “intervention.” “Look,” they told me, “you can be kosher and shomer Shabbos without becoming one of THEM. If you become Orthodox – you’ll become a rock-thrower.”

Where did an intelligent, observant, well-meaning family get such an idea? From the headlines, of course. Rock throwing, spitting on girls, refusing to sit next to women on planes and subsequently inconveniencing the rest of the passengers – I don’t know how many there are out there who do these things while wearing the “Orthodox garb,” but these actions go against the very roots of being a religious Jew. And the trouble is that our entire community gets judged by it.

“Derech eretz kadma l’Torah” (Common decency is a precursor to Torah) states the Talmud. “V’ahavta l’reyecha k’mocha” (Love your neighbor as yourself) the Torah commands us. And as the great rabbi Hillel explained the entire Torah on one foot: “What is hurtful to you do not do to your fellow. The rest is commentary.”

As I read these headlines of people doing awful things in the name of Orthodox Judaism I cringe, then cringe some more. So I decided to be proactive. The papers write stories about all the people who don’t seem to follow these Torah principles about common decency, so we will come together on social media and collect many of the Orthodox Jews who do. We can’t stop extremists from being extreme, but we can create a record of many of the people who are trying to do the right thing.

Please comment below to indicate that you’re an Orthodox Jew who strives to live by these aforementioned Torah principles and share it with as many people as you can who will do the same.

Thank you.

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  1. Heidi P. Presser : January 6, 2015 at 4:57 am

    I am an Orthodox Jewish woman that tries to treat all people decently and show good manners to all, such as thanking people and holding the door for people.

  2. Diny Abramovitz : January 6, 2015 at 4:57 am

    Im an orthodox jewish woman who believes in common decency.

  3. Diny Abramovitz : January 6, 2015 at 4:59 am

    And I strive to respect all people.

  4. Ariela Jaglom : January 6, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Me too!

  5. I'm an orthodox Jew and I strive to respect all human beings, no matter what race, religion or color. I emphasize this to my children on a constant basis and the most important thing to me is that they grow up showing decency and respect towards their fellow human beings. It kills me to read about the "rock throwers" and the "religious" people who are in the news for scandalous things they are a part of. It gives all of us a bad name but really, those people are not religious in any way. Our Torah commands us to love and respect all people, anyone who doesn't follow that isn't truly orthodox.

  6. I am a Chasidic Orthodox Jew who respects and admires all people irregardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, income, social status, persuasion or level of education.

    The Torah teaches me common decency, it has been in my family’s dna for thousands of years.

    Even though I live in NYC I still smile and say hello to strangers on the street, happy to report that I have not been bitten thus far

  7. Shandel Strasberg : January 6, 2015 at 5:34 am


  8. Jordana Epstein : January 6, 2015 at 6:01 am

    I'm an Orthodox Jew who strives to respect all people!

  9. Esther Shemtob : January 6, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Also an Orthodox Jew who strives to be respectful and considerate to all. I also talk to my kids about treating all people with respect- it's so important!

  10. I’m an orthodox Jew and I empathize to the best of my ability, judge favorably, and treat others as I would have them treat me (even when they don’t).

  11. I am an Orthodox Jew who is comfortable with all sorts of Jews. I work for both a Conservative Shul (more then 12 years now) and the local Kollel (going on my 3rd year) I also taught at one of the Reform Temples for 2 years. My parents where amazing examples for me. My father was a Rabbi who also showed respect for all flavor of Jews and my mother was a teacher, and local Director, for the local Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning.

    • I agree with Yaakov, we don’t need to prove our decency, just come visit Brooklyn, or just come walk in at any of our schools or maybe take a look at all Great Chesed organizations that started in Brooklyn the home to the largest Orthodox – Chasidic population. If name calling bothers you, we have been called names throughout our history and indications by individuals here wont change it miraculously

      • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : January 6, 2015 at 1:24 pm

        Thanks for your comment, Yoely. This is not about “proving our decency” this is about publicizing the part (and by part I mean majority!) of the community that people never hear about. Of COURSE if people outside the Orthodox world met us up close and saw us in action they’d see how many wonderful people there are, but telling people to “come to Brooklyn” will not actually bring people to Brooklyn. I wholeheartedly admit that this post is a far from ideal solution but I was feeling very frustrated – not by name calling but rather by chllul Hashem and I wanted to find a tangible way to tell the other side of the story.

