Chassidim at Chuck E Cheese???

Ok, folks, up here in Montreal there are no kosher Subway franchises, Dunkin Donuts is not kosher nor is it ever likely to have a kosher place here either. Us Orthodox Montreal folks are really big on doing nothing to promote Ma’arat Ayin – the appearance of doing something wrong.

When I visited Brooklyn last summer and first stepped into kosher Dunkin Donuts and Subway I really felt like I was eating treife. It just seemed weird. I have been to a few more Dunkin Donuts since then, and in Israel we did Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken and tried a Pizza Hut too.

monsey trip july 4th weekend 029On a Sunday afternoon there are plenty of things to do in NY (as everywhere else) – laundry, cleaning, cooking, but the kids don’t really like that kind of activity, so you want to look for something fun and inexpensive for them to do. Apparently there is a place called Chuck E Cheese which has lots of Arcade games and stuff for kids to put tokens in and win prizes. Awesomeness. Ok sure, let’s go there! Kids will have fun and stop whining that they are bored. What? It’s a treife restaurant too?

I dunno, it just felt kinda weird – going to a treife restaurant to play games? Not really my thing, but when in Rome and all that. So we go in, they stamp our hands with the same UV number, different from everyone else – that’s to make sure that when we leave we leave with our own kids who have the same code. Smart.

The place is huge with all different games and pinball machines etc. We got tokens for the kids and off they went to have a blast. The restaurant and eating area was separate from the gaming area – and it wasn’t obviously a restaurant in my opinion.

Once the kids were all settled I looked at the mix of people around me – white, black, asian, latino….and chassidish?? What? Ok, I am not exactly irreligious, far from it, but my boys in their baseball caps and short trousers don’t look obviously Jewish and kinda blended in. If I, a modern orthodox woman, had issues going into Chuck E Cheese – what about the Chassidim? I mean, what if the Rebbe hears that they went to a treife restaurant? The Ma’arat Ayin would be huge for them. (It would be huge for me too…..but MOs are not held to the same standard as Chassidim).

From what I have heard before and since, the Monsey community in general is OK with the kids going to play in Chuck E Cheese (ok come Chuck E Cheese, pay me a royalty for everytime I say your name, ok?? Speak to my agent…..). We know they aren’t going there for the food, I don’t think my children even noticed that they sold food there! They were too busy winning their prizes and having good clean fun.

Truth is – if there was something similar here there is no way I would have taken my kids. It is just not done up here. Are we more discerning about where we take our kids, or are we more afraid of what people might think? We are told to be dan l’chaf z’chut – to judge favourably – but why put someone in that position to even think to judge you?

I went along with it because it sounded like fun for the kids and they had a great time. There was a huge weirdness and ick element in it for me, but that didn’t stop their enjoyment. Would I go again? Probably….but only because it seems to be socially acceptable in our community there.

What are your thoughts? Do standards change community to community? Place to place? Was this acceptable? Would it be to you? if you are chassidish what are your thoughts? (and why are you on the internet ;) )

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24 Comments

  1. Having lived in Chicago and now in Montreal, I think it’s more a matter of what you are exposed to. If there were similar places here that were easily accessible to the Ortho community, I think frum Jews would take their kids as well.

    As you said, When in Rome…

  2. The Birth Whisperer says:

    I’ve taken my kids there several times. I don’t know about other CC but this one is more arcade and less food. ALmost as if you were to go to say an amusement park and they happen to also have non kosher pizza stands, hotdog stands etc…I’m willing to bet they make more money on the arcade than they do on their food. As far as the chasidim are concerned – they are parents just like us and why shoudln’t their kisd have fun as well?
    Just my 2 cents….
    (and I thought you said you would be here until Monday?)

  3. The Birth Whisperer says:

    And BTW, I bet your older ones would prefer Dave & Busters in Palisades Mall.

  4. hadassahsabo says:

    ooh whats dave and busters?

