At a recent Saturday morning event at our Jewish Center, I saw someone take out her cell phone and peruse the screen. As a conservative synagogue, we do not allow the usage of cell phones in the building during Shabbat. I went up to this person and politely asked her to put her phone away. Her response was not “I am sorry”, but “I am Reformed, so it is OK.” “That is nice,” I responded politely, “but you are in a Conservative shul, so it is not.” “I have a sick person at home, it is OK,” she snidely responded as she walked away. The people around me were shocked by her tone and responses.
Growing up, my parents taught my brothers and me to be respectful of wherever we happen to be. Likewise, as parents, Debbie and I always taught our children to respect whoever’s home they happen to be in. In an age of tolerance, we stress how important it is to respect not only one’s home, but their beliefs, as well. It makes me wonder, at what point do some people think that we only exist for their amusement and that they are entitled to act however they want, even if they need to justify their actions on the spot to validate them. I know that our children look towards us as the parents / adults to set the examples for them. The reality is teaching our children to “do as I say and not as I do” does not work. Children are sponges and seeing how we act, or react to situations, is often reflected in their own actions. If children grow up in a household where they learn to respect other people’s feeling, other people’s properties and other people’s beliefs, chances are they will grow up showing respect and being tolerant.
If this woman had someone that was in need of medical attention, I do feel bad for her and maybe she should have not come out. However, sometimes a little discretion goes a long way. She could have stepped outside, or gone into the bathroom to check her messages and no one would be any wiser. Instead, she wanted to prove she was not wrong. Could it be that she was having a bad day – that is still no excuse. Our internal disposition has a way of manifesting itself externally. To state it positively, genuinely nice people are nice inside as well as outside towards others. I do not know this person, but the old adage is true – “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”