        • Thanks Allison for your reply, be sure my comment earlier wasn’t intended to just criticize you I’m actually a Frum Chasidic great admirer of your mission and a frequent visitor here at JITC, I just didn’t feel so comfortable about the tone in this post of yours ” As I read these headlines of people doing awful things in the name of Orthodox Judaism I cringe ” now these headlines were the norm and your founding principal in staring JITC to show the open world the positive about us and ” Breaking down Stereotypes ” and not being apologetic about the few full-outs we also have.

          • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : January 9, 2015 at 11:14 am

            Thanks for your comment and support. So here’s the thing – if you just promote the good, but never acknowledge the bad, then people will accuse you (and they have!) of whitewashing.

            So I say (and so does my rav!) that an important part of a mission of spreading the positive is acknowledging and condemning the negative. What are we so afraid by to talk abut these issues. Let’s create a record for the world to see that the extremists don’t reflect our Jewish values or the majority of us. Closing our eyes, sticking our fingers in our ears, and saying “la la la” doesn’t stop the extremists nor does it clarify to the world that they are an embarrassment. But taking a stand does. So that’s what we did.

  12. I am an orthodox jewish woman who loves people. I agree with the post above.

  13. I'm an Orthodox Jewish woman who believes that a very basic Torah principle guides us to respect and be kind to all of our fellow human beings: We are *all* made b'tzelem Elokim, in G-d's image. That wasn't reserved only for Jews. To acknowledge the Divine in each person, respect and caring are basic.

    Having friends across all streams of Judaism and outside the Jewish community, I've learned that my fellow Jews who practice differently deeply think about and treasure their Jewishness even when they express it in alternate ways, and that non-Jews are also often caring, G-d-fearing people. Instead of building walls, if we set a loving example in our daily lives, we might even find people attracted to try the way we live rather than seeing us as hostile enclave-dwellers, thus spreading the light of Torah–accomplishing our assigned task.

    Unless a person shows me by attacking me or mine that he or she is an enemy whose goal is our destruction, my rights don't supersede any other person's, and I must act considerately and strive to avoid embarrassing my fellow human beings.

  14. I’m an Orthodox Jew and I strive to treat everyone with respect. So does my hubby…he’s given up his seat to guys who didn’t want to sit next to women before, and he identifies as pretty much Chareidi/Chardal.

  15. I am an orthodox Jewish woman in the business world. I respect others and they reciprocate. It pains me to read stories about extremists in the news because they are such a minute minority of who we are.

  16. Rachel Schreiber Levitan : January 6, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Rock throwing would never cross my mind. I might invite them over for some chicken soup and cholent. Maybe a slice cake? Would you like some tea too?

  17. Ditto! I am an orthodox (dare I say ultra?) And derch eretz kadma l'torah. I do my best respect all!

  18. Sloane Blackthorne : January 6, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I'm an orthodox Jewish woman who believes in common decency and strives to respect all human beings.

  19. I'm an Orthodox Jew and I know that the vast majority of us strive to treat others with respect. I call on those that don't to think about the chillul hashem you are causing and to correct your ways.

  20. Danny Strassman : January 6, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Count me in.

  21. I am Modern Orthodox and am decent and respectful.

  22. Yaakov Goldsmith : January 6, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I am a Frum Jew who will frankly not even answer this. To be honest to try and get us to admit to live by common decency shows that you really haven't bought into what the conservative family said to you. While there are obviously some people who don't live by this in our community the overwhelming majority do. How dare you state in your objectives over and over again that you are trying to inform people that frum Jews are just like other people (paraphrasing) and then feel the need to call us out like you are doing. Really perhaps you should try taking our side once in a while instead of basically being an apologist for those who look down on us every time one within our community fails to live up to our objectives.

