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I am very scared
I was sitting at a Shabbat dinner in a densely religious neighborhood a few weeks ago and people were openly talking about how they scam a government program. These were middle class people discussing how they access an assistance program for low income New Yorkers. They proudly told me how easy it is to do – there is a person in the community who for a mere $75 has a tried and tested way of completing the application forms in such a way that approval was virtually guaranteed. Of course, false disclosure of income etc was a requirement.
I was mortified. This discussion happened in front of our kids and there was no shame or hesitation around the discussion – on the contrary, there was a certain bravado and pride in finding a way to at its most basic level, defraud the City of New York. No-one was whispering, no silent transactions in the dead of night. Here I witnessed theft without any sense of wrongdoing.
As a parent I so worry about role models for my kids. There was a time when kids could look up to sport stars, monarchy, politicians and their parents. Now so many of these public figures make headlines as adulterers, murderers, corrupt schemes and scandals. What happens when parents treat the law with such disregard?
Last year there was a huge outcry when a prominent figure in the orthodox Jewish world suggested in an article that unmarried women facing the “shidduch crisis” should have plastic surgery to make themselves more marketable to potential marriage partners. I would be revolted if Hollywood called for this but this was in the Orthodox world. How this is this sentiment any different to the superficial and materialistic world of Hollywood?
As a ba’al teshuva - someone who wasn’t always observant and returned to Judaism - I was inspired by this world where the values were different, where Torah provided a road map for parenting, education, relationships and business. It is a guide to life.
The Torah may not have changed but the world I am living in is changing and as a parent I am know that kids are influenced by the world outside their homes. Look at the lessons they learned a few weeks ago at a Shabbat table.....

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Comment by Haleh Rabizadeh Resnick on March 21, 2013 at 2:46pm

This is why jews can not look down on each other.  We all need each other.  What you write about is not new- unfortunately more the norm for these communities and something that does not happen with such frequency with nonreligious jews-  they have other issues. Now if we could all sit at Shabbat tables with each other more frequently we could learn a thing or two- we just need to get past the kosher thing- G-d forbid the wrong Rabbi okays the food. . . boy have we made this complicated. I wonder if G-d is proud.

Comment by Robyn Miller on March 21, 2013 at 12:56pm

I too am frightened by the lack of moral fiber that seems to pervade so many souls.  As a Special Educator who works with early intervention and preschool aged children I often hear colleagues discussing agencies who are less then honorable in their billing and service delivery practices.  It makes it that much harder to explain to laypeople how vital it is that they model themselves as they wish their children to be......

How disheartening it is to hear of this moral dilemma and the story you tell greying the shabbat meal and day......

Comment by Mia Sherwood Landau on March 21, 2013 at 12:27pm

Jodi- You are a brave one to write this post. I have had similar shocking, political issues with friends (not Jewish) and thought to myself that they would not be thinking this way if they were Jewish. Well, you just burst that bubble in your post today. The sense of entitlement is like a dark cloud settling over us all. If we don't speak up and bring light, it's our own fault. Thank you so much for your courage and candor to post about it!

Comment by Yael Smith on March 21, 2013 at 12:12pm

Maybe it would have been a better idea to not mention Brooklyn. There are many people who will be quick to classify "religious" Brooklyn citizens as whatever you are making them out to be in your blog. This is not helping to bring Jews together - that's what I'm scared of :-) Good Shabbos, from Brooklyn!

Comment by devorah taitz on March 21, 2013 at 11:46am

I see this too, it's implorable. How do we teach ethics to our children with this 'kosher' unethical behavior?

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