It took almost 14 years, but Brooklyn Rabbi Israel Steinberg can finally drink his coffee from a paper cup in a Manhattan eatery in peace.
Steinberg made what seemed to be a simple request when he ordered coffee at the Nations Cafe in 1992: He asked the waiter to pour the beverage into a takeout cup because Jewish dietary laws forbid the use of nonkosher porcelain.
But Steinberg said the waiter told him he had to drink from the porcelain cups, just like other customers – or get out.
"He embarrassed and ridiculed me because I’m Jewish – in front of all the customers," Steinberg said.
The confrontation escalated when Steinberg, who lives in Borough Park and is head of an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Queens, told the waiter that refusing such a request violated state law.
Now, I don’t see why they didn’t honor his request in the first place — what’s the big deal? And the waiter’s comments (see story) were way out of line.
But why the hell is there a state law requiring that the diner comply with this? Should a diner also be required not to serve bacon, or cheeseburgers, or lobster? Why should the religious requirements of some people dictate how all companies do business?
I know many people who keep strict Kosher, and make a point of going to businesses that cater to them. Just like I know vegetarians who won’t go to Peter Lugers Steakhouse. Do the Amish go to Macy’s and demand they carry bonnets? No.
So I would love to know the exact wording of this state law and would love to find out why the state is dictating something like this. If a business doesn’t cater to your religious beliefs, then you don’t go there and make sure other’s don’t go there. Me? I would have given the guy a paper cup, a small price to pay for someone’s business. But having the state tell me I am required to cater to someone’s religious beliefs is crossing the line.
There is a difference between respecting someone’s religion, and being required to help them practice it, I think.