  23. Diny Abramovitz : January 6, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Beautifully said!

  24. thanks for your comment Yaakov Goldsmith. of course *I* know that the majority of orthodox jews believe in common decency and kindness but the ones making the news are, unfortunately, what most people know about Orthodox Jews. if you think about it, most non-orthodox jews and non-jews will never knowingly interact with an orthodox jew. so they are writing articles like this after seeing the headlines about the airplanes.

    we are open to hearing suggestions – what else might you suggest we do to set the record straight and let the world know how many Orthodox Jews (despite the headlines) are actually good and decent people? thanks for your help!

  25. What's the difference between being a Jew who is halakhically-observant like that family (shomer kashrut, shabbat, tefillah, taharat hamishpacha,etc.) and "Orthodox" anyways if you really think about it?

    • Daniel,

      Even if two Jews have the exact same halachic practices and standards, if one of them doesn’t accept the 13 principles of fath as true and immutable, then that one isn’t Orthodox.

  26. Jody Eisenman : January 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I respect everyone.

  27. i don't think they kept taharas hamispacha and they drove to shul and ate out in restaurants. i'm not saying that to judge or take away from all that they were doing, but it was not the same exact observance that i was planning to accept upon myself if i became orthodox.

  28. I'm an ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who believes in the inherent dignity of every human being. Our Torah teaches us that all human beings are created in the Divine image and this guides my behavior, speech and ideally thought processes in relation to other people.

  29. Yocheved Lavon : January 6, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I am an Orthodox Jew. Many people would label me as ultra-Orthodox; I prefer to say that I adhere, as best I can, to the teachings and commandments of the Torah. Of COURSE I believe in common decency. There is no room in Torah Judaism NOT to believe in common decency. Our Sages say that derech eretz, which includes common decency, is a prerequisite for understanding the Torah. It saddens me that there are some people who don't take this well-known principle seriously yet still consider themselves Torah Jews. I can't offer any apologies for them, except to say that we all have our animal-like drives and impulses, and not all are equally adept at managing them.

  30. Miriam Leah Schwartz : January 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I am proud to be an Orthodox Jew! I try to love and respect all Jews no matter how “frum” they are and I do the same for those who are not Jewish. I try to be non judgemental and greet people with a smile.

  31. I’m an Orthodox Jewish woman who respects all people as being made in the image of Hashem. True observance of Torah doesn’t allow me to behave any differently.

  32. I am transitioning to being orthodox (it is a journey!) and I believe in respect and common courtesy for all.

  33. Sarah Hofstetter : January 6, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    I’m an Orthodox Jewish woman who believes in respect and understanding of all humankind

  34. Daniel Saunders : January 6, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I’m an Orthodox Jew who works in a Progressive institution and has non-Orthodox, non-religious and non-Jewish friends. I believe in decency, respect and building bridges while respecting genuine differences.

  35. Yes! I agree whole heartedly! I'm BT and my DH is FFB. It's a constant discussion in our house.

  36. this discussion reminds me of my grandmother’s reaction when someone said that a particular frum person was a thief. “he’s not frum,” she would say. “he’s just a gonif who knows how to daven.”

    at the same time, i agree with yaakov’s post. the vast majority of strictly observant jews, including the chassidim and the so-called ultra orthodox, are NOT the stone thrower who are just the people who ,make the news because they are so different from the norm. i caution the writer of the original post not to pay attention to her friends’ bad mouthing us. they obviously have no idea of the beauty of authentic torah observance.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : January 6, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Leah, but it’s not my “friends” who are bad mouthing us. It’s most of the world. The problem is is that the rock throwers and plane disrupters are doing these things in the name of Torah. I don’t like having to write such a post, but you’re absolutely correct that most people have no idea about the beauty of authentic Torah observance which is why we have come together to set the record straight.

  37. Thanks, Allison!

  38. You have a beautiful way with words.

  39. With all do respect Mr. Goldsmith, it is because of people like Ms. Joesphs, that I was inspired to join this orthodox movement as a non observant Jew. While hearing her speak at our local JCC on the unfair portrayal of the orthodox Jews in the media, this message became clear to me. When one Jew is hurting or (causing the hurt), we, as the Jewish People, all hurt. There is no “our side” or “your side.” There is one side. The stronger we all are together, the better. If that means taking collective responsibility for the few individuals who misrepresent what we stand for, then so be it. I can’t quote a rabbi, but as a psychotherapist I can tell you; respect and credibility are more easily given, when someone can admit their flaws and/or mistakes. Ms. Josephs has and is doing tremendous work to bridge the gaps on both ends of the Jewish spectrum. I am grateful for people like her who are not afraid to cal out indecent behavior, no matter who the instigator is.

