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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Street Fight?

Larry Gordon, the editor of the local Jewish paper, writes on his new blog about a call he received from a reporter for the New York Newsday, Carol Eisenberg, regarding a story she is writing for her paper.
Well, Carol said, people she had spoken to had told her that they feel that if they are not Orthodox and live in today’s 5 Towns they are looked down upon and not regarded with respect. She repeated the old and often repeated accusation that we as a people insist on walking in the middles of the street on Shabbos and don’t pay any attention and sometimes don’t even care if there is car behind us that needs to pass.

I told the reporter that I had lived here a relatively long time and that I have a brother who lives in the 5 Towns ten years longer than that. I recall reading stories and letters in the local press about this annoying habit of walking in the middle of the street on Shabbos over twenty years ago. My guess is that for every hundred time his idea is mentioned a minimal form of the scenario may have unfolded perhaps a total of once. “I know lots of people,” I said, “and I don’t know any at all that set out on Shabbos to walk on the street to assert the growing Orthodox presence in the area by obstructing traffic.” If anything at all Orthodox Judaism represents the exact antithesis of this type of behavior. A truly observant Jew is always concerned about his or her good name, reputation and image and how his or her behavior will impact on the image of all Jews everywhere.

This suggestion that we must walk in the way of traffic as a way of announcing to the world that we are observing the Sabbath is nothing other than a ridiculous idea.

I think he is right and wrong. Yes, ideally, a "truly observant Jew" will be concerned about his reputation and image, and will not walk down the middle of the street and obstruct traffic. Mr. Gordon is also correct in saying that any traffic obstruction that is done is not done to announce our Sabbath observance to the world in any way, shape, or form. That being said, one can't deny that in this area, on a typical Shabbat, large groups of observant Jews do seem to find themselves walking down the middle of the street. Does this is action in any way have as a goal obstructing traffic for the non-observant residents in the area? Not a chance.

Sure, the practice shows a lack of consideration - and that is something that needs to be worked on, big time. I have actually heard many community Rabbis speak out specifically against walking smack down the middle of the street on Shabbat. Obstructing traffic is rude, inconsiderate, and needs to be stopped. I understand that there are no sidewalks on many streets, but that doesn't absolve people from walking on the side of the street (not the middle) and sharing the road.

But again, to give a motive to this type of behavior of some kind of attempt at religious domination of the streets of the Five Towns is absurd. Thankfully, this isn't Meah Shearim. No one is walking down the middle of the street as some sort of protest to driving on Shabbat, or standing at the corner of Rockaway Turnpike and Central Avenue every throwing stones at passing cars.

At least, not yet.

38 Comments:

Blogger SephardiLady said...

Lack of consideration is a problem in every community! (Mine too). I agree with you there is no message being send, except that people are unthinking.

No need to try to make a story out of this.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Thankfully, this isn't Meah Shearim. No one is walking down the middle of the street as some sort of protest to driving on Shabbat'

I have been following your blog for quite some time, and this statement finally puts a finger on exactly what's been niggling at the back of my brain, with regards to your blog, and the whole 30 something crowd in 5 towns. Your young arrogance, thinking you know everything, and if YOU don't understand something, then you have no need to respect it.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"....with regards to your blog, and the whole 30 something crowd in 5 towns."

Please don't mistake OM's blog as being representative of anything other than her, much less the "whole 30 something crowd in 5 towns," whatever that means......

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"....with regards to your blog, and the whole 30 something crowd in 5 towns."

"Please don't mistake OM's blog as being representative of anything other than her, much less the "whole 30 something crowd in 5 towns," whatever that means......"

AGREED! I am 28, live in the 5 Towns and completly don't respect anything that I don't understand. So hows that for generalizing that we are all in our 30's!

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Om, you have the rudest commenters. Belies their protests that Orthodox aren't rude.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orthomom - You have got to blog about this!! Talk about the "Talk of the Five Towns"

Donald Trump didn't hire him last night, but Lee Bienstock still was a big winner to his family and friends, who gathered at the Lawrence-Cedarhurst firehouse to watch him compete in the finale of "The Apprentice" last night.

