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Building Bridges Between Faiths in Queens, New York


You may not be familiar with the term "Shabbat goy" (Shabbos goy), but for a Jew observing Shabbat, a Shabbos goy can be a lifesaver. While in the past, this term was used as an insult, now non-Jews feel proud to help their Jewish friends.

During Shabbat, Jews refrain from doing certain types of work around the home, such as turning off and on electrical appliances. But if you know a Shabbos goy, or a non-Jew not held to observing Shabbat, then you can ask them to do these tasks for you, ensuring no rules are broken.

In the Orthodox neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills, in Queens, one business owner, Samir Patel, is working with the Jewish families in his neighborhood to serve as a community Shabbos goy. What an inspirational way to strengthen a community - and promote peace between those of different faiths and traditions.

Saturday is the store’s slowest day for sales, but there’s another service Patel provides that makes him indispensable: He’s a Shabbos goy. He even has a sign on the door advertising that fact...

In Orthodox households, vital everyday tasks such as turning lights on and off, using electrical appliances and cooking are forbidden on the Sabbath. Religious Jews use all sorts of workarounds – electric timers, pre-programmed thermostats, special hotplates – but sometimes it’s not enough. A bedroom light may accidentally be left on. A cool day may unexpectedly turn sweltering. The hotplate may have been left unplugged.

Because business is very slow on Saturdays, Patel is usually the only one minding the store. So when Orthodox customers come in and ask for help, Patel locks up and follows them home. He usually gets about five requests per Shabbos, he says, using the Yiddish-style pronunciation. There is no charge for the service.

“Initially, I definitely thought it was strange,” said Patel, who has worked at the store, wedged between a laundromat and a kosher pizza shop on Main Street, for seven years. “When my family bought this business 20 years ago, we had no idea about the Jewish community. We didn’t know their customs. But religion is religion. We’re happy to help.”

Tags: Inspiration

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