  40. I am a Orthodox Jew who believes in giving derech eretz to all people regardless of their race, colour, religion, class etc. When those who look like Orthodox Jews acts in a way that is counter to the principle of derech eretz kadma l’torah, I am disgusted and in my opinion, they are not frum, they are simply pretending, they have lost their way.

  41. Jennifer Meltzer : January 7, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Another Orthodox Jewish woman here who aspires to live her life with derech eretz., and hopefully have succeeded in getting that message through to my children. This article to me is the essence of what JITC is about, and you deserve a big yasher koach! Just this week I was out with a non-religious friend who's always been quick and eager to leap on any infraction committed by an Orthodox Jew. It's so unfortunate that the few "bad apples" in our basket can have such a negative impact on the vast majority of frum Jews who are decent people. It is capable of totally masking the amazing and tremendous chesed that comes from our people.

  42. I become simultaneously sad and angry when I hear of or read about such atrocities being perpetuated by those wearing what my husband calls the "Jewniform." It's a horrific chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name) and pushes away Jews from Torah Judaism. The hypocrisy is inexcusable!

    I, too, will fight the bad name these acts give us in a proactive manner, as you do. Thank you, Allison, for taking a stand for us to stop the lashon hara and all treat one another with love and respect. You know, like Hashem commanded us to do!

  43. Me too!

  44. Me too! But I do think sentiments similar to Yaakov Goldsmith and Amy Leserman should be taken into consideration. The title sounds defensive. Will elaborate when I get a chance.

  45. Daniella Friedman : January 7, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I’m a Torah-observant (yeshivish? Chareidi? Chardal?) Jew and I try to treat everyone well. I go to a pretty liberal secular university with, unfortunately, a lot of covert anti-Semitism, and so I meet people whom I have difficulty respecting. But that doesn’t mean I don’t treat them with respect. I’ve always figured that the vast majority of humanity deserves respect and, at the least, basic decency and the best way to deal with those who don’t deserve it is to treat them as though they do. I’m even on very friendly terms with someone I know espouses anti-Semitic views (although I’m not sure how she reconciles that); I’m always saddened to hear about others who project their own personal problems and lack of Torah philosophical internalization onto people who have done nothing to deserve it.

  46. Orthodoxy and Judaism has probably survived the extreme persecutions and obstacles to a religious lifestyle with extremism but I hope that our generation is one that practices it thoughtfully and passes that message on

  47. thanks for your comment @mark. please understand that when choosing a title we need to take marketing and SEO into consideration. we were looking for a call to action to get people to read what this was about and be counted and we are looking to make this searchable on google.

  48. Joel Chesky Salomon : January 7, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Nicely put.

  49. Diana Emuna Rubin : January 7, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    One of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy was the need for decency. Decency is independent of political correctness. We are on the front lines. We often forget that.

  50. In our orthodox/Chasidic/Torah observant/Jewish home, striving for connection reigns supreme. In a Jewish context, we strive to connect with everyone (Jewish, non-Jewish, observant, non-observant, gay, straight, you get the picture …) at our Shabbos table. As a psychotherapist, I strive to help recreate connection in my clients' most important relationships — including their true self. My husband, a Breslover chasid, works to create connection between observant Jews and Muslims, helping them to focus on our commonalities rather than our differences. So sad that those who call us "Orthodox" folks "judgmental," are in fact often ridiculously judgmental themselves, basing their opinions on labels and outward appearances of their fellow Jew, rather than actually getting to know us. Sad.

