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After Mocking a Hasidic Boy in Viral Video, a Heartfelt Apology

A lesson in keeping an open heart

Liel Leibovitz
May 09, 2018
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Quai JamesVia Twitter

I’m not usually one for public apologies—my beloved colleague, Marjorie Ingall, is Tablet‘s Sensei of Sorry—but one recent act of contrition stands out as particularly worth taking to heart.

Last week, a man named Quai James was walking around New York when he spotted a visibly upset small Hasidic child, who, in keeping with the customs of his faith, had a shaved head and long sidelocks. Filming the child on his phone, James mocked the boy, saying “I’d be crying if I looked like that, too, bro.” James posted the video to Twitter, where it was quickly viewed more than a million times and liked by as many as 100,000 people. Jewish journalists, elected officials, and groups protested, saying, rightfully, that the video was deeply offensive.

James heard them.

Yesterday, he took to Twitter again to issue a lengthy apology. Sitting in his car and speaking from the heart, James delivered a monologue that sounded nothing like the canned apologies we’re so used to seeing these days whenever outrage, real or feigned, forces someone, guilty or otherwise, into repentance mode. I don’t want to paraphrase his words—his apology deserves to be watched in full—but in what feels like genuine soul-searching, James reflects on allowing a moment of immature folly and the toxic temptation of social media to impair his judgment and result in him bullying a child:

Good afternoon to everyone watching .. I’m truly sorry for my actions .. @FonrougeGab

— Quai James (@quaijames) May 8, 2018

Anyone hurt by James’s original video should be deeply heartened by his more recent one. With so much of human communication in the age of Facebook and Twitter reduced to vitriol, and with so many of us quick to assign to others the most nefarious intentions, it’s good to see a man owning up to his missteps, searching his soul, and emerging a more mindful and empathic human being. It’s a lesson in keeping an open mind and an open heart we all need these days.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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