After My Husband Left The Polls, I Felt Nauseous

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This morning, my husband went to vote at the Baker school. As he was leaving, a woman was coming in. She said, “You should be ashamed of yourself—you are disgusting,” and she walked in to vote.

My husband was stunned and was directed by the security guard to speak to an individual overseeing the voting. My husband reported the incident to him and was told it would be “taken care of,” until he further questioned how it would be taken care of and was then told they have no jurisdiction over citizens coming to vote and that he could call the police if he would like.

As the woman was leaving, my husband asked her why she made those comments and she began a tirade against him saying, “You disgusting Orthodox Jews are ruining this town and you should be ashamed of yourself.”

There were quite a few people around, including other yarmulke-wearing Jews. But, I’m heartbroken to say that instead of asking this woman to stop her offensive and anti-Semitic ramblings, they asked my husband to “let it go” and “not make a scene.”

Holocaust Remembrance Day was just a few weeks ago. I’d like to remind everyone that one of the lessons we remind ourselves of on this day is to never forget and never let it happen again—to Jews and to any other ethnicity or religion.

People mention the worry of Great Neck turning into “another Lawrence,” but now I’m scared that there is the potential of Great Neck turning into a divisive and hateful community.

To the woman who said these things to my husband: All you saw was a man in a yarmulke and, apparently, to you that means somebody disgusting. You did not see my loving husband and my children’s wonderful father. You did not see a man taking time to exercise his right as a taxpayer to vote for what he feels is right, a man who supports our community and our schools. You did not see a man who is a wonderful friend and neighbor to our diverse neighbors. Instead of being respectful to a member of your community, you were hateful. And, you know what? I am ashamed. I am ashamed that you are a part of my community. I am ashamed that hardly anyone stood up for what’s right.

But, I am proud of my husband and I am hopeful that sharing this story is a wake up call to all of us to not let this ever happen again in Great Neck—and that we won’t stand for people like you bringing our town down. We can come together and make our community the inclusive and thriving community we all know, support and love.

—Ronit Kahen

22 COMMENTS

  1. So, a woman makes a rude comment and continues on her way to vote. Why would your husband need police to ‘do something’?

    Did you want her arrested for saying something you don’t like? Maybe you want her to be denied her vote.

    Do you need protection from an errant comment?

    Yes it sounds like a rude comment but no one owes you respect (although common courtesy would be nice) or needs to know what a wonderful guy he is. He behaved in a classy way by avoiding a needless confrontation but honestly you need to stop whining and grow up. Not everyone is going to agree with your point of view. Get over yourself and move on.

  2. Great Neck and the public schools should be thrilled that many orthodox Jews enroll their children in private schools and still pay the same school tax without benefiting from the schools. If all of the private school students enrolled in the public school system , the budget will be 10x greater and over crowded . And to “true reporter” if it was a black or homosexual man who was publically embarrassed for being who they are. Rev Al Sharpton, the gay rights commitee and the press will be all over it calling it verbal racial abuse and press charges for being a hate crime . But when an orthodox Jew gets bashed on in his home town , for being openly orthodox we should sit quit And say move on?

  3. While common courtesy and respect should be displayed at all times, it should be noted that many Orthodox Jews moving into our community do not want to pay the school taxes because they send their children to private school. As a long time resident of Great Neck and as a Jew I would say that, while I respect your right to choose to send your children to school wherever you want, if you do not want to pay the taxes you should not move here. We value the high quality of our schools and we are willing to pay to support them. You need to look no further than to Cedarhurst to see what happens to the public school system when our budgets are not supported.

    • Jane,

      The fact of the matter is that they do move here and they do pay taxes and do not get as many benefits as we do for the same tax dollars we pay. I can understand their frustration and their lack of enthusiasm for the bond.

      They get transportation, nursing, textbooks and some other benefits, but I must agree that if they were all to join the public school system, it would be a much heavier cost to us. They money the schools would save by not having to provide the private schools these services would in no way cover the cost of having them join the public school system. Just imagine how many more teacher we would need to hire.

      I don’t think it is right for us to tell people not to move here if they do not believe in our same outlook.

      We have to learn to accept each others views and learn to live together with respect. Stereotyping is one of the worst things we can do.

  4. All children are welcome into GN Schools full stop and end of story – send one or send all, they are welcome! Every single one of them. And we as a district will HAPPILY make available all the resources they need to thrive. We embrace them all. And to use your words, we would be ‘thrilled’ to have them.

