(Lack of) Derech Eretz Watch

One of my pet peeves is the lack of basic derech eretz that some people have in this country. It especially bothers me when Orthodox Jews show this lack.

This past Shabbat we spent time with family in a primarily Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. While walking to and from shul (synagogue) westbankpapa insists on saying “Shabbat Shalom” to everyone he sees. Unfortunately, he receives blank stares in response (nine out of ten times).

I am a relatively shy person, and I am not the first one to say “Shabbat Shalom” to anyone. I know that this is a lack on my part, and I am working on getting over it. But I always respond with “Shabbat Shalom” to someone who says it first to me. I would consider it the height of bad manners not to respond.

I once complained about this to another Orthodox co-worker (Israeli born) and she just stared at me in puzzlement. “Did you know the people in Jerusalem that your husband greeted?” she asked. “No, they were strangers” I answered. “Well, that’s why you don’t get a response. Only olim chadashim (new immigrants) insist on saying Shabbat Shalom to strangers”.

I was shocked. Since when is saying hello in response to a greeting a foreign concept?

Am I the only one who has come across this phenomenon?


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rafi G
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 13:10:49

    I think this attitude is true in most big cities (with exception, such as in Chicago)

  2. tnspr569
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 16:04:10

    Rafi’s right, unfortunately, from what I’ve seen.

  3. BB
    Jul 06, 2008 @ 20:17:27

    We noticed this a while ago. We both grew up in small towns where all Orthodox Jews said good Shabbos to others. We were after all going to the same shul and everyone knew each other. When we got married and moved to the city we noticed that nobody said Good Shabbos to anyone else, unless they were your good friend, family or neighbor that is. When we made aliya we moved to a city and again we saw that nobody said good shabbos/shabbat shalom. When we were checking out communities, we came to our yishuv and were favorably impressed that everyone said shabbat shalom to everyone else. This applied regardless of whether they knew you. It was something we really liked and we’ve been here ever since.

  4. bec
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 20:14:37

    in brooklyn, a fairly large place, we’d walk along ocean parkway on shabbos. ocean parkway connected midwood/flatbush with the outskirts of boro park and you could walk along it and encounter many many people. we were always greeted by folks wishing us a good shabbos, even by those we didn’t know. we also greeted people as well. and, to up the ante, jews of every type greeted jews of every type as if there were no existing stereotypes. so it wasn’t like anyone snubbed anyone.
    here, in maale adumim not only do we wish folks a shabbat shalom, but some actually respond, and we also just wish them shalom in passing on other days. that took months to get responses for but now i think people just know us as “those crazy americans who insist on always saying shalom.”

  5. kredi
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 10:58:18

    Different religious views are differences, so the colors of life..

  6. Aryeh
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 12:27:11

    Dear WBM —

    Please put in a word for us if/when you can.



    The Ariel Writers Group website is now operational!

    Please visit us to learn more about a number of poetry and fiction classes and workshops convening in Ariel, Israel.


  7. westbankmama
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 16:03:11

    Rafi – so you think that this is a country/city thing?

    t – I guess this means I am just a country bumpkin?

    bec – I will always be proud of some of my “crazy American” views (like ALWAYS putting kids into car seats, even if you are only going around the block

    kredi – I clicked on to your website, and I can’t figure out which language it is

    Aryeh – I think you did this all by yourself!

  8. Jameel @ The Muqata
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 17:44:11

    Only olim chadashim (new immigrants) insist on saying Shabbat Shalom to strangers


  9. Lion of Zion
    Jul 15, 2008 @ 17:11:15

    i have a different experience living in brooklyn than bec describes.
    i find that a lot of people (majority?) don’t exchange a good shabbos.
    i am always amazed with the contrast when we go to the suburbs. everyone says it to everyone, even men to women and vice versa.

  10. Mark R
    Jul 16, 2008 @ 05:26:26

    I almost always make a point of saying Shabbat Shalom to anyone I pass that I think is Jewish. Once every year or so, I make a mistake and say it to someone who has no idea what I am talking about 🙂

    In most places, people say something back, or at least nod or give some other sign of acknowledgment. There are a few snooty places (like Katamon or Talbieh) that I’ve lived where many people simply ignored the greeting. Surprisingly, in Tel Aviv, even the Chilonim replied with Shabbat Shalom in many cases. And on Thursday evening, almost everyone at work said Shabbat Shalom to each other.

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