Last night was one of those nights in which I found myself in an extremely uncomfortable conversation with a customer service employee overseas. There I was, charged for an airline fee that I shouldn’t have been charged, and I wanted to set it straight.
It’s a tough balance to strike—we want to be respectful and treat them like we would treat a friend, but we also know that we are entering this conversation with opposing interests. So what to do?
As a younger person, I rarely even made these phone calls. I was too embarrassed at the thought of having it out with an innocent employee on the phone. But as I got older I began to take on more of the “eat or be eaten” attitude. How could I get what I want without pushing for it?
And so I came to be tentatively dialing the airline phone number in my room, prepping myself for a respectful but forceful conversation.
Of course it didn’t end up that way—the woman who answered the phone had a smaller-than-average dose of patience and the same could have been said for me. Before long I think we both said things we shouldn’t have, and I didn’t even end up getting the refund I wanted—just some travel credit towards another flight on this airline (classic).
In life, I think we sometimes face people we can’t figure out how to respect—evil teachers, public figures with bad reputations, and the like.
But the Torah teaches us in a definitive way that we owe respect to all of God’s creatures by virtue of the fact that we all come from the same place. And this respect is irrelevant of disagreement: we can strongly oppose someone’s viewpoint while still refraining from hurting or publicly humiliating them. Even with enough information to determine a person’s wrongdoing, we still owe that person a degree of respect and recognition of that person’s humanity and dignity.
It is with that sentiment that Uri L’Tzedek embarks on its Prison Reform Campaign. Criminals are viewed as the lowest tier of any society, having harmed others or otherwise damaged functional society. But everyone, from the harmless-but-frustrating customer service employee to the worst of criminals deserves a modicum of respect.
To learn more about the Uri L’Tzedek Prison Reform Campaign, see our website here.