Each of the approximately 400 guests paid $5, which went to the fire department as donations.

The crowd let out a collective groan when Trump selected Bienstock's opponent, Sean Yazbeck, 34, of London.

Bienstock, 23, beat out 16 other contestants on the popular show before losing out to Yazbeck. Throughout the series, Bienstock was sent to the boardroom and faced elimination seven times, but managed to beat it out of there without getting fired. He also managed four of the projects during the season, earning a reputation as a leader.

Bienstock's mother and father, Mark and Flora, brothers Daniel and Solomon, and several aunts and uncles were at the show in Los Angeles last night to root him on. So was his grandfather, who flew in from Israel, and his boss from Merrill Lynch.

"He really was a person with a lot of integrity and character and was very loyal," said his mother. "He never lost focus."

Ellen Haimoff, a neighbor of Lee's parents, said, "I'm so disappointed. He worked so hard, but he's still a winner to us."

Bienstock was always a big Trump fan, said his mother: He's read all his books and watched "The Apprentice" from the beginning. He's also a hard-core New Yorker. He graduated from Cornell University and worked for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan. Instead of spending his college summers in Europe as other classmates did, he worked in New York with underprivileged children.

Alisa Rodway, of Roslyn, part of the "I Love Lee Fan Club," who watched the show at the firehouse, had a stern pronouncement on last night's outcome.

"Trump," she said, "is going to see he made a very big mistake."

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's called bigotry. I live in a community where the young people are of a certain color and tend to saunter slowly across intersections in order to get in the way of cars. But to generalize about all people of that particular color would be just plain bigotry. so why is this any different?

11:03 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

MOMOF4:
Very well put and nuanced.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Om, you have the rudest commenters. Belies their protests that Orthodox aren't rude.

Are you Orthodox? Interesting, since it appears you could use a little work on your own manners. Last I checked, OM didn't have a requirement that commenters be Orthodox. Are all Orthodox jews presumed to be polite saints else their actions be generalized to the entire group? Do you make that same generalization every time you see an Orthodox person doing a kind or considerate action, or, as I suspect, are you just waiting to pounce on every perceived transgression to satisfy your bias and then make sweeping statements about the entire religion? Try looking in the mirror and see if you like the presumptuous bigot staring you in the face.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Dana said...

As someone who is an ignorant 30-something (not to mention also a Gentile) I am obviously--as the anonymous commenters above have so eloquently stated--unqualified to comment on this. However, the critics here are offering strawman arguments and ignoring the salient fact, which is that while clearly not all the members of the Five Towns Orthodox community are walking in the middle of the street during shabbos, it is only members of the Five Towns Orthodox community who are walking in the street during shabbos.

I am a driver, and on occasion have to drive through the Satmar neighborhood in Williamsburg during shabbos, though I try to avoid it. Why? Because I observe this same, VERY dangerous behavior in South Williamsburg as is allegedly occurring in Five Towns. People do not observe the traffic lights or the NYC law against jaywalking. One time a child ran into the street right in front of my (slow-moving! like 15 MPH!) car, which was truly frightening.

I understand the difference between the Satmar sect and the Orthodox community in general. However, to allege that jaywalking isn't a problem because the person who is making the accusation is "too young" to understand is a really fatuous rebuttal.

If one person or a hundred people are doing it, it *is* a problem. It's not only discourteous to jaywalk, IT'S ILLEGAL. (Just like littering or not curbing your dog--and just as annoying and ignorant, in my opinion.) I have spent time with several Orthodox people in both professional and casual settings. I am knowledgable about what is considered respectful behavior and dress, even though I am not Jewish, much less Orthodox. I would certainly never walk through an Orthodox neighborhood dressed immodestly, either.

AS SUCH, and I apologize for being long-winded, I would hope to be treated with the same respect. This includes, but is not limited to, being permitted to drive down the public streets (that you and I pay for with our tax dollars) unfettered and without risking a serious accident.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"AS SUCH, and I apologize for being long-winded, I would hope to be treated with the same respect. This includes, but is not limited to, being permitted to drive down the public streets ("that you and I pay for with our tax dollars") unfettered and without risking a serious accident."