    The claim that sending kids to private school does the public school system a favor is patently ridiculous. The idea that the public school community should be thankful they don’t go to public school (thereby saving the district soooo much money) is false on every level.

    School taxes are part of the social contract. They aren’t meant to be diverted to your specific benefit to the exclusion of the district as whole.

    By all means, send your kids where you think best but don’t expect the rest of the community to thank you or be grateful or be ‘THRILLED’ for trying to reduce your share because you have CHOSEN not to take advantage of the public schools.

    When your kids age out, will you claim you don’t get benefit and refuse to pay school taxes at all? It’s a limited, self-centered point of view that hurts the entire community.

    As for being publicly embarrassed, the man in question did nothing wrong. He behaved in a dignified manner but to describe this as a ‘verbal racial abuse’ or a ‘hate crime’ is ludicrous.

    Further to cry that someone should ‘do something’ is also ridiculous. If you feel so aggrieved why don’t you explain your remedy.

    Should you hunt this woman down and harangue her? Should you try to have her arrested? What about fined? How about calling her employer and complaining until she loses her job? What would satisfy the hurt feelings? If what happened is true (and I have my doubts) the woman was way out of line. But it doesn’t rise to level of outrage you claim.

    • True Reporter,

      They get transportation, nursing, textbooks and some other benefits, but I must agree that if they were all to join the public school system, it would be a much heavier cost to us. They money the schools would save by not having to provide the private schools these services would in no way cover the cost of having them join the public school system. Just imagine how many more teacher we would need to hire. The other costs are basically the same. we still provide textbooks and other social services.

      If you have another analysis, I would very much appreciate it. It is something that my friends and I have been debating for a while since January. Unfortunately, it is not that clear how much support the private schools are getting. Again, I just don’t see how they receive the same services we do dollar for dollar and how bringing them into our system would ease the budget.

  5. The behavior you are describing sounds awful (assuming it really happened). But I’d be very surprised if the woman who made those comments wasn’t herself Jewish. And if she was, it’s absurd to accuse her of being anti-Semitic. Many of us non-orthodox Jews find the notion of living in a town, but refusing to support modest tax increases to maintain the town’s first rate school system, to be disgusting. And the idea that we should be “thrilled” or “grateful” that religious people fulfill their civic duties like everyone else is also revolting.
    There was a lot at stake in yesterday’s election, and people were on edge. The lady you described might have been rude. But to call her anti-Semitic is silly, at best.

  6. This was not a person being disrespected. It was clear anti- semitism directed at someone solely because he was Jewish. If this was directed against any other ethnic group there would be outrage. The very fact that this woman felt that wearing a yarmulke means a person will vote one way or another is bias and disturbing.
    Also, there are clear laws against harassment of voters near voting places, so calling the police would have been justified and that was probably why he was advised to do so by the school attorney who was present.
    And to “true reporter” – you should not hide behind a pseudonym to justify hate.

    An·ti-Sem·i·tism
    ˌan(t)ēˈseməˌtizəm,ˌanˌtīˈseməˌtizəm/
    noun
    noun: antisemitism
    hostility to or prejudice against Jews.

  7. Fact: if all of the private school students enrolled in the public school system tomorrow, the schools will be grossly over occupied and the budget will increase tremendously, in which will result in a higher school tax for each and every resident. It is simple mathematics. Nobody is refusing to pay the tax or opposing a moderate increase, because they send their child to a private school. The increase proposed is grossly over estimated and not properly justified. The right to vote is the choice of the residents. For a resident who is coming to vote be publically embarrassed for their religious beliefs is as disgrace to moral values and should not be swept under the rug. When a transgender women gets verbally abused on the subway, it is all over the news, but when this happens to an Orthodox Jew who is a mentch, we should sit quit and say its a made up story?

    http://www.independent.co.uk/us/transgender-woman-subjected-to-horrifying-verbal-abuse-on-new-york-subway-a7014681.html

    • Fact: if a transgender woman was verbally abused by another transgender woman, it would not be all over the news. If, as I suspect, the woman who allegedly insulted your friend was also Jewish, this has nothing to do with antisemitism. By alleging that it does, you demean those who really have faced antisemitism and had to fight for their rights.

      And what religious right are you talking about? The right to not pay taxes if you choose to send your kid to parochial school? That doesn’t exist.

