I am one of the few people in the country who still uses a Blackberry. Last week, all of the sudden, AOL stopped working on my phone. After spending fruitless hours on the phone dealing with AOL, Blackberry, and my phone provider, it was clear I had to get a new phone.
On Sunday, I decided to check out some of the phones at the provider’s store. I went to two places in downtown Flushing. The person who was in the first store was on the phone the entire time I was there. He was talking in a foreign language. He made no attempt to acknowledge my presence. After a few minutes, I decided to touch some of the phones. No response from the worker, who continued talking in the phone. After about four minutes of being ignored, I walked out. My reaction was that this individual ignored me because I am not a member of his ethnic group, which his store mainly caters to. I do not blame an entire group because a member of the group acts that way. Each group has their share of rude individuals. Next, I went to the second store where another member of the same ethnic group was working. He was very pleasant and answered my questions about getting a phone even though the store did not have the phone that I was thinking of purchasing.
There are two things that I think we should learn about this episode. It is important that we Jews act in a proper fashion when dealing with others. You never know how bad behavior by one of us can fester dislike for all Jews. Secondly, when we are subject to rude behavior by a member of another ethnic group, we do not stereotype the boor’s conduct as customary to his ethnic group.
We see in our times the effect of disliking others’ conduct. It has become fashionable to call for boycotts when an individual or a group does something that you find objectionable. This is where there is no political divide when it comes to boycott. Rabbi Schonfeld mentioned progressive groups engaging in boycotts. All groups do it. Major League Baseball moved the all-star game from Atlanta to show disapproval of the recent voting law. Coca-Cola and Delta criticized the new law. In response, Trump and others on the right called for a boycott of all these groups. There were calls for boycotts of the NBA, NFL, and WNBA for their involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jews also have been involved in boycotts against those who are anti-Semitic or who otherwise targeted Jews. Marty Glickman refused to participate in the 1936 Olympics because it was being held in Nazi Germany. Many Jews have refused to buy products from any German company. Some have limited their boycott to German companies who relied upon Jewish slave labor or whose products were used to harm Jews during World War II. Also, there were calls for a boycott of Ford automobiles after Henry Ford’s paper, the Dearborn Independent, published the series “The International Jew” (see “Henry Ford and Anti-Semitism: A complex story (www.TheHenryFord.org).
It is questionable how effective boycotts are. There are times when they are effective. Some of the most successful boycotts were part of the Civil Rights movement, the first of which was the Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott in 1955. I believe that this rush to boycott on both sides of the political spectrum in America is a mistake. It cheapens the idea of a boycott. It should be limited to the rare circumstances where the conduct is beyond the pale and there is a good chance of it being successful.