If these jews have it their way there would be no "Tax Dollars" to spend.

Bravo Dana!!

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Dana said...

Um, I don't really like any statement that uses the term "these Jews," any more than I like "these Brooklyn Italians," or "these hipsters," both of which I've heard directed at me.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might I point out that the conduct described here is not nearly as egregious as anyone has characterized it. As a 30-something offender, I admit that I frequently find myself walking with my wife and our double stroller on the side of side streets on shabbos - either because there is no sidewalk, or because the width of the sidewalk would not allow us to walk side by side. When there is a parked car in the street, we do venture into the middle of the street to get around it and then immediately return to the side afterwards.

But let's call a spade a spade. There is a deep seated hatred/resdentment/frustration by many local non-sabbath observers, which pokes its ugly head out at those who walk on the side of the street as well as those who walk on the sidewalks (especially in the wake of the recent school board elections). Regardless of our sensitivities toward motorists, we are frequently subjected to incessant honking, shouting and/or glaring, by many people who are visibly frustrated with the changing demographics and rather than live and let live, choose to vent their frustration on the streets.

Without giving credence to those who walk in the middle of the street unecessarily or illegal behavior(and I think those people are few and far between), any reasonable local motorist should recognize that the streets are significantly less crowded with cars on Saturday (which is a benefit that they naturally appreciate) and by the same token, those sabbath-observing residents are increasingly found on foot.

However, all sabbath-observers must be ever cognizant of the fact that many of their non-sabbath-observant neighbors feel that their world is crumbling before their eyes and that the demographic shift is disintegrating their commmunity, and that those non-sabbath-observant neighbors are super-sensitive about any behavior or activity by orthodox people that might remind them of the demographic realities. In light of that, memebers of the orthodox community should be super-sensitive so as to allay any fears of continuing demographic change and endeavor to "tiptoe" around their neighbors, so that they don't invite any unrelated deep-seated frustrations to poke their ugly head.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone driving through Hewlett Bay Park or back Hewlett on a nice Saturday or Sunday also encounters numerous joggers, bikers, walkers. Why are there no communal comments about that? I think this issue is simply a stick that the non-Orthodox wield against the Orthodox, just as the Orthodox wield the "bloated school budget" stick against the non-Orthodox. Are both annoyances? Absolutely. Should we be working together - rather than at cross-purposes - to resolve them? Absolutely. That we're not doing so is a reflection of the poisonous atmosphere in our community.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If these jews have it their way there would be no "Tax Dollars" to spend.

This has been said before in similar context, but it bears repeating that without "these jews," your property would likely be worth half its value and your blocks would be even more decrepit than when "these jews" first started moving in. You may have preferred it that way, but we certainly more than compensate for the minimal loss in public school budget funds in the overall economic boom we have provided to our collective community at large - if your small mind can even fathom such a concept.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Dana said...

...we are frequently subjected to incessant honking, shouting and/or glaring, by many people who are visibly frustrated with the changing demographics and rather than live and let live, choose to vent their frustration on the streets....In light of that, memebers of the orthodox community should be super-sensitive so as to allay any fears of continuing demographic change and endeavor to "tiptoe" around their neighbors, so that they don't invite any unrelated deep-seated frustrations to poke their ugly head.

I beg your pardon, Anonymous, but I can say the very same thing about my experiences as a Gentile passing through an Orthodox neighborhood. How many times have I been stopped at a stoplight at night in Brooklyn, nervous because I'm by myself and it's late, only to have a GROWN MAN look (and even yell) at me through my closed window, his face two inches from mine, because it's clear that I'm not even welcome to drive in the neighborhood?

Not to mention being called, in a derogatory fashion, "artisten" because of the fact that I'm some sort of interloper in the "world [that] is crumbling before their eyes."

I realize you're upset because you feel as though your community is bearing the brunt of an unfortunate stereotype. And you haven't chosen to address my very salient point that even if one person is doing it, it's WRONG.

