Queens, NY - Hindu Businessmen Proud To Be Shabbos Goys In Queens (video)
Queens, NY - While several recent news stories have focused on tensions that exist in some communities with growing Orthodox Jewish populations, peaceful coexistence is the name of the game in one Queens neighborhood, where two Indian storekeepers have been embracing the role of Shabbos goy for years.
Both Arvind Patel and Samir Patel are Hindu immigrants with businesses on Main Street just north of Jewel Avenue. Arvind Patel is the owner of bothh Ambe Deli and Grocery and Bright Laundromat as well as the former owner of Suhag Wine and Liquors, managed by Samir Patel. While the two men are not related, they share a warm relationship with their Jewish clientele as well as the role of Shabbos goy, as first reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Shabbos is typically the slowest day of the week in the heavily Orthodox neighborhood and the two men often cover for each other when a Jewish customer walks in and casually mentions that they forgot to turn off their lights or neglected to set the air conditioner. Both recognize their cue and are ready to shut down their businesses in order to make the needed adjustments.
Arvind Patel has been in business on Main Street for approximately 30 years.
“These people are like my family,” Patel told VIN News. “Jewish, Hindu, we have the same culture. We like to help each other.”
Patel’s first experience as a Shabbos goy came when someone walked into his store and explained that he needed help with his stove.
“I asked him why he couldn’t touch it and he told me it was his religion,” recalled Patel. “I respect that.”
A sign that has been hanging over the door at Patel’s grocery and convenience store for over 25 years reads “Shabbos Goy AVAILABLE SHABBAT SHALOM.”
While most of the time Patel is called upon to deal with lights, air conditioners and stoves, in one instance a Jewish owned house across the street had its windows broken.
“I saw what happened and I called the police,” said Patel.
Most of the people who ask Patel for assistance typically live within a two to three block radius. Many come back with gifts to thank the cheerful businessman for his services.
“They bring things sometimes but I am totally vegetarian by religion so I don’t drink wine and nothing with eggs,” said Patel. “They respect me. They are part of my family. It is like brother to brother.”
In a radio interview on Zev Brenner’s Talkline radio program on Wednesday, Samir Patel said that the number one request assistance at his liquor store is for light bulbs that need adjusting. Patel said it took him some time to understand the often cryptic statements customers would make when they walked into the store.
“Most of the time they don’t tell me and I have to figure it out,” said Patel, whose store also bears a sign advertising his assistance to those who are shomer Shabbos.
Since he began working at the family owned Suhag six years ago, Patel has learned the ins and outs of being a Shabbos goy through experience and estimates he typically fields five calls on Friday nights. His most memorable request came from someone who had a major plumbing emergency on Shabbos. Patel closed his store for a full hour to deal with the situation.
“I went to the house, saw what was happening and called the plumber right away,” said Patel. “I paid the plumber and everything and on Sunday the family came and reimbursed me for the amount.”
Patel stocks a large variety of kosher wines and liquors and prides himself on customer service. Julie Faska has been buying wines at Suhag for eight years, with Patel choosing wines for her.
“They know my price range and what we like and they simply hand me two bottles,” said Mrs. Faska, noting that Patel’s picks always hit the mark.
In another instance, Mrs. Faska had an electrical issue on Shabbos.
“One of the men came as soon as he had finished helping another family,” recalled Mrs. Faska. “He was pleasantly surprised to find that the fuse was in the kitchen. He had been fully prepared to go all the way down to the basement without a light. They are wonderful people.”
Members of a Kew Gardens Hills Facebook group featured glowing recommendations about Patel. Esther Rofe remembered Patel as a young boy helping out in his father’s store and said that years later Patel walked her son home after he experienced some trouble with a few other children. Joel Salomon recalled Patel coming to his house to fix his Succah after it blew over.
Patel is in tune with is customers, sometimes knowing more about kosher products than they do.
“I went in one time and has asked for a product I had seen in a friend’s home,” wrote Arthur Toporovsky. “They promptly told me that the item in question was not ‘completely kosher.’”
While some might consider taking on the role of neighborhood Shabbos goy to be an imposition, for Patel nothing could be farther from the truth.
“We love to help the community,” said Patel, adding, “This is just our way of helping out.”
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