My mother’s car was boxed in. It was a very small parking lot, and two cars had parked in front of her.
So she asked the people blocking her to move. One was a construction worker. The other was a very religiously dressed man.
She had gone with my daughter to immerse a new pot in the Jewish ritual bath, called a keilim mikvah. This is a religious requirement, and my mother is observant.
My daughter observed as the religiously dressed man, fully bearded, responded to my mother as follows: “But you’re wearing pants. What are you doing here?”
The way my mother tells it, the man was genuinely puzzled.
The purpose of this letter is not to address this anonymous, ignorant man, who will probably never see it. Rather, I am hoping to reach others who circulate in this man’s world, so that they understand the consequences of such insensitive behavior.
First, it creates hatred among Jews.
Second, it turns Jews off of religious practice.
Third, it perpetuates the wrongheaded belief that “you can tell” by someone’s clothing or demeanor whether they are Torah-observant or not.
“Debeleh,” she used to say, “It’s fine to be a tzaddeikes, but it’s no good to be a doormat!”
To the man who insulted my mother: Not only did you insult a righteous woman (and you can be righteous without being Torah-observant), but you also insulted the granddaughter of a renowned rabbi, Rabbi Dovid Binyomin Garfinkel, may he rest in peace. In his lifetime, he was a tremendous advocate for good speech, in particular avoiding embarrassing others at all costs.
The photo above shows my Grandma together with my Bubbie, may she rest in peace, standing just behind her and to the left. Bubbie was Chasidish (Hasidic) and my Grandma was a Litvak. Totally different philosophical traditions; total agreement on the basics of Torah observance.
Both of them dressed in pretty, modern clothing.
I wish my mother cared more about her honor. I’m sick of seeing religious people judge her.
“Just move on,” she said. “That guy was an ignorant jerk.”
But I have to admit that I am angry.
To the ignorant bearded man who insulted my mother: Do you know how unfair you were to judge her the way you did? Over and over again this has happened to her, particularly as the Orthodox world has swung in the direction of fundamentalism. Things weren’t this way in the ‘70s-’80s, when I was growing up.
My mother keeps the commandments, including Shabbos and kosher. She wears a wig and a skirt to family functions as required. She is constantly giving to the family, and to the extended family, exemplifying the virtue of hachnasas orchim (hospitality).
And it’s never good enough for people like you.
Sir —here’s a newsflash, and I hope you hear it loud and clear.
My mother is a lot more religious than you.
The next time you see my mother in a parking lot, please don’t block her car.
And if you do need to block it, because there is no space, for Heaven’s sake please don’t speak disrespectfully when you’re asked to move.
My mother is ten thousand times the person you will ever be.
Even if she weren’t Orthodox the way you think you are, she would still be a better human being than you.
So the next time you see my mother, T-shirt, pants and all, think twice about the way you speak to her.
When you confront a stranger, you have a God-given duty to treat them like a mensch.
Posted November 29, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Family photos.