Dear Rebbetzin Chaya-
I feel embarrassed to be wearing the same kippah as so many other Jews who make such a bad impression during Yeshiva break or Chol Hamoed. I see people cutting other people off, parking terribly, pushing in line, being rude to amusement park or museum staff or visitors or the non-Jews on vacation then too.
How can I best deal with this and still feel proud to be Jewish?
I am so sorry you are feeling this way. At first I thought that I couldn’t really answer your question well, because I can’t really relate to it. I have lived in smallish Jewish communities for the last 15 years, and my experience has been very different. Around here, when I go to a local attraction on Chol Hamoed, I usually run into a few other frum families. Usually, I know who they are, or if not, I probably know the relatives that they are visiting. Generally, the feeling that I have experienced in this situation is a fun sense of community and connection. It almost feels like being in a secret club, and I am proud to be in that club. I am genuinely sorry that this positive feeling has not been your experience until now. However, since moving to my community, or another small community like it, is probably not an easy solution to your problem, we will have to keep thinking.
As I continued pondering your dilemma, I have a few questions for you to think about…
- Is it possible that your take on the way your fellow Jews are acting is overly negative? It sounds like you are a sensitive person, and are noticing the imperfection and rudeness–littering, cutting. Staff and guests at various attractions are probably used to seeing a range of behaviors. Is it possible that these imperfections are within the realm of normal?
- Are there times that your fellow Jews are making a positive impression? Are there other Jews who are making a point to greet staff politely? Maybe people are impressed by the family values that the Jewish families display or by the commitment to religion that it takes to daven with a minyan in the middle of a theme park? By the sense of community that is displayed? When I was not yet religious, I loved being in places with religious families and seeing the lifestyle that they were living.
- Can you see yourself as an individual? It is true that as a group, since frum Jews are fairly visible, the way we act does reflect on each other. That being said, think about the way you would speak about a different group, whether race or religion. Hopefully, you know better than to stereotype, and to say that just because one person of a certain race or religion acts a certain way, that means that all people you encounter are the same. Can you extend that same courtesy to yourself, as an individual? Yes, you are clearly identifiable as a frum Jew, but that doesn’t mean that you are being painted with the same brush as everyone else. You can put your best foot forward. YOU can be as polite as possible. YOU can be as friendly as possible. YOU can clean up YOUR mess. Can you walk around with your head held high knowing that even if others are making a negative impression, YOU are doing everything that you can to counteract that, in the process modeling for others the right way to act?
- Can you make other Chol Hamoed plans? There is no halacha that says you have to go to the zoo or the theme park, or whatever on Chol Hamoed. If you find it stressful to be at attractions where there are huge crowds of Jews who are behaving in ways that make you uncomfortable, can you just opt out of that experience altogether? There are plenty of ways to spend time with friends or family that don’t involve huge popular tourist type attractions. (Some ideas: have a board game party, Chopped:Pesach edition, go to a library and choose books, a scavenger hunt at a mall or fun neighborhood, an out-of-the-way state park for a picnic or bike ride or geocaching, backyard camping, organize a group of people you enjoy being with and book an entire session of ice skating or laser tag or similar) Readers, feel free to share more original ideas in the comments.
I am sure all Jew in the City readers are ready to make a great impression this Chol Hamoed wherever they may go!
Chag Kasher v’Sameach,