      There was nothing over-estimated or insufficiently justified about the bond or budgets that the town overwhelmingly voted for yesterday. Also, you cannot simultaneously be a mensch and try to destroy the school system as we know it (which is what would have happened if your side won). Those two things are mutually exclusive.

  8. Brian, if she is indeed Jewish, she can still have anti-Semitic views and is know as a “Self-Hating Jew”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-hating_Jew

    nowhere in my argument did I discredit the obligation to pay the school taxes. Maybe he voted “yes’ to the budget.

    The residents of Great Neck who send their children to private schools , are relieving the burden of the over crowded public school system and “deficit”, it should be applauded not publically ashamed.

    Once again, we are missing the big picture, awareness of anti-Semitism, anti-sematic remarks and putting a stop to it.

  9. an·ti-Sem·i·tism
    ˌan(t)ēˈseməˌtizəm,ˌanˌtīˈseməˌtizəm/Submit
    noun
    hostility to or prejudice against Jews.

    This woman was not simply being disrespectful. She was being prejudice against a person whom she identified as a Jew. Hence “You are a disgusting orthodox Jew”. There is absolutely no indication that she was Jewish herself. Trying to justify her behavior in any way is simply justifying hate. If this was directed against any other ethnic group there would be outrage by people who witnessed this and also by readers of this article. There are clear laws against harassment of voters near voting places, so calling the police would have been entirely justified. in fact, the BOE attorney who was there suggested that the police should be called.

    The article is not about the school budget, private schools, taxes , etc… It’s about calling out intolerance. Not one person here should make any assumptions on how a person wearing a yarmulke voted. “True Reporter” should not hide behind a pseudonym to justify hate.

  10. It is clear you want money that belongs to the district – and to be clear I am talking about YOUR taxes – to go to your private school of choice. Its a narrow minded attitude that harms everyone. Its myopic and wrong.

    If you can stand to hear the truth, it’s insulting to many that you would turn your back on the public school system because you prefer to go private. That’s about as big a finger a citizen can give to the community he lives in. No one believes for a minute that your opposition is based on wanting sounder financial practices.

    We all recognize the financial pressures of high taxes plus unreasonably high private tuition. But that burden is yours by choice and is yours alone.

    Instead of preening about how the district is saving phantom money you should instead be writing letters of thanks to the public system and every resident who support (whether they want to or not) the private religious schools with millions of tax dollars annually.

  11. The woman was maybe rude, but she wasn’t a “self-hating Jew.” People need to stop throwing that term around whenever a fellow Member of the Tribe disagrees with them.

    • Well, in the forum we’re in now, both terms are acceptable, IMHO. But I agree that the woman who harassed your friend at Baker was out of line (again, assuming the story is accurate).

  12. This was not only a person being disrespected. It was a clear anti- semitism directed at someone solely because he was Jewish. If this was directed against any other ethnic group there would be outrage. The very fact that this person felt that wearing a yarmulke means a person will vote one way or another is bias and disturbing. Also, there are clear laws against harassment of voter near voting places, so calling the police would have been justified, which is probably why the school attorney who was present presented that option. And you, “true reporter”, should not hide behind a pseudonym to justify hate.
    an·ti-Sem·i·tism
    ˌan(t)ēˈseməˌtizəm,ˌanˌtīˈseməˌtizəm/noun
    noun: antisemitism
    hostility to or prejudice against Jews.

  13. I think you either haven’t read my posts or you have missed the plot entirely. Happy to clarify for you: I’m not defending the rude remark. And certainly don’t condone antisemitisn. I think you are viewing the term so broadly that it loses meaningful substance but I understand how you come to see it that way.

    As for the newly added detail of the attorney presenting the ‘police option’ why didn’t she call the police? As an officer of the court she is obligated to inform the police of a suspected crime. I think the logical conclusion is that it wasn’t a big deal. Offensive? Yes. Uncalled for yes? But a crime? Sorry no. i just don’t see it that way.

    But how I see it isn’t important. We can disagree agreeably.

    For the sake of the question I’ll agree it was as you described. With that said what specific punishment would you demand be visited upon the offender?

    • The crime was harassing a voter near a polling place. You can look up the law: 2016 NY Election Law § 17–150: Duress and intimidation of voters. The woman ran out before she could be confronted by an officer. Calling the police would have been entirely justified given the nature of the despicable act. The police would then make the determination on how to handle it. What is disturbing is that the officials on duty, including the security guard and the attorney supervising the elections, didn’t call the police and instead suggested the victim should call. They should have known better.

      Can you tell what I do for a living 🙂

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