    “ALmost as if you were to go to say an amusement park and they happen to also have non kosher pizza stands, hotdog stands etc…” – excellent point.

    my point about the chassidim was they are highly identifiable in their mode of dress, and i wondered if that would make a problem for them within their own community if they were seen entering such a place…

  5. Mark says:

    I agree with The Birth Whisperer, CEC is more arcade and less food, so it’s probably okay. Just like DisneyLand is more rides, shows, etc, than food.

  6. Chanief says:

    D&B is much better suited for the bigger boys, but like CEC they are a restaurant too. Actually D&B is even more restaurantlike than CEC.

    I think it’s accepted in even chassidishe circles here because there isn’t the slightest thought that they would eat there. In addition, as you said, it’s more games than food. I don’t think they’re thinking how it looks to the irreligious or gentile CEC patron. I’m fairly certain they won’t have any hassle from their community if they’re seen walking in there because it’s viewed as an acceptable place for children to go play.

  7. Yonit says:

    I took my two once while we were visiting my parents. I agree that it’s more amusement than food as we tried another place that made you walk through the foodie seats to get to the fun while at CC it was the other way around. We only stayed for a minute though because contrary to what we were told, there were not toddler friendly games.

    I’ve been to Dave&Busters a few times without eating there as well.

    I will not go into a treif place and sit with a coke if I can help it because that I think is worse. Even if I get a fountain drink while at the mall I pick a place that doesn’t put their logo on the cups so I’m just a lady with a coke, not a lady who visited chik fila.

    I always chaffed at the idea of maaris ayin since I think being dan l’chaf zchus should erase the need for it, but I realize human nature isn’t that way. If I see a frum guy at starbucks, I assume he ordered something kosher, right?

  8. hadassahsabo says:

    see, Yonit, that brings up another point. i drive the interstate highways often these days and have tremendous need for coffee. i have been known to even get coffee at the McDonalds when there was no other coffee shop around. was i wrong? i would NEVER walk in to McD’s here to get coffee (apart from the fact that it sucks) because of the maarat ayin….

    but second cup, timmy ho’s, and all these places, we all go in there for coffee and it’s ok….

    where is the line drawn? what about a person who has a business meeting at a treife restaurant and will just drink water? should he not go in case he is seen entering this non kosher establishment?

    this whole thing is so not absolute.

  9. rowanthorn says:

    When the kids were younger I would take them places like that – where there was food served, but the thrust of the business was arcade/entertainment etc.

    Coffee is coffee and I buy that anywhere since I drink it black. Lattes et al I buy from $tarbuck$ or local equivalent.

    Otherwise I don;t go into trefe restaurants, even for business meetings. Just something I don’t do. I don’t even go into bars, taverns or brasseries any more. But that’s just me :)

    • Sherree says:

      Its interesting because we can take it a step further. Starbucks is a treif store and so is Dunkin Donuts. But since it is basically a coffee shop everyone assumes its ok to go in for coffee. In reality though as long as they sell treif food its as treif as any other food establishment so what difference does it make?

      As far as CC goes, Coney Island, Sesame Place, or any other amusement park would bring up the exact same question other than one may be indoors and others are outdoors. If secular people see JEWS even Chasidik Jews using the arcades and rides but not sitting at the tables or on line for food why would they assume they were “EATING” at CC?

      I know it feels weird and goes against the grain and the stomach, but any kid’s fun zone has the same problems.

  10. G6 says:

    Truthfully, I don’t get this either.
    They do it in NY.
    They do it in the Yeshivish areas of Cleveland, and probably more places I’ve never seen.
    I guess it’s not maaras ayin if everybody does it, buy how/why they first started is beyond me.
    It is a fun cheap indoor activity for kids though……

  11. Emet says:

    Actually, we do have in montreal something similar. but its just NOT popular, even in the general population (The old Forum).

    I see absolutely no problems because of the food. I see it a bit like, would you stop going to the shopping center because there is a food court with non-kosher food? The movies because they sell n/k food?