Challenge stereotypes by rising above and doing the right thing.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

New Yorkers of all kinds jaywalk.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not to mention being called, in a derogatory fashion, "artisten" because of the fact that I'm some sort of interloper in the "world [that] is crumbling before their eyes."

What is an "artisen" and why is that derogatory?

"How many times have I been stopped at a stoplight at night in Brooklyn, nervous because I'm by myself and it's late, only to have a GROWN MAN look (and even yell) at me through my closed window, his face two inches from mine, because it's clear that I'm not even welcome to drive in the neighborhood?"

What was it that this GROWN MAN yelled at you? And what does any of this have to do with the issue in the 5T (or are you merely corroborating the argument above that these stereotypical characterizations at the heart of these issues are to blame)?

And what is wrong with this constructive suggestion to orthodox members of the community:

"However, all sabbath-observers must be ever cognizant of the fact that many of their non-sabbath-observant neighbors feel that their world is crumbling before their eyes and that the demographic shift is disintegrating their commmunity, and that those non-sabbath-observant neighbors are super-sensitive about any behavior or activity by orthodox people that might remind them of the demographic realities. In light of that, memebers of the orthodox community should be super-sensitive so as to allay any fears of continuing demographic change and endeavor to "tiptoe" around their neighbors, so that they don't invite any unrelated deep-seated frustrations to poke their ugly head."

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Dana said...

To respond to your questions in reverse order:

I interpreted that "constructive suggestion" as facetiousness on the part of the poster, didn't you? Like a "Modest Proposal" sort of thing? Perhaps I'm reading-impaired.

What was it that this GROWN MAN yelled at you?

Do you not believe me? The yelling has occurred only once. But the staring--the invasion of my privacy--has happened when I've been stopped late at night at a stoplight. I'm not generalizing here--I'm offering anecdotes because everyone else is too--and I wish you wouldn't accuse me of stereotyping when I'm very sympathetic to those who have been tarred with a very broad brush, and I have said as much in my previous posts, which it seems you haven't bothered to read.

Finally, "artisten" is a German (and perhaps Yiddish?) term that means artists. However, it is a term the Satmar community in S. Wbgh uses in a derogatory way.

But trust me--I've been called worse by better.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous talmid said...

If you ever drive down the blocks near lawrence high school you will find many students walking in the middle of the street, and they don't have double strollers to maneuver. The bottom line is that any time a group of people would like to walk together, rather than single file, they will end up walking in the street. This has nothing to do with orthodox or not.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't we all just agree that we (ortho's) do it, we shouldn't do it and we will be mindfull of not doing it in the future?

Cause I'm sure if we did, then you (non-ortho's) will stop hating, start being more tolerant and start cleaning up after your dogs.

OM, another wonderfull post that will lead to Kavod Shamayim and sholom Al Yisroel. How do you do it??....And please stop doing it.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And please stop doing it".

Speak for yourself. If you don't think there is value in this kind of discourse, then fine. But this blog is hardly the worst offender, she is always on the careful side. If anything, I'm sure people find her blogs to be too careful. Sometimes I do. There is nothing wrong with this discussion. And if you really don't like it, go to Larry Gordons blog, who OM gave a hotlink for. He started this conversation. And I don't see any comments from you asking him to stop.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Dana said...

[Blogger ate my last response.]

I neglected to say, the man (approx 60) who yelled at me--not screamed, mind you, but yelled--said something along the lines of "What are you doing here at this time of night?"

Anyhow, I don't have the energy to devote to this discussion. For the [broken] record: I don't think this "walking in the street during shabbos" is some kind of genetic impairment from which all Orthodox suffer and should be punished. It's enough of a problem that a number of people, both within and outside the community, have noticed enough to comment on. What it comes down to is that anyone who does this--and not just, as anonymous poster number 476 does, to navigate a stroller on a street without sidewalks--is rude and inconsiderate.

And finally, to address the second-to-last commenter, I think that litterbugs and people who don't curb their dogs should be forced to break rocks on a chain gang. But that's why I'm not the mayor.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous intrigued said...

