Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Lubavitcher Bus

Well, it was more like a camper really.

Last week a friend and I were walking east from 6th Avenue down 48th Street in Manhattan to eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant. There was this loud and annoying music playing from this long, white camper with a large picture on the side of the late Lubavitcher rebbe Schneerson. Inside were a number of Lubavitchers, an Orthodox Jewish sect, many of them young men bouncing and swaying to the music like some Jewish hip-hop posse.

I said to my friend, "I would rather listen to rap music then this." I shouted at the people in the bus to "turn that crap down," but did so halfheartedly, knowing it was a futile gesture. We crossed the street and went into the Chinese restaurant, and forgot about the Lubavitcher bus.

After lunch, my friend and I walked back towards 6th Avenue and turned left as I intended to walk with her until we got to the corner of 47th Street. And lo and behold, there was the camper, parked on 6th Avenue across the street from my office. Up ahead, I could see two of the Lubavitcher boys accosting men who walked past them on the sidewalk, asking "Are you Jewish?"

Apparently, what these Lubavitchers were engaging in is something called kiruv, which the Wikipedia link describes as "the collective work or movement of Orthodox Judaism that reaches out to non-Orthodox Jews to believe in God, engage in Torah study, and practice the Mitzvot in the hope that they will live according to Orthodox Jewish law. The process and act/s of any Jew becoming more observant of Judaism is called teshuva ("return" in Hebrew) making the "returnee" a baal teshuva ("master of return")."

As my friend and I closed the distance with them, I anticipated that I would be approached by one of the Lubavitcher boys and was ready for them. "Are you Jewish?" one of them asked as I walked near him.

I turned to face him and said "No, I'm an atheist, and you should be too." With that, I turned away and kept on walking with my female friend (apparently, the Lubavitcher males don't address women). She expressed some surprise at what I had said, but I replied to her that once they insert themselves into the public square like that, I am under no obligation to respect the substance of their beliefs. If they have the right to accost me in the street and ask me if I am Jewish, then I have every right to tell that person he shoud be an atheist.

One of these days, if I have the time and the requisite amount of chutzpah, I might identify myself as Jewish to these clowns just to see what they do next. If so, you will be sure to read about it here!

1 comment:

Poodles said...

Ha! I'll have to try this on the local mormon missionaries. :)