Explaining the Jewish community to de Blasio

Following the uproar over NY Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments in response to the large attendance at a Haredi funeral, his office sent a staffer to conduct research so they could better understand the composition of the Jewish community in New York. This is an edited interview between the staffer and Chaim from Williamsburg.

Staffer: Chaim, would you consider yourself part of “the Jewish community”?
Chaim: Of course! All Jews are part of the Jewish community. We are one people!

Staffer: So how about Frank P?
Chaim: Frank? He’s Reform, so he’s as far from me as any Jew could be. He doesn’t keep Shabbos and kosher. Sure, he’s Jewish, but I’m not sure if his kids are, and pretty unlikely his grandchildren will be.

Staffer: And Steve R?
Chaim: Steve is Conservative. He thinks he’s observant but he isn’t really. They compromise on so many things it’s not funny. But he’s Jewish and his wife is and all their kids have married Jewish. I guess there is hope for him.

Staffer: How about Robert W and Yossi F? They are Orthodox like you, right?
Chaim: Well, Robert and I both keep Shabbos and kosher and abide by halacha so yes we are both Orthodox, but he’s Modern Orthodox. What sort of name is Robert anyway? His Jewish name is Shmuel Zelig – what’s wrong with that? He thinks he can be a full member of secular society and still stay true to Judaism. Good luck to him. Sure, Yossi is also Orthodox and good halacha Jew, but he’s Litvish (also known as Yeshivish). I’m Chassidish – that’s completely different!

Staffer: OK, I’m starting to understand. Surveys show that Orthodox Jews are 10% of the Jews in America but you’ve told me that even within Orthodox Jews there are differences – Modern Orthodox, Litvish and Chassidish. So Mendel P from Crown Height – he’d he Chassidish like you.
Chaim: Chassidish like me??!! Never!!! He’s a Chabadnik. They are the Litvaks of the Chassidim. They don’t even wear shtreimels on shabbos! And we would never eat their shechitah.

Staffer: Alright, relax. Berel S – he wears a shtreimel, so he’s Chassidish.
Chaim: Berel is a Chassid, but he’s a Gerer, and I’m Satmar. They come from Poland; we come from Hungary. We could not be more different. And besides, what he wears on shabbos is a spodek, not a shtreimel!

Staffer: So you’re a Satmar Chassid?
Chaim: Sure, but after the Rebbe Reb Moshe passed away in 2006, Satmar split and I’m a Chossid of Reb Zalman. Unfortunately, my brother decided to follow Reb Aaron and we don’t speak any more. It’s terrible. He just doesn’t get it.

Staffer: So what you said about the Jews being one people … what exactly does that mean?
Chaim: Tell me … did the Nazis ask if you were Orthodox or Reform? Did they only murder Chassidim and not Litvaks? The gemoro says, “even though a Jew has sinned, he’s still a Jew!” We are one people!

Staffer: And yet you don’t speak to your own brother. Thanks, I think I finally get it. Now let me work out how to explain this to Bill de Blasio.

Note: this interview is fictitious and satirical

About the Author
David is a public speaker and author, an experienced technology entrepreneur, strategic thinker and advisor, philanthropist and not-for-profit innovator. Based in Melbourne Australia, David consults on high net worth family and business issues helping people establish succession plans, overcome family conflict, and find better work/life balance. He is an adjunct professor at Swinburne University, with a focus on family governance and entrepreneurship. David incorporates his diverse background into his thinking and speaking, which cuts across succession planning, wealth transition, legacy, Jewish identity and continuity. He is passionate about leadership, good governance, and sports. David is married with five children.
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