Lessons learned from ‘Chef Jeff’

Lessons learned from ‘Chef Jeff’

The Food Network premiered “The Chef Jeff Project” on Sunday. Chef Jeff Henderson is an ex-con who learned to cook during his 10 years in prison and eventually became head chef at Las Vegas’ Bellagio Casino. The premise of the show is to give six off-the-derech young adults the same chance to straighten out their lives by putting them to work in Chef Jeff’s catering company.

Despite the bad attitudes and questionable histories of some of the participants, Chef Jeff displayed patience, encouragement, and toughness during the first episode. Unlike other reality shows, there’s no weakest link leaving at the end of each episode. Jeff is out to prove that these guys and gals can turn their lives around with the right opportunities.

It’s been just more than a week since Yom Kippur, when we completed our own quests for second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc.) chances from HaShem.

Within a few months – if not sooner – many of us will return to our old ways – speaking lashon hara, forgetting common courtesies, and putting our own interests ahead of others. Yom Kippur is over but the spirit of forgiveness should last throughout the entire year.

Arab leaders in Akko, Israel, issued an apology Sunday for the Arab cabbie who drove through a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur. The act sparked a series of Arab riots after false rumors spread that the cabbie had been killed.

“We regret that a tiny minority of us did not take such care and chose to drive their cars in a Jewish neighborhood and hurt the feelings of their Jewish neighbors,” read the statement signed by a handful of MKs and other community leaders.

At the same time, the Arab leaders condemned Jewish acts of revenge for the riots.

In response, Akko’s chief rabbi said he was disgusted by the attempt to link the Arab riots and the Jewish response.

Those who rioted should be punished to the full extent of the law. Those riots do not justify taking the law into Jewish hands and committing acts of revenge. If Jews cannot allow the legal system to play its role then they are no better than the rioters. And when faced with acts of reconciliation, Jews, of all people, should not immediately turn their backs.

Just like Chef Jeff, HaShem shows us patience and forgiveness. And just like the misguided youths on the show, we – Jew and Arab alike – continue to show that we still need a lot of both.