Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shandeh fur de Goyim

Shandeh fur de Goyim

It has been an embarrassing few months in Iowa. The ridiculously unethical and outrageously illegal behavior and practices of which Agriprocessors in Postville has been accused and now charged have frankly shamed the Jews. If we have to discuss whether or not meat is kosher which is slaughtered in a plant that knew its workers could not legally work, aided them in violating the law, and potentially also knew that some at the plant were abusive to them, what does kosher mean? For that matter, what does being Jewish mean? Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world, is not about reinforcing the lining of pockets at the expense of principles. We, Jews, feel guilty for the sins of the few among us. There is such a thing as a "Shandeh fur de Goyim," "Embarrassment for us in the eyes of the Gentiles." The actions of Shalom Rubashkin and others in Agriprocessors' employ are such a shandeh.

This led me to wonder, "Why is it that only Jews feel embarrassed when those who claim to be pious co-religionists astound in their hypocrisy? Why is there no such thing as an embarrassment for Christians or Muslims?" It seems to be understood by Christians and Muslims that their radical nut cases are NOT REPRESENTATIVE of them, why do we feel that ours are? Perhaps, it is an ingrained fear that we are held accountable collectively and have been historically, particularly by Christians and Muslims?

In my mind, the reality is that Christians and Muslims should be embarrassed by their brethren who sin while supposedly acting in a "religious" manner, just as we are embarrassed by those in Postville. That embarrassment, that guilt that we feel over actions of others in which we played no part, helps drive us to make the world better. That guilt makes us care about more than just ourselves. Perhaps, it is that which is the light we must shine unto the nations. It is the very concept of the shandeh. It drives us to do better.

Just a thought,