And on a related note, the following incident occurred a number of years ago.
Sitting at our Shabbat table here in TRLEOOB*, an American guest told us that she wasn’t very impressed with our community.
“I can see that people here aren’t machshiv Shabbos (Yeshivish for “don’t value or honor the Shabbat”),” she intoned.
Stunned, YZG and I just stared at her blankly.
“Yes,” she continued earnestly. “I mean, I was in shul this morning, and I was very surprised to see some boys wearing… sneakers! Obviously, their parents don’t really care about Shabbos, because otherwise, they wouldn’t let them go to shul like that!”
(At this point, I can see that many of my Israeli readers are smiling, but I’ll go on for the benefit of my foreign readers.)
“Actually, it has nothing to do with being ‘machshiv Shabbos,’” I explained, amused. “I do realize that sneakers in shul on Shabbat looks very strange to American eyes, but believe me, Shabbat is very important here.
“It’s just that kids’ shoes – and adult shoes, for that matter! – are very expensive, and many families don’t feel like they can afford to buy sneakers, sandals, and shoes for Shabbat for all their kids.”
But the guest was still skeptical.
“No, that can’t be it,” she insisted. “Because I’ve been to Chareidi communities, where I assume people have much less money, and yet somehow they manage to purchase Shabbos shoes for all their kids…”
“Well, yeah,” I conceded, as I tried hard not to laugh. “But that’s only because they don’t buy their kids sneakers! Instead, they wear their dressy black shoes all week long…”
The guest had nothing to say in response.
I don’t know if she was convinced or if she was just being polite.
But I like to think that maybe - just maybe - we got her to rethink some of her preconceived notions.
And hopefully, she walked away from that Shabbat with the recognition that one shouldn’t judge a community by its footwear…
*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog