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Can it ever be appropriate to paint an entire community in broad, unfavorable strokes?
For example, I’ve personally witnessed and heard of plenty of crimes perpetrated by my African-American and Caribbean-American neighbors here in Crown Heights. Does make it OK for me to joke that the alleged crimes of a young African American “sounds like every person of color I’ve ever met?” Is a statement like that OK if I add the caveat that there are plenty of blacks who don’t commit crimes?
Or every time there’s an act of terror commited by an Arab, is it OK for me to say that it sounds like every Arab I’ve ever heard of. But hey, I “assume” that there are some good Arabs out there as well?
If I ever make such repugnant statements like those of Jay Michaelson about any community, please do me a favor and pour some water on my head. Slap me in the face. Do something to wake me up from my narcissistic binge that somehow justifies that I can denigrate an entire community because of the sins of individuals, even if those individuals gave a negative experience to my friends on Facebook.
We Hasidic Jews have our problems. Let’s be honest: In Williamsburg, Monsey, Crown Heights, Lakewood, we all have our sins, individual and communal, that we must address.
But secular Jews also have their problems. As do the Italian and the Irish, the African Americans, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans. In fact, so does every single other group that makes up the diverse crowd of peoples — the “gorgeous mosaic” as it was once dubbed — that live in and love this crazy rock covered with jungles of iron and glass that we call New York.
We fight, we cry, we struggle and build, we sin and we repent. And together we make it great. That’s what New York is all about. Not tearing our neighbors apart over the perceived sins of the Menachem Starks of our world — or any other.
Mordechai Lightstone is a rabbi by training, but a blogger by choice. He can be reached on Twitter @Mottel