ROL: A good friend who has a big heart but at times a questionably sized brain told me that he’s had it with all the crazy summer traffic. “I can’t stand all those people. They don’t know how to drive. They don’t belong on the road.” I said he shouldn’t talk about Yankee fans like that.He looked confused. I egged him on.”Those people – you’re talking about ‘those’ Yankee fans, right? I’m with ya, can’t stand those Yankee fans. Nothing but road hogs.” “No, I’m talking about Hasidics. Those people can’t drive. How’d they ever give those people a license?”I told him to send me his forwarding address, because “those people” are staying. If he wants to spend any more summers in Sullivan County, he might want to show a bit more tolerance and a lot less ignorance.
He’s not alone. You’d have to be deaf not to hear this talk and dumb not to think it hurts.
In a recent column, Lisa Ramirez urged civility in Wal-Mart. I’d like to take it out on the roads, where we’re all trying to first get to the stores. Or anywhere else for that matter.
Civility shouldn’t be tied to money, but let’s begin with the perception that Hasidic and Orthodox Jews don’t contribute to Sullivan’s economy.
What, you think they just crowd the roads, the main streets and all the stores and leave empty handed? Locals say shop on Saturday to avoid the crowds. That’s cause the rest of the week people are buying.
The sales tax revenue last year in the summer months increased by $3.5 million, to $9.9 million, nearly one-third of the total sales tax revenue for the entire year. That’s just one economic indicator. There are property taxes paid as well.
Regardless, all summer there’s loathing that borders on anti-Semitism: “Those people can’t drive.”
“Those people come up from the city, and they think they own the county.”
“Those people are so pushy.”
Substitute “those people” for blacks. Hispanics. Or just use the word Jews.
Blacks can’t drive.
Hispanics think they own the county.
Those Jews are so pushy.
Not in a million years.
Yet, for 10 weeks, folks in Sullivan walk around with a chip on their shoulder the size of skyscraper and a fuse already sizzling because Hasidic or Orthodox Jews have the nerve to drive on our roads, use our passing lanes and take our parking places.
And the hostility comes from Jew and Gentile alike. Year-round Sullivan County Jews tend to separate themselves from “those people.”
I’ve said it myself. That’s wrong, and I’m ashamed.
As a Jew who does not wear a yarmulke (a skullcap) all the time, and who doesn’t have peyos (side locks), I’m not given the evil eye or the tongue-lashing by folks who show the patience of a 3-year-old.
I may not look like “those people,” but I am those people. And so are my Jew and Gentile friends. We’re all Sullivan County people. Some just spend more months here than others.
Yes, it is a two-way street. I’ve had my share of near-misses. I can’t tell you the number of people who I’ve seen behind the wheel of a car who shouldn’t be allowed behind a shopping cart. It can be insane.
But it’s not an excuse to spew hate.
“We should be able to live shoulder-to-shoulder, without anyone being nasty and saying ‘you people’ every time we’re on the road,” explains Rachel Mayer, who comes up every summer from Borough Park in Brooklyn. She and her husband are going to Village Court next month to deal with a road-rage case.
“When I see a Hasidic person driving wrong and being disrespectful, that hurts me more than what other people say. It reflects badly on us. It allows people to generalize. We should all be good neighbors.”
That’s the kind of talk we should be hearing.