2003-02-08 / Editorial/Opinion

Getting To Know Each Other Is The Key

Getting To Know Each Other Is The Key

The problems that spurred the harassment that occurred on Beach 129 Street last week, a confrontation that pitted Orthodox Jewish young men from a local yeshiva against neighborhood Catholic girls did not suddenly spring up on that Saturday evening. It has been festering for a long time. We have walked on Beach 129 Street and heard the Catholic youth baiting the Jewish boys. We have seen a number of incidents that could have caused the altercation of last weekend. We have heard community members complain of the yeshiva students to the 100 Precinct Community Council. The complaints ranged from utilizing an abandoned house for smoking to making noise on the beachfront to religious insensitivity to non-Jews in the community. Unfortunately, last week’s incident was the inevitable outgrowth of that community hostility. Now is not the time to point fingers. It is time to do something about the animosity between the two groups. That can only be done by bringing them together, to speak, to interact, to perhaps play a game together. We broached this possibility with Rabbi Levi Dicker, the head of the yeshiva program. He pointed out that his boys were not allowed by their religion to mix with any girls, nevertheless girls from another religion. Presumably, however, they can meet with boys from other religions. The inability of these two diverse groups to understand each other and the fact that they have much in common would seem to be the problem. We have found that when children perceive that other children are different somehow, distant and exotic, those different children become a target. A tightly as they are controlled by their religion and their religious leaders, the young men in the yeshiva are still young men. On the other hand, religious leaders in the Catholic community have to work with their children so that they will understand that it is not right to prey on those who look and act differently from them. Both sides have some culpability in this urban drama. It is time to put it to rest.

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