Jewish Journal

Food For Thought About The Nine Days

by Louis Keene

July 27, 2012 | 6:41 am

Schnitzly's garlic schnitzel, with garlic mayo, pesto, and chimichurri. Not bad. Not bad at all. (With fries: $14.60.)

It happened recently that I was treated to quite poor service at a kosher restaurant on Pico Boulevard.

I suppose a statement like that doesn’t serve much purpose if I withhold the identity of the restaurant. But I will anyway – chances are, if it wasn’t just a bad day at the restaurant, you probably will have heard about unfriendly waiters and long wait times, or else read about them on one of my crowd-sourced counterparts.

Failed service etiquette isn’t common in Pico-Robertson, but it isn’t uncommon either. You’ll find yourself twenty minutes after you order wondering where the food is. Or you’ll have to search for napkins on your own when the food finally arrives.

Chalk those up to a lack of training—standard fare in a local industry with a tendency to hire from within. But you can’t explain rude.

How can Jews treat other Jews like that? 

It’s a problem because Jews invented hospitality. And because hospitality is a tchelet in the fabric of Jewish tradition. A few weeks ago, when I asked what impressions the word kosher makes – this must be the answer! Service should separate kosher from the chaff.

But it doesn’t. So during a nine-day period when we mourn the derech eretz of our ancestors, examining ourselves today might reveal another Kamtza.

If we treat Jews who enter our place of business with disregard, then imagine what kind of treatment a non-Jew might expect. We would waste our prime opportunity to make Kiddush Hashem.

So if you insist on identifying yourself as a Jewish establishment (and even if you don’t), then wear your hechsher with a sense of heritage. We owe it to ourselves because if we can’t, we should probably be fasting more often.

To conclude with a story: when I ate one afternoon at Schnitzly, there wasn’t a lot going on. Two religious families had ordered before me, eaten, and left. The first half of my baguette was terrific; the second half I was having trouble finishing – hey, you’re not ordering from the kids menu at this place.

As I surveyed the quiet scene for blog ideas, one of the cooks walked over to my table and politely offered to pack up the rest of my lunch for me. More than the surprisingly great fries and action-packed garlic schnitzel, his going above and beyond easily became my takeaway from the meal.

Have a safe and meaningful fast, and let us be the change we wish to see.

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Louis Keene is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis where he is majoring in American Culture Studies. When he is not eating, sleeping, or writing, he’s even harder...

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