Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Is It Rude for Guests to...

Is it rude for guests to come without a house gift?

Among our friends and neighbors, the accepted  behavior/manners if invited for a Shabbat or Jewish Holiday meal is to bring something, flowers, wine, or something for the meal.  Nowadays, among our usual hosting/visiting neighbors, I make vegetables, usually baked vegetables in a disposable aluminum tray.  To people we don't know all that well or who live a distance away, we'll bring a bottle of wine.  Most of us have our "usual" contributions to the meal when we are guests.

There have been times when we get calls to take visiting students or other strangers who've come to Shiloh for a Shabbat meal.  It is very rare that these guests bring anything, anything at all. 

When the guests are from some program, I'm surprised that their madrichim, group counselors don't instruct them that it's rude to come empty-handed.  We are not the program's dining room/food service.  Their tuition doesn't go to us and our food budgets.  I hope they say "thank you" to the staff who serve them wherever they are learning, an act which costs nothing.  The program madrichim  should help them organize at least minimal gifts to be given to each hosting family, whether for a meal or sleeping arrangements. 

I don't agree to host in expectation for presents.  I just think that the guests should learn to recognize that we're doing a favor and they should show thankfulness and politeness.

Not long ago, we got a call from a neighbor soon before Shabbat asking us to host some people who just wanted to spend a Shabbat in Shiloh.  We agreed, and I quickly made extra food for them.  Now, these guys weren't poor students.  They worked and one was wealthy enough to own a car, being amazed that we have always managed without one.  They came totally empty-handed, as if we existed to serve them.  I don't even remember a proper "thank-you."


Freyda said...

Hi Batya,
In my opinion, if a guest can clearly afford to bring a gift he should. If he can't afford a gift (or even if he can), he should certainly offer to help serve / clear the table / wash the dishes / fold his linen after Shabbat / Chag.
My 2 cents worth.
Moadim le simcha!

Batya said...

Freyda, I felt abused by the recent visitors who certainly could afford a "little something" when one owns a car and they both have incomes, probably lots more than mine.

Toby Klein Greenwald said...

We host lots of students and I don't remember anyone ever coming without a house gift. They have always brought either flowers, or cake, or wine.

goyisherebbe said...

I recommend bringing something but part of being a host(ess) is being gracious and not fixating on how rude people are. If we would have been worried about rudeness we would long ago have packed up and left the country. Socialism has left us the classless society, totally no class.

Miriam said...

Years ago when our daughters were in NCSY we were very active in our community. One of the instructions the program director told the kids before a Shabbaton was to bring a little gift for the family hosting them

We hosted many, many girls....and always received a little something.

But the nicest gift we ever got was a phone call Sunday morning after a Shabbaton from the mother of one our guests, thanking us so much for hosting her daughter and hoped that one day she would be able to host girls.


Batya said...

Toby, goyish, Miriam, I guess I'm still "paying" for my own rudeness from half a century ago...
I didn't know any better

Hadassa said...

Shalom and mo'adim l'simha!
Most of our guests have brought at least a small gift, and concerning the ones that didn't, I assumed they had a valid reason for not doing so, except for the very few guests who have been a bit rude. Sometimes students on one-year programs have very little funds at their disposal and for some of them getting out to buy even a small gift is difficult.
A guest may be hesitant to bring food because of kashrut issues, wine because of the price of good wine, flowers because the last time he/she brought flowers the host had to search for a vase and a place to put it (That happened to us when we still had only a small table and not much counter space.), a picture or other artistic item because tastes vary so much etc. I give the benefit of the doubt, with the exception of the rude guests, then I assume that the lack of gift was due to rudeness.