Dear Debra



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Dear Debra: I patronize a store where I know the owner and love the merchandise. The service, however, is poor. I’m not sure the owner is aware of some of the issues. Should I politely convey this information, keep my mouth shut or stop patronizing the store?
Great Merch, Poor Service

Dear Merch:

No one can survive in today’s market giving lousy service. Except, I suppose, Spirit Airlines. It’s understandable that you do not want to make waves, but others have likely had similar experiences. Better to give your friend a heads up so that s/he can remedy the situation and keep valuable customers happy.

Begin the conversation by first praising what you do enjoy about the shop and then move to the less positive aspects. Close the conversation by emphasizing how outstanding your friend’s store is and how much you enjoy shopping there. If the poor service continues, you will have done your best. At that point you can choose with a clear conscience whether or not to continue patronizing the store. 

Dear Debra: Our 23-year-old son recently got a tattoo and wants to get another one. My husband and I told him we do not approve. Is there anything more we can say or do? Or should we accept the reality that tattoos are becoming mainstream and it’s his body?
Irked Over Ink

Dear Irked:

Tattooing (gashing or incising one’s flesh) is forbidden by the Torah, leading to a common misapprehension that being tattooed prevents one from being buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Rabbi Alan Lewis, writing for the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, instructs, “There is no basis for restricting burial to a Jew who violates this prohibition or even limiting their participation in synagogue ritual.” (For more of his ruling on Jews and tattoos:

Post-Shoah, this issue evokes the Nazis’ reprehensible practice of tattooing numbers into the arms of their prisoners, making the situation all the more charged. Accepting the reality that tattoos are becoming mainstream doesn’t mean you have to like them or approve. Is your son self-supporting or parent-supported? If the former, you have no leverage. If the latter, and you are willing to go to the tat-mat on this, you can tell him that you will no longer fund his lifestyle, education, spending money if he gets a second tattoo. His body is his; your checkbook is yours. Some call it blackmail; others call it living-with-the-consequences-when-you-are-still-parent-dependent.

Best approach — realize what’s done is done and invite a calm discussion about what prompted the tattoo. Respectful listening on both sides is a must. Encourage your son to look ahead to when impulse and permanence will surely intersect (job interviews, meeting future in-laws). If he goes for more ink, focus with everything you have on his many wonderful qualities. Ultimately, he’s the one who will have to live with the tattoos. Oh, for the days when Trix were for kids and tats were for sailors.

Dear Debra: I was recently offered a job by a company that has had some bad press related to questionable ethical issues. I really need a job, but my heart is not in this. Should I take it until I find something that suits me better?
Out of Work, Not Ethics

Dear Out:

The phrase “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas” comes to mind. So does the Jewish concept of marit ayin, suspicious actions or how things look. Accepting a job you have no intention of keeping is not honorable. To do so is in essence “stealing” from the company the time and money it spends on training you.

This is where the concept of marit ayin is useful, as it instructs us to err on the side of caution and rectitude. You can’t know if the bad press is warranted or not. But assume that if you read about this company’s alleged misdeeds, so have others. Even if the company has done no wrong, even if the bad press was written by a journalist with an agenda, the cloud of wrongdoing still hovers.

At a time when you need a job, a future employer could very well be influenced by the bad press and set your resume aside for someone not tarnished by the negative association. Your wallet’s saying one thing, and your heart’s saying another. Best to listen to your heart and double up on your efforts to find a job you can do well and feel good doing.

Debra Darvick is the author of This Jewish Life: Stories of Discovery, Connection and Joy and I love Jewish faces. Read more at

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