In the span of two weeks a few months ago, I was sexually harassed twice on the subway. The first time, an older, white-bearded Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] man drove his thumb straight into my right butt cheek. The second time, a secular-looking fellow with a mop of brown curls and a computer bag over his trench-coated shoulder flashed me, gently tossing his penis from hand to hand a few feet from me while I waited for the train.
Both these experiences were upsetting and degrading. But I found myself more upset by the Haredi man groping me than I was by the religiously-not-identifiable schlub who decided that I absolutely must see his member. And since then, I’ve been wondering: Why do I care so much more about the Haredi guy?
Was it the fact that the first experience involved physical contact, while the second was only a visual assault? That said, both the old man copping a very emphatic and unwanted feel and the middle-aged man deciding I absolutely needed to see his member registered as such profound violations that I would be hard-pressed to call one worse than the other.
Was it because one guy was a Jew while the other one wasn’t, at least, not as far as I know? That explanation definitely doesn’t do it for me. I’ve never been comfortable holding Jews to a higher level of moral accountability than I do others just because we happen to be co-religionists. For me, a person who did a bad thing is just that: a person who did a bad thing. Whether he’s Jewish or not is beside the point.