This whole "argument" is juvenile - and is just an excuse to vent at people that are somewhat different. While some people may walk in the street, I can assure you that the amount of people that walk their dogs in the street and block traffic is just as common, if not more so (both orthodox and non-orthodox alike). It's time for people to grow up and stop nit-picking at non-sense.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have anything better to do than hound OM? Do you realize that yesterday (in a post about anti-semitism in the Lawrence Public Schools) she was criticized for not being sufficiently critical of the Five Towns Orthodox community and today she is being criticized for the exact opposite? Get a life, guys.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intrigued:

Agreed. I think that's the point om's making. This is about non-o's nitpicking on the o's. I can fully understand that the non-o's feel that they are on the defense due to their neighborhood being taken over. That doesn't give them free rein to act on their defensiveness and accuse the o's of doing it with some kind of agenda other than getting a stroller down the street.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lived in this community for many years including my teenager years and can attest that there has always been a problem of people walking in the middle of the street. The violators include bikers, joggers LHS kids on Peninsula Blvd as well as some Ortho Jews. But rather then look for a solution i.e. new sidewalks or enforcing the rule of trimming bushes that intrude on the sidewalk, this ignoramus decides to single out one group of violators who by no means are the worst violators. I have seen this neighborhood change dramatically over the years, some changes were good and some have been less then good. But everyone has benefitted and no one is holding a gun to anyones head to stay. I have a neighbor who is a longtime member of the 5T and is non-ortho and he made a great point. He doesnt necessarily agree or like the demographic change but realizes that the change is because people sold their houses and cashed in on the above market demand of the "OrthoJews". He concluded that you cant have it both ways. Either keep your house like he did or be happy that someone is willing to pay you 2x or 3x the value and move.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Either keep your house like he did or be happy that someone is willing to pay you 2x or 3x the value and move."

Excellent point!

And all those people who complain about Orthodox Jews in the street on shabbos have the benefit of no vehicular traffic on Saturdays and holidays

4:43 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

You want to walk in the middle of the street, come live in Jerusalem.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Eh said...

2 points:
1) This "horrible inconvenience" results in the driver slowing down for approximately 5 seconds, and then continuing on his way when people move - it's basically like one more stop sign. I'm pretty sure we could also say that NOT ONCE has a Jew refused to get off the street for a car. Anytime a car has to slow down is beacuse it's driving to the back of those that are walking - they just don't see the car.

2) From a halachic perspective, it's actually a little problematic to be the cause of any change in the gentile's driving pattern on Shabbos. One should cross the street only if there are absolutely no moving vehicles around.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Ayelet said...

Eh - I believe that it is even more halachically problematic if the driver is a (non-religious) Jew, because, keeping at the same speed is technically transgressing less than slowing down/stopping and speeding up.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Goy Guy said...

"No one is walking down the middle of the street as some sort of protest to driving on Shabbat, or standing at the corner of Rockaway Turnpike and Central Avenue every throwing stones at passing cars.

At least, not yet."

So how long do we have till this kind of behavior starts? ;-)

I've been living here for 40+ years and yes people walk in the streets on shabbos and for the most part just kinda slide over and you drive by and that's that. But just like with the " Teacher-Tolerated Anti-Semitism in our Public Schools" post where you say NO private school parents are intolerant, you seem to want to speak for the whole O community in saying that no one would do this as a form of "marking our turf" But every now and then as you pass someone on the street you DO get some attitude or "the F U this is our street look" Not very often, but it happens.

You really have to defer to the non O folks on this one, since I assume you have never actually driven a car on shabbos in the 5T so you really don't know anything about it, do you?

7:48 AM  
Anonymous uncle moishy said...

I think that raising the possibility that one's behavior as a pedestrian might compel a non-observant Jewish driver to be mechallel shabbos is a brilliant tactic. It is just what's needed to get those 5T frumsters who aren't being considerate when they shpatzir on shabbos to become more considerate -- because now it's a way to demonstrate ones machmir-icity.

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