  51. As an Orthodox Jewish married woman, I too cringe when I see every frum Jew depicted in a not so nice light. Unfortunately, a few bad apples spoils the bunch. Just as we are suppose to catch our kids when they are doing something right, instead of focusing on the bad, the same goes for the secular world, but…As outwardly Orthodox Jews behave badly, and yes, there are far more that don’t, my experiences for the most part are few and far between, for example. If I hold the door open for someone with a carriage, they barely look at your face, let alone say thank you…of course I do it because it is mentchlikite, but what do the “other” see?? The craziness on the plane? You can’t sit next to a woman? If a man is so pious, so holy, higher a chartered plane…this sense of “we are better than anyone,” is what causes many of the issues. As Jews, we are held to a higher standard, and so we should be. The world expects crass behavior, rudeness, bad manners, etc from the “other,” but when we do it, we are judged. If you see a medical doctor in his white coat, a nurse, in her white uniform, or better yet, Buckingham Palaces’ Changing of the Guard…tell me, would expect to see them acting in an inappropriate way? Being rude, trying to get away with something cause look at me, I am special? I am proud to be an Orthodox Jew, I raised both my sons that, with tzit tzit showing and a kippah, you act accordingly to the Torah..and yes, if you are not a mentch, all the Torah you learn, is for naught.

  52. I'm an orthodox Jew and an eruv(Sabbath boundary) inspector for a mostly non-Jewish neighborhood. I keep a ladder in my car to make repairs. Several weeks ago I noticed that someone had misdirected the street signs. I took my ladder and redirected the signs. Maybe it will keep someone from getting lost.

  53. I am an Orthodox Jew who believes that every human was made in G-d’s image.
    I would never throw rocks.
    I listen respectfully to those who don’t agree with me, even when they say disrespectful things to (at) me.
    Most (I strive for “All”) of the non-orthodox people who know me would say that I am kind
    and respectful. I like to say “We can disagree without being Disagreeable”.

  54. Rebecca Klempner : January 9, 2015 at 12:39 am

    As an Orthodox Jew, I believe that Hashem created everyone. He is the Father of every human being, and the best way to show I love Him is to honor each and everyone of His children.

  55. These hostile people are such a tiny fraction of the orthodox community, which is, for the most part, very loving and helpful. Some groups exclude others who are not of their sub-group from social interaction, but will stop everything and do anything to help any other Jew in trouble. There is so much anger and prejudice and ignorance about Orthodox Jews among the non-religious. Try actually making a friend in the community and you will be amazed.

  56. I am a Modern Orthodox Jew who lives out of the NY area. I strive for Derech eretz in my interactions with Jews of all opinions and beliefs. I also strive for positive interactions with the community at large.

    However, what I notice when I return to NY and the friends that I left behind when I relocated, is a very narrow definition of who deserves Derech Eretz. The use of pejorative terms shiksa, shvatze, korva, queer, and on and on is disturbing and embarrassing. The mindset that one can be less than forthright with someone because “they’re not religious” or “they’re a goy” is mind boggling (let alone neged halachah). This has led my husband and me to stop associating with some who have been friends for decades.

  57. I normally don’t comment on websites, but I’ll come out of lurkerdom for this one. As an ultra-Orthodox Kollel wife living in Israel, I hereby declare the obvious – spitting on people, throwing rocks at them (unless they’re physically attacking you or some such), and preventing flights from functioning smoothly are not what God wants from us. (I don’t have a problem with a person politely trying to avoid sitting next to a person of the opposite gender – preferably by doing something to accomplish this ahead of time – but while calmly asking somebody if they would mind switching seats with you is fine, demanding a different seat and making things unpleasant for those around you is NOT.)

  58. Chanie Wallk Waxler : January 13, 2015 at 7:08 am

    I am a Chassidic orthodox woman who believes everyone as a "tzelem elokim" (image of g-d) in them

  59. Hi am an Orthodox Jew and I strive to respect everyone.

  60. I’m Orthodox (what some people would call chareidi) and I respect human beings. I’d like people to know that nobody thinks rock-throwing is okay except the rock-throwers themselves (and some truly ill people). Holding up flights 🙁
    I just want everyone to know that we are not dysfunctional and repressed, despite what nearly every novelist/documentary filmmaker/newspaper decides to portray us as.

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Allison Josephs

Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.