    It’s an entertainment place. Their focus is not the food (and not their money maker). However, if there was a restaurant that offered a few arcade machines, then no, I wouldn’t expect frum people to be there.

  12. lomo says:

    “Ma’arat Ayin”- ugh, “mar’it (מראית) ha’ayin”. “ma’arat (מערת) ayin” is more like “the cave of ayin”…

  13. hadassahsabo says:

    lomo – thanks for that. when one transliterates mistakes are bound to happen. i wrote it as it sounds to me when used in common parlance, but i really thank you for pointing out my grammatical ineptitude.

  14. Mirigott says:

    So interesting that you brought this up because I had this issue once. My non orthodox father wanted to bring my orthodox, kippa wearing kid (and my daughters too) to CEC and I said no. I was uncomfortable with it. My MO brother and his wife allowed it. But there is a place that serves snacks that are treife but is more considered arcade than restraun that I said yes too. I am not sure if I was right or over reacting.

  15. rabbifink says:

    No biggie to me.

    I don’t think I would go personally, because I have similar sensibilities as you (well, almost – you went!).

    Being from Monsey originally, the Chasidim have no problem doing as they please. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought all those Goyim didn’t belong there!

    There is no Maris Ayin as it is known as an arcade place to everyone around the area.

  16. Z! says:

    I will be honest; having grown up non-frum and having gone to CEC as a kid, it was a bit of a shock to me when I heard the frummies go there in NY! LOL. Would I take my kids one day- maybe. Not so different from a ball park or Coney Island amusement park really. Even safer, actually.

    I just think that in Montreal the community has been made to feel more responsible for their public image- due to the generational baseless hatred of the non-jewish public. The Jews are far more aware of public opinion and want to segregate. In America, the Jews feel a bit less pressured. Sheer masses of people help a group to feel secure, not to mention all the options open to the frum community by way of food options, schooling and neighbourhoods. It’s a different world here.

  17. Jewish Side says:

    I know what you mean, I’ve actually had the same reaction when I first heard about it. I was at my cousins in Lakewood and they kept talking about this Chuck E Cheese place, they suggested it as a chol Hamoed trip even. And I was surprised they would go to a treif restaurant. I even felt weird going into a McDonalds once to use their bathroom, it felt so wrong.

  18. batya says:

    when i initially heard about it, i thought it sounded a bit odd to go to a treif restaurant but after going there the first time, i was cool with it b/c i felt it was mostly an arcade & the food was secondary to me & the kids since no one even thought of eating anything there. it was all about the games, prizes tickets & prizes…also, since i knew that it was acceptable in my MO community, i didn’t feel guilty about it…

  19. [...] Chassidim at Chuck E Cheese??? « In the Pink [...]

  20. sheldan says:

    I clicked on your latest Mikvah question to get here, so this is why I am responding to a 2009 article. My wife and I were in Baltimore a few years ago and went to the kosher Subway in Pikesville. My wife loved it (she doesn’t care for Subway otherwise) and I enjoyed the feeling of ordering a fleishig sandwich without the halachic issues :-) It didn’t taste treife to me; in fact, my wife says that the food was probably better quality than the normal Subway.

    I know it’s strange to eat at a kosher version of a treife restaurant. From someone who doesn’t live in a large community, I will take advantage of kosher restaurants whenever I can.

  21. sheldan says:

    Regarding this issue: I am probably in agreement with many of your readers who don’t see a problem in going to Chuck E. Cheese, since they would not be eating the food there anyway. I think the mar’it ayin issue is one each person needs to discuss with himself/herself.

  22. Mark says:

    My wife (and me very rarely… because I can’t stand the place) takes our kids to CEC about once a week. It’s a relatively inexpensive place for them to have fun in an air conditioned place. And the ice cream is kosher (Chof-K I think), AND the clerks there allow her to use the coupon “buy food get cheap tokens” if she buys the ice cream. Works out very well.

  23. Susanne says:

    Frum folks here in Dallas do it too. I find it so strange but I guess if the games and food areas are pretty well defined it’s not the worst thing.

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